In this beautiful Christmas season, it’s so ingrained to focus on roly-poly Santas, elves, ho-ho-ho music, and gift giving. And for people around the world, we celebrate the birth of a Baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, and visits from angels, shepherds and Wise Men. We sing beautiful carols, attend midnight services…and savor the holiday.
But a couple of other December happenings guided me to a different thought process this year.
I received an e-mail reminder that December 7 marked the 72nd anniversary of the Pearl Harbor bombing that saw 2,402 American soldiers killed, and another 1,282 wounded. It was an event that sent shock waves through our nation, and changed the course of World War II…and history.
When I worked at University Relations in Crookston, every December 7 my secretary observed the date, because it was burned in her memory, just as 9-11 is for many people today who lived through that event.
It is important to remember the sacrifices that were made, and the many soldiers that were lost December 7, as well as the many who were then catapulted into a war far away from home.
They all paid a high price for freedom, freedom which we continue to enjoy all these many years later.
Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president, died on December 5, at the age of 95.
Mandela also paid a high price for freedom. He spent 27 years in prison for incitement and illegally leaving the country. His years behind bars made him the world’s most celebrated political prisoner and a leader for millions of black South Africans and other oppressed people far beyond his country’s borders. He was finally released in 1990, and led the peaceful transition from white-only rule, and became one of the world’s most celebrated statesmen.
A quote regarding his death was, “He achieved more than could be expected of any man.”
But his “price” was a heavy one…with nearly three decades spent in prison.
And if we look beyond the wonder of the Christmas story, Christian belief says that Baby would grow up to pay another huge price…for the sake of freedom for humanity.
His early-day followers, and many others down through the centuries have also paid a heavy price for their belief. I’m not sure too many people today are willing to be martyrs for a cause, no matter how much they believe in it. And those followers weren’t just practicing their faith, they were trying to spread the “good news” to people throughout the world.
I’d like to think I could bravely stand up for a belief…be it patriotic, religious or trying to make dramatic changes in a government. But be it the men and women who went to war, or a man who tried to change the course of his country, or Jesus and his followers—it takes a great deal of fortitude to be willing to actually follow through, and risk life and limb.
I love the Christmas story. We picture the innocent Baby, the shepherds and Wise Men and a bright star. I love to put up the Advent wreath and my time-worn Nativity set. It’s comforting.
But at the same time, Herod was having other innocent babies killed. The Holy Family had to flee to Egypt.
One of my nieces says her favorite holiday is Easter, because it is the fulfillment of what came after a tiny baby was born.
So this season, as we sing carols and revel in the holiday season, let’s also remember the price of freedom that has been paid. Be it the WWII men and women who put their lives on hold, or an indomitable man in South Africa, or the early Christians who forged ahead with nothing to go on but faith.
As has been said many times before: Freedom isn’t free.
What price freedom?