Why Your Christmas Celebration Should Be More Exuberant

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The Church has historically celebrated twelve days of Christmas, beginning with the Feast of the Nativity on December 25, and lasting until January 5. The very next day is the Feast of the Epiphany. In the Roman Church, the feast days include the Feast of St. Stephen, of St. John the Apostle, of the Holy Innocents and more.

But consider what has happened in modern times. The celebration of Christmas has been turned upside down and backwards. In the past, Christmas Day began a twelve-day period of feasting, celebration, and worship. Now, Christmas day is the final and, perhaps, only day of celebration. By December 26th, the wrapping paper is discarded, the unwanted presents returned, and people are back to haunting online and brick and mortar stores for bargains. In other words, they’re back to life as usual.

The Christmas celebration ends too soon, but it also begins to soon – just after Halloween. Christmas’s center of gravity has moved from worship to spending, with the result that people worry more and celebrate less. The big questions revolving around Christmas no longer have to do with God but with economic forecasts for the shopping season. Analysts do not know whether the Savior’s birth will save us from sin – they may not even care – but they are hopeful it will save us from an economic downturn.

The Advent season traditionally was a time for reading the biblical prophets and waiting for Christ’s return and the fulfillment of God’s promises. It has become a time of reading economic indicators and waiting for the release of seasonal spending numbers. Christmas has been co-opted.

Christmas means one thing to the Commerce Department and something else to God. It has an important place in the plans of both, but for very different reasons. For the Commerce Department, Christmas is a major component in a strategy to achieve economic growth, create jobs, increase federal revenues, and protect the nation from recession. For God, Christmas is a major component in righting wrongs, restoring the creational order, fulfilling human potential, and establishing the kingdom of God.

Neither God nor the Commerce Department considers Christmas an end in itself. Rather, it is a means to an end. That is why the Church celebrates Christmas as one in a series of feast days that extends throughout the year. It is not a stand-alone event. Isolated from its place in God’s larger plan, Christmas shrinks to half its size. It remains a commemoration of something that has happened (which is vitally important), but it ceases to be an anticipation of something yet to come. The loss is catastrophic.

When Christmas is detached from its place in God’s ongoing program to rescue humanity and restore creation and is instead thought of as an isolated historical event, its celebration will inevitably be less exuberant. As an illustration, consider Bastille Day – the French equivalent of our Independence Day – as it was celebrated in the summer of 1944. It was muted, to say the least. To celebrate the birth of the Republic was right and good but, in 1944, the French feared they might be witnessing its death.

Compare the commemoration of Bastille Day to the celebration that occurred one month later when the Allies liberated Paris from the Nazis. Bastille Day reminded the French of who they were. The liberation of Paris gave them hope for who they were going to be. One looked to the past, the other to the future.

The celebration of Christmas, when done rightly, possesses both dimensions: the memory of a glorious past and the hope of a joyful future. It is this second dimension that is largely missing from contemporary celebrations of Christmas. The theologically sensitive among us rightly insist that “Jesus is the reason for the season,” but this has not been enough to move the needle from the past to the future.

We have largely (and unwisely) abandoned the Church’s historic practice of linking the advents – Christ’s first and second coming. We need to learn to do this again, in fresh and stimulating ways, never forgetting that we celebrate the past in the midst of the present struggle and in the hope of final victory.

First published by Gatehouse Media

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You Probably Won’t Keep Your Resolutions: Here’s Why

Most Americans who make New Year’s resolutions don’t keep them, according to polls taken over the years. When they made the resolution, they hoped (if not intended) to keep it. Nevertheless, the failure rate for New Year’s resolutions hovers around 70 percent.

Photo by Kiy Turk on Unsplash

Some common resolutions are: Exercise more; lose weight; get organized; save more money; quit smoking; spend more time with family. No one makes a resolution in the secret hope of failing, yet most people will fail. Why?

In a word: Most people fail because of habit. Our habits can carve such a deep rut that we can’t get out of it in a single leap; it will take a long climb. We resolve to eat a healthier diet, for example, but our resolve wavers in the grocery store when we see the potato chips display and realize chips and dip would be the perfect thing for our little get-together on Friday night.

Of course, when there is dip left over after the party, rather than throwing it away (a clear misuse of our money, which would break resolution number two), we decide to buy a small bag of chips – just to finish off the dip. But of course there will not be enough dip, and so it’s back to the store. Before long, the rut is deeper than ever and we are further from getting out of it than we were when we started.

A few months ago, my four-year-old grandson discovered a small cedar box I keep in my bedroom and decided it looked like a pirate’s treasure chest. I kept several pocketknives in that box, along with tie pins and tie bars, a few old coins, and more. I moved the contents of that box to a small Tupperware container, which I put in my top drawer, and replaced them with gold “coins” –pirate’s treasure.

Since that time, I have mistakenly gone to the small cedar box for a tie pin almost weekly. Of course, if I were to stop and think about it, I would remember that the tie pin is not there. But I don’t stop and think about it. Before I realize what has happened, I’ve opened the box with the gold coins yet again. I groan and intend to get it right next time.

It is a habit that was built over a period of years and such habits do not break easily. As William James once put it, “All our life … is but a mass of habits.” That is why we have so much trouble keeping our New Year’s resolutions: our habits get in the way.

So what can we do? We can start making new habits. It only takes a moment to break a resolution, but it takes time to build – and to break – a habit. I will eventually make a new habit of going to the upper drawer for my tie pin. I haven’t made it yet and would fail to make it, were I to give up and move my tie pin back to the little cedar box. But if I keep the tie pin where it is and keep trying, I will succeed in making a new habit eventually.

Samuel Johnson was right: “Great works are performed not by strength, but by perseverance.” However, it is not just great works: almost everything we do involves habit. Forming a major new habit will require building numerous supporting habits. For example: I may decide to develop a habit of daily Bible reading, a practice that is important in spiritual formation.

Well and good. But to develop this habit, I must develop supporting habits: getting up a half-an-hour earlier, for example. But to make that a habit and not give up, I must go to bed a half-an-hour earlier – another habit. To do that, I must change my evening routine, how late I work, how much TV I watch, and more.

This year, instead of making three or four unrelated resolutions, resolve to create a habit. Think through what supporting habits will be required and set about building them. Then keep at it. Such a resolution won’t be broken by failure, no matter how often you fail, but only by surrender. Don’t surrender.

First published by Gatehouse Media

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An Angel’s Perspective on the Birth of Jesus

Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash

You cannot understand our perspective. You do not even understand how the lower animals perceive reality – how could you understand the perceptions of spiritual beings higher than you?

We comprehend things you cannot see or hear or touch or smell. We embody a reality you cannot perceive. Where you see one reason, we distinguish ten thousand, stretched across time and space.

Were you to experience reality as we do for even a moment, your brains would overload. They could not handle the cascade of information that flows through us, a million times more than you can currently process. We observe what is happening on multiple layers of reality all at once: physical, moral, and spiritual – and for us each of those layers of reality is layered into others, which in turn are layered into others.

You are like the lamp that uses 110 volts of electricity. We are like the generator that produces a million times that much. You live in a cramped world of four dimensions – three of space and one of time. How can I make you understand? For us, that is a prison cell, a coffin, even. You are like an abacus with beads, we are like a supercomputer. We know millions of times more than you, and understand what you cannot even dream.

And yet … we do not understand this. We have seen and analyzed trillions of variables, but this took us by surprise. This is further beyond us than we are beyond you. What happened in Bethlehem has left us, like you, awe-struck and in wonder, and all we can do is cry: “Glory to God in the Highest.”

“Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow … even angels long to look into these things.” (1 Peter 1:12-14)

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Christmas Surprise: What We Weren't Expecting for Christmas

By the end of the Old Testament era, many people were impatient for the Creator to fulfill his promise and make right what had gone wrong. When would the serpent’s head be crushed? Where was God’s promised king (things could never be right without the king!), and why did he delay so long?

People thought they knew what God’s promised king, the Restorer, would be like. He would be mighty – mighty to save. He would be a warrior. He would be a great leader, with the power to subdue nations under him. He would appear from out of nowhere – that’s what some people said (John 7) – and come suddenly to his temple. He would destroy God’s enemies.

If you want to know what people were expecting, just think of your favorite superhero movie, replace the hero’s cape with a white robe and his mask with a beard, give him a sword and a crown, and you’ve got it. The restorer, the king, the savior would be a war hero extraordinaire who would rule the nations with an iron rod. He would put things aright.

Of course that made sense, and of course that’s not at all what God did. Who has ever figured God out? Not even his prophets, the people to whom he sent advanced word of his plans, ever really understood, though they “searched intently,” as St. Peter says, “and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing…”(1 Peter 1:10-11).

Prospero Fontana

People were expecting a mighty warrior. God gave them a little boy. They were waiting for God to send Zion a king. He sent an unmarried girl a baby. They were crying out for a deliverer who would bring judgment on their enemies. God gave them a savior who took judgment on himself. “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” (Romans 11:34). If Christmas teaches us anything it is this: Though God may put himself in a manger, you cannot put him in a box. You can’t figure him out. He’s not one step ahead of you; he’s light years ahead of you. He will not do things the way you would – you might as well get used to that – but by the grace of Christ you can learn to do things the way he would, if he were you.

His plan was never to shatter his enemies with his sword – at least that is not Plan A. He wants to conquer them with his love. His plan was never just to subdue a wayward world, but to transform it. He wants so much more than to rule from a throne. He wants to rule from our hearts. God was never interested in acquiring real estate – he doesn’t want to take this ridge or that hill – he wants to take a people and make them his own.

That is the story of Christmas, and it is our story. We were (and perhaps some of us still are) the rebels God refused to crush but chose to win. We are the people who usurped God’s place and brought chaos down on our own heads. We are the people who demand that God change our circumstances, when our only hope is to change our hearts and minds. That’s who we are. But this is who God is: he is smarter than we can imagine (he knows everything), stronger than we dare believe (we can’t stand against him, nor can anything else in all creation), and better than we ever dreamed.

So what do we do with a God like this? We bow in worship. We repent of our willfulness – where has it ever gotten us? – and we bring our lives under the rule of his king. He is the Savior of Men, the Root of Jesse and the Son of David. The Unspeakable Gift, the Wonderful Counselor, and the Light of the World. The Desire of Nations, the Lord of Armies and the King of kings. And, beyond the furthest reaches of our imaginations, he is the Baby wrapped in swaddling and lying in a manger. And should we go further yet, beyond not only our imaginations but the imaginations of angels, we will find that he is the Man nailed to a cross. He is Jesus Christ our Lord.

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That's What Christmas Is All About

(This is the second in a series of Advent Devotionals.)

Photo by Greyson Joralemon on Unsplash

When humanity’s progenitors ate the fruit, they were not acting like naughty children but like rebellious conspirators and, at least to some degree, they knew it. What happened in the garden was not a slip but a jump that turned into a fall.

The Fall

I’m not sure what Adam and Eve thought would happen next. Perhaps they thought that one bite was all it would take and they would be like God, just as the tempter said. He’d told them that their eyes would be opened and they would be like God. And, in one sense, their eyes were opened; but they were not like God. In fact, they were less like God than they had ever been. Their eyes were turned in on themselves, in a way that had never happened before. They knew good and evil, but not at all as the Creator knows it; they knew it as the devil knows it.

God intended the humans to rule his world but now they were at its mercy. Under God’s rule, they could rule, but the moment they stopped being subject to God, they became subject to fear (Gen. 3:10) and were ruled by desire (Gen. 3:16). The earth that once cooperated with them no longer yielded to their touch. On the very day of their revolt, there began a struggle between man and God, man and earth, and man and man. They were expelled from the garden, and the world began to fall apart. And so did the humans. And, to all appearances, so did God’s plan.

But the Creator is not easily stopped. In fact, he is not stopped at all. Ever. It was his plan that the world fall apart, should the humans turn away from him. It was a safeguard and a mercy. The recalcitrant earth, the relational conflict, the pain and fear and, above all, death were God-designed consequences of man’s rebellion. Why? Because God wanted revenge? No. Because God wants us. Sorrow and failure and struggle are a mercy. His judgments are a kindness. The Creator knows we will not come to him without them. And if we don’t come to him, we cannot come to ourselves, to our rightful place, and to our joy. Only when we have fully come to God, can we fully be ourselves.

The man and woman were expelled from the safety of the garden into the world they had defaced. Immanuel – the God with them of the Garden – was now God away from them. And the distance they had introduced into that relationship had also come between them. They were no longer with each other in the same way they had been. Their disobedience had introduced a new reality into their world: distance. They were far from God, increasingly far from each other, and even far from themselves – the selves they were made to be.

That’s the world into which we were born. Physicists tells us that the universe is constantly expanding, which means the distances between constellations and solar systems is growing. Theologians tell us that what is happening on the physical level is also happening on a spiritual one. Adam’s and Eve’s sin – not eating a fruit but rejecting the Creator, going one’s own way and setting up as one’s own god – has been repeated many billions of times and has created great distance between humans and between humans and God.

The result of the choice they made (and that we’ve all made too), the choice to take God’s place, is chaos. There is injustice, hatred, misunderstanding, malice and bitterness. And these things not only bubble over in society, they bubble over in us. Chaos without and chaos within. This is what happens to the world and to individual humans when God-with-us is God-away-from-us, and even God-against-us. Nothing can be right while we are our own gods. The world will be wrong as long as the king’s regents insist on taking his throne.

The humans rejected the Creator, and that is our shame. But the Creator did not reject the humans, and that is our hope. He went looking for them. Genesis 3:8 says, “They hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” Rather than crushing the rebellion, God chose to reverse it. The damage had been done and it was horrendous. The relationship between the Creator and his creatures was no longer the same. They were no longer regents, they were rebels. The damage had been done, but God knew that it could be undone, and he set about the task of undoing it. That’s what Christmas is all about.

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So This Is Christmas

(Over the next eight days, I’ll be posting devotional thoughts to help us gain a renewed vision of the wonder and glory of Christmas. My hope is that my – and your – celebration this year may be full of awe and admiration of our God and of his Christ.)

Where does Christmas Begin?

Where does the story of Christmas begin? It is not in the little town of Bethlehem, as we might suppose. Nor is it in the village of Nazareth, where Joseph lived and Mary received an angel messenger. No, the story of Christmas begins long before Joseph and Mary came on the scene.

If we are going to tell this story from the beginning, we are going to have to go east and we are going to have to go back: east from Bethlehem and back in time. We need to go to Eden, and even there we will not find the beginning of the story of Christmas, which lies in the heart of God, but we will get about as close as human observation can attain.

It was in the Garden, not the stable, that the Creator first became Immanuel (God with us). (“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day…” Genesis 3:8). The Creator, a being of unimaginable power, who brought into existence the visible universe and, along with it, realities that are not visible (at least to creatures like us) was with humans: with them in ways they could readily perceive and in ways that caused them to flourish. He was Immanuel.

The Creator made the earth to be a place that would beautifully and remarkably sustain biological life. It was perfect. And on the earth, he made a place (Eden) that was supremely suited to a particular kind of biological life: the human. He placed two humans, a man and a woman, in that ideal environment.

The powerful and wise Creator had a plan. Biologically, he made the humans so that they could mate and multiply and fill the earth. Spiritually, he designed them so that they and all their descendants would resemble the Creator himself.

The powerful and wise Creator had a plan. Biologically, he made the humans so that they could mate and multiply and fill the earth. Spiritually, he designed them so that they and all their descendants would resemble the Creator himself. He gave them characteristics that mirrored his own (appropriate to their biological form, of course) and bestowed on them the responsibility of serving as his regents to rule the earth. The Creator said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over … all the earth…” He gave them dominion over everything on earth. The Creator’s plan was to set up images of himself (humans) all over the planet – and who knows, perhaps someday all over the galaxy – to represent him. They were to care for the planet and for all its creatures as his representatives. Think of the earth and the universe as a kingdom, the Creator as king, and the humans as the king’s chosen regents.

The man and woman in the garden were being prepared for that high, holy calling. We don’t know how long their preparation in in the garden was intended to last – for all we know they may have been there for a hundred years – but their preparation included one restriction. They were given free range of the entire garden and access to all its bounty, except for the fruit of one particular tree, known as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Of that tree they were not permitted to eat – at least, not at that point in their preparation. Perhaps later in their training that would have changed.

But as time went on the man and the woman – Adam and Eve – chose to go their own way, and their way was a long and disastrous detour. Instead of serving as the Creator’s representatives, as regents of the King of the Universe, they chose their own path.  They did not want to rule under God, they wanted to rule beside him. They didn’t want to wait to be prepared. They decided to take a shortcut. They chose to believe that they would be better off – happier, more fulfilled, more who they were meant to be – if they were autonomous. They decided that they knew better than God, which is the same mindset that is behind all our sins. When humanity’s progenitors ate the fruit, they were not acting like naughty children but like rebellious conspirators and, at least to some degree, they knew it. What happened in the garden was not a slip but a jump that turned into a fall.

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I AM the Way, and the Truth, and the Life

It’s the evening before Jesus’s execution. The day – the entire week – has been filled with conflict and high drama. Jesus and the Twelve have just eaten the Passover Seder, which was different from any Passover meal they had eaten before.

Following the meal, Jesus says something that shocks and frightens them: he won’t be with them much longer. He is going to leave and they can’t go with him (John 13:33). So Peter asks Jesus where he is going. When Jesus’s answer doesn’t satisfy him, he asks: “Why can’t I go with you?” Though Jesus does not directly answer his question, he makes it clear that he must travel the path that lies ahead alone. Neither Peter nor the rest can accompany him.

It was in this setting that Jesus spoke the now famous words: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” But their hearts are troubled. When Jesus says, “You know the way to the place I am going,” Thomas gets frustrated and blurts out: “We don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus’s answer to that question unveils the sixth of the seven great I AM statements in the Gospel of John: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” If these men could understand this, they would be able to keep their hearts untroubled. They would be able to trust God. If we could understand this, we could do the same.

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The Wisdom of Humility and the Humility of Wisdom

The great English New Testament scholar F. F. Bruce counseled his readers to avoid being dogmatic about issues. If one is right, he pointed out, dogmatically defending one’s position does not make it any truer nor is it likely to convince others. It usually has the opposite effect. If one’s position is mistaken, being dogmatic can only be harmful.

F. F. Bruce understood that even the brightest of us still “sees through a glass darkly” and only the best of us remembers that fact and holds positions humbly. Only God sees things as they are—and we are not God. Though we can see things truly, we cannot see them wholly. To insist that we do is to make fools of ourselves by making believe that we are equal to God.

As I write this, I am looking over the top of my computer screen, out the window, and across the road at a barren elm. What I see is a vase-shaped, leafless tree, jostled slightly by the wind. Its trunk has a bald spot, where the bark has fallen away. I know that morel mushrooms sometimes grow around dying elms in the Spring. I know that splitting elm for firewood is a lousy job.

Yet there is more about that tree that I don’t know than I do. I do not know how old it is. I do not know how deep its roots are. I do not know its molecular structure. I cannot see its atomic bonds. I don’t know what the squirrels that chase each other through its branches sense when their feet grip its bark. I don’t know the degree to which is contributes to the replenishment of the ozone layer. I know some things about that tree, but I do not know it as God knows it.

The tree serves as a basic example of the limits of my knowledge. More complex examples would include politics, economics, philosophy, metaphysics, and personal relationships, to name a few. My knowledge, even when true, is always limited – usually more limited than I realize. This is true of all our race, a fact the wise do not forget.

God intends to greatly expand the limits of our knowledge one day. St. Paul, who wrote, “Now we see through a glass darkly,” immediately added “then” – in a future age – “we will see face to face. Now we know in part. Then we will know, even as we are known.” Imagine what it would be like to look at the elm tree and take it all in – the feel of its bark on squirrels’ feet and the structure of its atomic constituents. Perhaps that awaits us.

Until then, we are in great need of what St. James called “the wisdom of humility.” We are still children, in terms of our development as eternal spiritual beings and our understanding of the world. We have not yet matured.

My grandson Phin is a bright four-year-old. One day in the Spring, he saw a bug on the ceiling at his house and wanted to catch it. His mom said, “I’ll have to vacuum it up.” Phin asked, “How does it get up there?” My daughter-in-law, thinking he was talking about the bug, said, “They fly.” Phin looked at her in amazement and said, “Vacuums fly?”

I’m pretty sure the same kind of thing happens to us. Because our knowledge of the world around us and the God above us is limited, we assume things to be true that are not and vice-versa. This is certainly the case when it comes to biblical knowledge. While we can know the meaning of the Bible truly, we cannot know it completely. Some of our interpretations will likely be as far off base as Phin’s interpretation regarding flying vacuums.

The same is true in other fields of knowledge, whether physics or biology or cooking or sports. We can know many things truly – this assurance is vital – without knowing anything completely. This calls for a broad curiosity about our world, a deep humility about ourselves and an unfailing respect for our peers.

Previously published by Gatehouse Media

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The Good Shepherd, Part 2 (John 11)

We’ve got to learn to live backwards. That is, we need to learn to live out of our future and not just out of our past. Most people are driven by the unalterable past into an unknowable future, but Jesus’s people can be pulled into the future by the call of the knowable – though always more than comprehensible – God.

People who are driven by the unalterable past are frequently filled with regrets over former days and fears over future ones. They are haunted by would-haves, could-haves, and should-haves and threatened by might-be and could-be possibilities. Only people who learn from Jesus how to live out of the future can be fully alive in the present

That future can be summed up in a word. No, it’s not “heaven”; it’s “resurrection.”

Jesus reveals himself to his friend Martha (and to us) as “The Resurrection and the Life.” To know him in this way is to transform our past, present, and future.

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The Man Who Led the Attack on Pearl Harbor

December 7th is the anniversary of the 1941 Japanese surprise attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in 1941, a day which, according President Roosevelt, would live in infamy.

My friend Hugh Hansel was an adolescent in 1941. He had gone fishing on a sunny Sunday in northwest Ohio and, when he returned home, he found the adults agitated and fearful. Over the next couple of years, Hugh watched older schoolmates go off to the war. He saw how they and their parents wept at their parting, and his young heart developed a deep hatred for the Japanese.

Fast forward to the next decade. Hugh had himself seen combat in Korea. After returning home, he and his wife Phyllis moved to Upland, Indiana, to attend Taylor University and pursue a degree in education. While he was there, it was announced that Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, the man who led the attack on Pearl Harbor, would be on campus to speak. Signs began going up around Upland, calling on people to boycott Fuchida’s speech.

But Hugh wanted to see the monster who had attacked an unsuspecting enemy. He was filled with hate toward the Japanese generally and toward Fuchida in particular. Yet, by the time Fuchida’s speech ended, he had experienced a complete change of mind. He waited for Fuchida, not to give him a piece of his mind but to shake his hand.

The story he heard Fuchida tell was remarkable. Because of his success in the war in China, Fuchida was chosen to lead the attack on Pearl Harbor. Over Pearl Harbor, his plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire and returned to base with 21 holes and an elevator cable that dangled by a single thread. He had evaded death by a hair.

Fuchida was again to lead the attack on Midway, but he suffered appendicitis and was forced to remain on the aircraft carrier Akagi. A dive bomber from the USS Enterprise scored a direct hit on the Akagi and Fuchida was injured. He was rescued from the smoking deck, transported to a destroyer, and taken back to Japan to recover. None of the squadron he was supposed to lead that day returned. Fuchida survived again, seemingly by chance.

Because he was injured, he was assigned to a staff position with Vice Admiral Kakuta. Just weeks before the American invasion of Guam, Fuchida was ordered to Tokyo. When the Japanese effort to repel the invasion failed, the Vice Admiral and all his staff committed seppuku – ritual suicide by disembowelment. Again, Fuchida was spared.

He was then sent to Hiroshima. On the evening of August 5, 1945, he was abruptly ordered to attend a briefing 500 miles away. The next morning, the Enola Gay dropped “Little Boy,” the atomic bomb that killed tens of thousands instantly and tens of thousands more in the ensuing months. Fuchida was immediately sent back to Hiroshima to assess the damage. Everyone on the team died of acute radiation poisoning, except him.

Following the war, Fuchida met a soldier he had served with who had just been released from an American POW camp. He was surprised to hear that he had been well-treated and shocked to learn that one of the people caring for him was a woman whose missionary parents had been murdered by the Japanese.

Later, when ordered to testify at the war crimes trials (which he considered a travesty of justice), Fuchida was handed a tract written by an American prisoner of war, Jacob DeShazer, who had come to faith in a Japanese POW camp. DeShazer had undergone a radical change, from hatred for his captors to genuine concern for them. Fuchida himself eventually came to faith in Jesus and became an evangelist. He traveled to Hawaii many times, where he mourned for those who died at Pearl, and told the survivors about how Jesus can change hatred to love.

That is what Fuchida was doing when my friend Hugh met him at Taylor. A shared commitment to Jesus broke down the barrier between them and replaced their hostility with respect. It is still doing so today, in race, family, and working relationships—even in our fractured, fractious world.

First published by Gatehouse Media.

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