At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
Some had their eyes focused only on their breakfast that morning. Some were looking at the magnificent rolling surf. A few glanced up at the sound of low-flying aircraft. Some eyes were still closed in sleep. No one panicked.
Until they heard the explosions. Until they saw the red circles on the aircraft wings. Until it was too late.
The place was Pearl Harbor. It was a Sunday morning in December of 1941. President Roosevelt labeled it “A Day of Infamy.”
No one expected to see death and disaster coming from that bright sky. No one had given them a “Heads up!”
They had been told to prepare for a time like this. But they didn’t think it would be on this day and at this place. They assumed life would just continue on much as it had before. Hawaii was a great place to be stationed. Christmas was coming. Who would have thought the rolling surf would turn black with oil and red with blood before this day ended?
For the survivors, life changed forever. From now on, eyes would feverishly scan those skies. Now they lived in fear that inbound terror would descend from above.
The meaning of that Christmas changed. No more “Peace and Joy!” Now the message was, “Prepare to meet your God!”
Yet hasn’t that always been the Christmas message? The presence of the holy God has always carried a threat, hasn’t it? Think of Israel trembling at the foot of Mount Sinai. Remember Isaiah’s warning to his readers, “Wail, for the day of the LORD is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty” (Isaiah 13:6).
Is the holy God to be feared? Absolutely!
The New Testament declares: “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).
The Christ child was Immanuel—God with us. Shouldn’t sinners be terrified at his arrival?
Yet the coming of Christ into the world is announced as good news.
Scripture warns that we are to fear him. But we also are to love and trust him. How so?
We should be afraid to defy him but very happy that he came.
The good news is that he came not to destroy but to rescue. The angel told Joseph to name him Jesus “Because he shall save his people from their sins.”
That mission was completed under the dark skies of Golgotha. When he comes again, the skies will light up as he comes to finally bring his people home, body and soul.
In another December, three years later, Americans faced another deadly attack. This time they were in the Ardennes of Belgium. Surrounded, cold, and almost out of ammunition, they fixed their eyes upon cloud-laden skies that kept rescue from coming.
This time, they wanted to see planes fill the skies. They prayed to see the planes. They sent out a cheer when the first one was spotted. Desperately needed supplies were dropped. Rescue was at hand! We call that the “Battle of the Bulge.” It brought victory.
So, it will be when those in service to the King of kings spot the cloud in the sky that brings in Jesus with a display of power and great glory.
We call that the end of the world. We await that day with excited joy, not fear. This will be the breakout day of the final rescue.
An old song carries the words, “And man shall live forevermore because of Christmas Day.”
When we were very young, we may have been asked, “And what would you like for Christmas?” Maybe we answered with a long list of toys. But there was probably one item at the top of the list. That’s the one our heart was set upon.
Today, we would answer with a different list, but maybe as long of a list as back then. After all, there are so many things that we need—and many more that we would like.
But at the top of today’s list, would we not want to place “The peace that surpasses all understanding”? This is the peace between our God and us. This is the peace that Jesus bought and paid for.
This is the peace the angels sang about. The peace we need for ourselves and we want for our loved ones.
This is the peace we have looked for—this is the one only the Prince of Peace can bring.
That’s why we can close the Christmas carol with the words, “Sleep in heavenly peace, Sleep in heavenly peace.”
One day angels will wake us with, “Heads up! Jesus, the Savior, has come!”
We watch for that day.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, you came as the Prince of Peace to reconcile us to the holy almighty God. Thank you for the “heads up” to watch for when you will come again. Amen.
Points to ponder:
- In what way can we compare the Last Day to Pearl Harbor?
- What has changed in our lives that makes us now treasure perfect peace?
- In what ways can we compare the Last Day to the Battle of the Bulge?
Written and recorded by Rev. Paul Horn, WELS National Civilian Chaplain to the Military, San Diego, California.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.