Merry Christmas to our people in Iraq and Afghanistan

Merry Christmas to our people in

Iraq and Afghanistan

: It is now Christmas Eve day in Iraq and Afghanistan and so let us turn our thoughts and prayers and gratitude to our soldiers there.

They are away from their families and loved ones. They face danger every day. But they are generously bringing a great gift of freedom to people who have lived under the thumb of despots.

Remember that Christmas is not about presents and snow and Santa, of course. Christmas is not clean and shining and bright. As my sister, the Rev. Cindy Jarvis, preached last Sunday, “we tidy up the stable so antiseptically, deck the halls so exquisitely, reason our way to the manger with such sophistication that we avoid the scandal and deny the flesh his incarnation embraced, the body his resurrection redeemed.”

No, Christmas is about freeing God’s people from suffering. Christmas is about the least of them brought to a humble stable where nothing was going right: Then there was no room in the inn; now there is not enough electricity. Herod lurked in the shadows then; Baathists and al-Queda do now. These are the facts of life among those who need help.

I’m not suggesting, of course, that the soldiers are messiahs. But they are shepherds come to herald a new age and a bright future. They are wise men bearing gifts of great value — freedom, safety, democracy, modernity.

Let us pray for the safety of our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Let us pray for their families, spending Christmas without them. Let us pray for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan to find a bright future. Let us give thanks for the sacrifice our soldiers and those of many nations are making in the name of peace.

And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”