Peace on Earth, good will toward men

During this holiday season, those seven words resonate with all Soldiers, no matter what religious persuasion. 

And those words take on added impact for us when our news is all about terrorist threats, refugees trying to find a safe harbor, racial and religious hatred erupting in places never expected, and politicians filling the media space with opinions they may or may not believe but which resonate with disenfranchised citizens receptive to their angry words. It’s enough to make one want to turn off and tune out.  And maybe that is the solution.

But for Soldiers serving our Nation, we don’t have the option of turning off or tuning out.  We are in harms way to protect and defend, a calling for which we volunteered.  In doing our duty, many of us are posted to dangerous places and asked to undertake dangerous missions.  We men and women, we Soldiers, have taken up arms and willingly go into harm’s way even though we would rather be home with family and friends.  

If you are fortunate to be able to spend this season of hope and thanksgiving with your loved ones, enjoy that time together. Disconnect from the electronic noise and connect with the joys of being with family and friends.  And if you know a Soldier who is deployed, maybe you can find a way to bring him or her a little joy too.

For some of us however, this is a difficult time of year.  It reminds us of painful experiences, estrangement and loss.  Our coping mechanisms are weakened and we often feel alone. 

At times like this, I’m reminded of the story shared with me* of a struggling man, fallen on hard times and filled with despair.  It was 1741, and jealous rivalries, ill health, and a series of devastating misfortunes had left him feeling utterly hopeless. A cerebral hemorrhage had caused him partial paralysis and significant vision loss. He was a composer, but his creativity had all but disappeared in the cloud of troubles that enveloped his life. He was unhappy with himself, at odds with his friends, and distanced from God. He was nearing sixty, his income was gone, his health was shattered, and he felt like his life was coming to a miserable end.

It was under these sad circumstances that he returned to his shabby home in London one night and found a large package at his door. He clawed open the seal and, inside the package, found the words for a new piece of sacred music along with a letter asking him to write music for the lyrics.

Still in despair, the musician began to leaf carelessly through the pages. Suddenly his eyes fell on a passage that captivated him; it read: "He was despised and rejected…He looked for someone to have pity on him, but there was no one…" The musician resonated with those words.

The words, originally about Jesus, described what the musician was feeling at that very moment: "despised, rejected" and very alone. With a growing sense of kinship, the musician read on and found these words: "He trusted in God and God did not leave him…Rejoice, rejoice. Hallelujah!" The words warmed his heart and stirred his soul. He could feel the creative forces resurrecting and surging in him once again. Wondrous, incredible melodies—straight from heaven—tumbled rapidly into his mind. He grabbed pen and paper and began to fill page after page with amazing confidence and swiftness. Day after day, the musician worked into the wee hours of the morning. He was riveted to his work. Sometimes he became so moved by what he was writing that he wept aloud.

When he finished, he fell exhausted onto his bed and slept peacefully for 17 hours while, on his desk, rested the musical score of one of the greatest and most beloved pieces of sacred music ever written: "The Messiah."

The musician was George Frederic Handel.

May you be strengthened by every good endeavor.    Doug Coffey, President

*Thank you to Rev. Wayne Alloway, Lincoln, NE