It was seventy-one years ago today–“Dec. 7, 1941, a day that will live in infamy,”as President Franklin Roosevelt would describe it–when Japanese planes bombed Pearl Harbor. It was an unprovoked attack that shocked the nation, and immediately brought the United States into World War II. It was also a wake-up call to our nation’s vulnerability in a world at war.
I grew up hearing stories from my parents about how they heard the news on the radio that fateful Sunday morning that their nation was under attack, even though they had no idea what a Pearl Harbor was, and probably couldn’t have found Hawaii on a map. I also remember the story about how my dad’s oldest brother joined thousands of young men across the country the next morning lining up at the recruiter’s office to enlist in the military. My uncle would go on to serve in the Marines fighting the Japanese in the South Pacific, and lost a leg on the beaches of Guadalcanal.
Coming to the defense of their country and joining in the fight the day after an attack was certainly a patriotic notion, as would have been expected of “the greatest generation.” And those men–like my uncle, and probably your’s too–were nothing short of heroic as they laid their lives on the line the next four years, until World War II was won and our freedoms preserved.
But the questions historians have often asked is how such an attack could have come so unexpected in the first place. There were literally hundreds of planes that flew undetected right under the noses of the American Navy fleet, and were primed for attack before anyone really even noticed they were there. Joining the fight the day after–however noble it was–doesn’t help much when the enemy had already rained down their bombs and torpedoes. The time to be ready is before the attack.
So…what’s the got to do with Advent?
As I mentioned in last Sunday’s message, the word “advent” derives from the Latin term that translates the New Testament word for “coming.” It specifically refers to Jesus’ coming–His first coming when He was born a baby in Bethlehem, and His second coming when He will part the skies and come to take His bride the church home. He came, and He is coming again.
Though long prophesied, who in first-century Palestine was really expecting that the King of kings would be born to a “round yon virgin” in a lowly stable? No one was looking for it, and so most missed it–save for a few simple shepherds who were directed there by angels. Likewise, though long prophesied, who in our 21st-century world really expects the soon return of the King?
The call for us on this Pearl Harbor anniversary–and in this season of Advent–is to get ready. So, we prepare for a Jesus-focused celebration of Christmas in the short term, and for a Jesus-focused celebration of eternity in the long term. The reality is, the long-term could be upon us, even in the short-term.
My prayer for each of you is that you won’t allow the distractions of the season to take your eyes off what is of vital importance, and that is Christ Himself. May He be the center of your Christmas, and the center of your lives, until He comes again.
I’m praying for you, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday, both morning and evening. It’s going to be a great day!