The Last Day of the Christmas Feasting
Gracious friends invited us out of Houston, that great American City, to a quiet place in Texas. The house is near water and the pond draws more deer and wild turkey than I have ever seen in the wild. The food was good, the company better, and the stars were bright just like the song says they are deep in the heart of Texas.
On Twelfth Night we journied to Fredericksburg for an excursion and were glad to see the decorations still up, the celebration continuing, these folk were not giving up on jollification! You can take a wine tour in vineyards that were not there twenty years ago. Even measured against older wineries in California, the Texas taste is getting there. For lunch we walked down a staircase with wrought iron railings into a room with a pressed tin ceiling and a much better than average Ruben sandwich, some French lemonade, and wondrous baked goods.
We walked down the street to goal of our little quest: the National Museum of the Pacific War.
You might wonder why on the last day of the birth of the Prince of Peace we ended up at a World War II museum. Mostly, we were nearby and though the inside displays were closed that day, you could walk the beautiful grounds of the place. Normally we read Shakespeare on Twelfth Night after prayers, but today we thought about brave men and women in a terrible time. We thought about genuine heroes and courage. Some of them were the heroes of my Dad’s childhood and my childhood. They did not make us militarists and they abhorred jingoism. These were people who did their duty and their fight began just before Christmas: December 7, 1941. They loved their neighbor well enough to fight for their freedom, but justice enough to come home and make some changes. We liked Ike.
We walked the grounds and reflected on the Kingdom that would come. Every nation would fall, including this republic, but the eternal City is kept in safety for all time. What of Christmas did I find there?
A Wonder, a Quiet, Thoughtful Place
I realized that too often Christmas can, if we are not so careful, implode into a merely local celebration, just our little families, our friends, or parish. We might skip right to the cosmic triumph of the Lord Christ. The Prince of Peace will return with a sword to bring justice to the Earth, but that is His justice and nothing we can be compared to that triumph. Our own feasts are imitations of the great feast, very imperfect.
We must find the poor of our nation, our homeland, and feed them. A good son or daughter of the Republic must fight any justice in the heart of our systems. We defend the unborn. We pray for forgiveness for the sins that any activism must bring. We never lose site of the small home or the cosmos kingdom.
Yet there is a middle vision, a middle love, of the people, our nation, the group with which we will stand before the throne of God. The nationalists, those that confuse jingoism with patriotism, put us off from love of country. This horrid sin gives opportunity to those who love locally and cosmically, but really would rather not love all of them out there in the nation. History is too complicated. They fall into the pacifist sect, that tiny minority of the Christians who are too worldly to be monastics (real pacifists!), too wrongheaded to fight, noble in their love of peace, but missing all the great warrior saints and Christian kingdoms. Saint Kaleb of Aksum, Saint Constantine, equal to the Apostles, Queen Tamar, good Duke Wenceslaus, Elizabeth Romanov are all different examples of other people’s heroes and rulers.
None of them were nearly perfect, but the won some great fight for justice in their own day. There is no end to such heroes and taken as whole they disabuse us of any notion that are on nation is special, except as our own fathers and mothers are special to us. They do remind us that no all battles are lost, not all causes fail. I found the National Museum of the Pacific War, built in Admiral Nimitz home town encouraging. My people had done some good. The place was a reminder that while the Allies were not on the Lord’s side, too presumptuous that, still the world was better off their winning.
The great admiral taught another illuminating lesson by the location of the museum. There were “better” places to put such a great place if one wanted to glorify oneself, but Nimitz had it placed in his old home town. You have to work hard to get there if you are most of us. Fredericksburg is not a major metro. There was a greatness in the courage to honor the home folk!
Most of all Nimitz was authentic. He fought the fight for his nation, risked his life. He was no celluloid hero or grifter intent on cashing in for wealth or power. The most moving part of the grounds was a peace garden built by the people of Japan with a replica of Admiral Togo’s study, a Japense hero of Nimitz. With all his flaws, and they were real, Nimitz was bigger than this times in some important ways. Historians can and should recall the sins, but we should emulate the virtues.
For most Americans in 1941 there was a very subdued Christmas. There was a hard national task ahead. This was not God’s war, but was a war for American citizens. As citizens most Christians went (as we always do) and as Christians we prayed for a peace. Those men and women celebrated more than one Christmas doing their duty in this life while keeping in mind the life to come. The Christian was a subject of the Heavenly Kingdom and a citizen a member of this Republic.
When lesser people wish to be only one or the other, or conflate the two, the reminder to be both was much needed.