I have just left the island of Guam. Guam is a beautiful strip of land about 1500 miles south of Japan, thirty miles long and four to twelve miles wide. It is a strategic piece of real estate and is home to a US Air Force Base and a Navy Base. The Marines are soon to arrive as well. With tropical temperatures, we were blessed with some gorgeous days. Having finished two major meetings here, I am now aboard a flight to Tokyo, heading home to Atlanta.
As always, the emotions are fresh after a stop like that. We were taken for a tour of some of the most sophisticated aircraft available for combat today. The lineup in military terms is awesome: fighters, bombers, transport aircraft, rescue planes, and so on. Anchored nearby was a naval vessel.
Guam was attacked by the Japanese forces in December 1941, one day after they attacked Pearl Harbor, and was recaptured by the American troops three years later in a bloody battle. So many stories, so many memories told in stone and museums and pictures. The US military is now trusted with keeping watch over the precarious Pacific Region, equipped to respond with swift power. Sadly, in a world threatened by demagogues and predators, a strong defense becomes necessary… one of life’s realities in a fallen world.
The chaplains hosted a lovely lunch, which was also attended by the general. Strangely, the topic of conversation was of a completely different mood. Most of the conversation was on how thrilled they were to be part of Operation Christmas drop that takes place every year and has been done for decades. Over 60,000 pounds of materials are air-dropped over 56 islands, including foods, gifts, school needs, and fishing supplies. The recipients are informed by Ham Radio of the day and time of the drop. These remote islands of Micronesia await this special day every year. The aircraft descends to about 300 feet and each box is pushed over by parachute to arrive in the water within reach of land. The anxious inhabitants wait and watch for it with their children, and the grins of the excited children as the box descends tell the story of childlike wonder. Christmas is truly in the air for them. They use everything they get, even the parachute material, which is cut and used for sails. All of the gifts are paid for by American donors who fund everything including the cost of air-dropping these gifts while volunteer airmen and women do the hard work of packaging and loading them. In fact, one young captain sat next to me and showed the general and me the video she had taken as she helped push the packages over. The general himself, clearly moved, talked of the thrill it brings to all of them to have the opportunity to do this. It is a small thing with big impact. It was hard not to wipe away a tear of joy.
Two different scenarios, the same people at work; ready for war but delighting in peace. This is the human scene with its two great possibilities: peace and joy, war and pain.
This same mix attended the first family at Creation. The choice before Cain, whose action was prompted by jealousy, was ironically over the sacred. Rather than bring a heartfelt offering to God, he chose to murder his brother, Abel. God warned him, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? If not, sin waits at the door. It desires to have you” (Genesis 4:7). Sin is the ultimate stalker. The will is the ultimate battleground.
The same themes in a dramatic way attended the birth of Jesus. This was the most sacred gift. Mary willingly accepted her role as the mother of the Savior of mankind. But she was staggered by the words of Simeon to her: “Woman, a sword will pierce through your own soul, also” (Luke 2:35). She found out what that meant at Calvary where the piercing of her son was a stab to her own soul. Sin always hurts and sinful acts always kill.
The amazing story of Christmas is that He took our worst in order to give us His best so that we might live with joy and spread the smiles and laughter that come from His gift. But peace, which comes to those of goodwill, always comes at a cost.
God’s gift to us was air-dropped within our reach two thousand years ago. Angels sang, shepherds were overcome; wise men journeyed far and long to see the miracle. The world longed for and needed the Savior and His offer is still before us: We either choose to live with the fears of warfare or with the joys of his peace by settling the battle that rages within each of us. The arsenal of evil at our disposal is huge. But the message of love is greater. We either receive Him or reject Him. There is no neutrality here. There is no other joy like His. There is no other Savior like Him. There is no other way like His. There is no other day like Christmas.
At Guam, there is a young man from one of these remote islands. When he was a little boy, he watched for the package drop that was given to his people. That was 25 years ago. When he reached adulthood, he signed up to work at the US base in Guam. This Christmas he was one of the volunteers distributing those same packages to the islands where children wait with anticipation to receive them. Joy received and multiplied produces a harvest of hope. Let’s make this a joyous Christmas for many.
One of my great thrills at the service on the naval base in the beautiful chapel was to see many respond to the invitation to follow Jesus. What greater privilege than to present Jesus Christ to those who stand guard for our freedom. I am grateful for them. That’s why I go at their invitation and at our cost to thank them, to minister to them, and hopefully to be a blessing to them. Theirs is a difficult calling.
The most thrilling moment for me was at the close of the chapel service on the naval base when a woman in her fifties, completely blind, was brought to the front. She reached out with her hand and said, “I just want to touch your face, Sir. I listen to you every day. I am waiting to see your face someday in heaven.” She wanted a picture taken. Imagine that! She felt with her soul what she could show others through their eyes. Once again, I fought back the tears.
The emotions swirl. Our anchor is Jesus. We will see Him face to face some day. Christmas was a slice of infinity. Bethlehem means “house of bread.” The ultimate glimpse of His face will make the slices of Heaven we experience here seem like crumbs. But in our finitude, it’s all we can grasp now. It is like trying to describe Handel’s “Messiah” to a child.
Merry Christmas to all of you from all of us at RZIM. Think and revel in what Christmas intends and portends. Thank you for a beautiful year. Thank you for making it possible to minister in such places. Thank you for your support. A blessed 2015 to all of you.
Ravi Zacharias is founder and president of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM), a global ministry focused on evangelism, apologetics, spiritual disciplines, training, and humanitarian support. An itinerant speaker for 42 years, Zacharias is presently Senior Research Fellow at Oxford University’s Wycliffe Hall and his weekly radio program, “Let My People Think,” airs on over 2,000 outlets worldwide. Dr. Zacharias and his wife, Margie, have three grown children and reside in Atlanta. More information is at www.rzim.org.
Publication date: December 30, 2014