We look forward to Christmas because it means a break from the normal routine of life that can be stressful. It's a time for families, friends and fellowship. It's festive and, when in the right perspective, joyous.
However, tens of thousands of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Guardsmen and Marines won't be home for Christmas celebrations. Instead, they will be doing the sacrificial duty of honor, protecting the rest of us and the freedom America offers.
This has been the case for our military from the beginning. After early defeats at the hands of British troops opening the Revolutionary War, Gen. George Washington chose Christmas Day 1776 to surreptitiously cross the frigid Delaware River in hopes of catching the mercenary Hessians off guard. The dangerous, frigid ploy was successful and started turning the tide of the war within the colonial ranks and against their adversaries.
The vicious World War II Battle of the Bulge began Dec. 16, 1944, along the borders of Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany. Adolf Hitler ordered 200,000 German troops and 1,000 tanks to launch a massive surprise attack through the Ardennes Forest and break through allied lines all the way to Belgium's Antwerp seaport. Short on supplies, ammunition, fuel and critically needed air support, U.S. troops on the ground were initially outnumbered and outgunned while enduring one of the coldest winters in over a century. Yet they managed to hold the Nazis at bay until Gen. George Patton's Third Army could complete its northern march to halt the enemy's advance.
It was a terrible Christmas of loss for American forces and their families back home. But the perseverance, courage and sacrifice of our troops delivered a crushing defeat for Hitler.
By New Year's Day 1945, the Nazi army had been pushed back behind its national border. America and its allies never let Hitler have another chance at winning the war.
This Christmas, approximately 170,000 U.S active-duty military personnel will be stationed outside our nation, many on lonely duty. Few of these men and women will awaken to a family Christmas tree and home-cooked feasts. They took an oath to protect and defend our Constitution, to stand at their posts while we celebrate the birth of mankind's Savior with family and friends.
Ours is an all-volunteer force, the most capable and best equipped fighting force on Earth. Their willing sacrifice keeps America safe and free, free to worship the King in God's eternal Kingdom.
Christmas is the beginning of a story of supreme sacrifice. Jesus Christ left His place in Heaven to take on full humanity to deliver the Father's final message of hope to our fallen world. Jesus' humble arrival declared our future of "peace on Earth, good will toward men." He alone could do this because He was and is sinless, the only human who could pay the price for the sins of all people for all time and open the door of reconciliation to God and redemption from eternal separation from Him.
Our Lord and Savior is the ultimate of how I've often described a hero: one who puts himself in harm's way for the benefit of others.
Our husbands, wives, sons, daughters, fathers and mothers putting their personal desires aside to don military uniforms and step into the breach for us echoes Jesus' Supreme Sacrifice.
As we gather this week to open presents, feast and enjoy the company of those we love, let us focus on the reasons and what makes it possible.
"For unto you (was) born (that) day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." (Luke 2:11-12 ESV).
Pray for all those who cannot be home with us because they selflessly serve us all over the world.
Oliver L. North is a combat-decorated U.S. Marine, No.1 bestselling author, founder and CEO of Fidelis Publishing LLC and Fidelis Media. Find out more at www.olivernorth.com