As a college freshman, my father saw the attack on Pearl Harbor in the newsreels. He left the movie theater, abandoned a football scholarship, and enlisted in the US Army. My grandmother sent her four sons to World War II that year. Dad and his brothers served two tours across Europe and the South Pacific. Thankfully, all of them returned.
My father swore a soldier’s oath, under God, to the United States of America. He later kept a roll of film showing jolly GIs posing by monkeys in banana trees, doing KP duty, and standing with their tank, the “Flaming Fanny,” but he never talked much about the wounds of war, the toll of firing that big gun or of taking another life.
After he died, I found amongst his papers drafts of a poem he’d written. He struggled to reconcile his commitment to fight in as just a war as seen in a century with what he believed was God’s law and Jesus’ promise, as detailed in the metal-jacketed New Testament he carried. In “I Remember,” Dad details an instance of deadly hand-to-hand combat between his young Appalachian farm boy self and an equally terrified Japanese soldier just as far from home. Dad may have won that battle, but his promise to serve God after being delivered from an enemy in a mortal conflict was a struggle that he endured for the rest of his days.
This prophesy in Luke is complicated. It’s often unclear to us what is righteous, what is hatred, and who our enemies truly are. Yet in our darkest moments, Zechariah offers light. God shows him in the infant Jesus the mercy promised to his ancestors. Jesus is proof that God remembers their covenant. And God continues offering proof of God’s mercy and remembered promises. We are being rescued (v. 74), even now. We are not alone; we’re before him all our days (v. 75). God’s mercy and promise guide us.
During your darkest times, how do you turn to God?
God, when I struggle, may your mercy and our covenant be my guide. Amen.