December 1990 was a very different Christmas.
That December I was deployed to Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Shield and thousands of miles away from family, friends, my home church and stranded in a lifeless desert with no signs that it was the Advent season at all. No trees, no carols, no Santas, no mall sales, no bells, TV specials, stockings, presents or family. It was surreal: just like how the Grinch had stolen all the trappings from Whoville and left nothing but bare walls.
In fact, bare walls were all our little battalion chapel had! It was a simple 10′ by 10′ room with a raw concrete floor, unpadded folding chairs, bare walls and ceiling painted bland off-white and a single window. Because the Saudi nationals who worked in our camp could see through that window we were forbidden from putting up any religious signs that may offend them. In short, it was just four walls, a ceiling and a floor: all barren.
Christmas Eve came and my friend, 2LT Rob McGill, convinced me to go to the midnight service in that antiseptic little room. I hated that all I held dear at Christmas had been effectively stripped away. Instead of celebrating Christmas, I was having a pity party because my Christmas was ruined. The Grinch would have been so proud!
At 11:59 p.m. the chaplain passed out candles and we all lit one and turned out the harsh overhead fluorescent lighting. He strummed his guitar and led us in Silent Night in that depressing little room. Then as the song ended just after midnight Rob looked at me and said, “How ’bout that. Jesus came anyway.”
I was speechless. Yes, Jesus came anyway! Just like Christmas still came to Whoville even after the Grinch stole all the trimmings. And now I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that no matter where I am, or how empty my Christmas Advent is, Jesus still comes each Christmas Day.
And HE makes all the difference!
Merry Christmas to everyone, especially to deployed troops serving in places where Christmas seems like an impossibility. With God, all things are possible!