No Easy Hope

In September of 1915, one year into the First World War, eighteen-year-old John Kipling (known as Jack) died during the Battle of the Loos.  Grieving his son's death, British author and poet Rudyard Kipling wrote his poem, "My Boy Jack."  It begins:
"Have you news of my boy Jack?"
Not this tide.
"When d'you think that he'll come back?"

Jack never came back.  His death was among many and it was the result of a war that his father felt was worth fighting.

Exactly one year prior to Jack's wartime death, Rudyard composed a poem entitled, "For All We Have and Are."  In verse, Kipling speaks to the dignity and necessity of facing war; of standing for family, nation and freedom.  Hear his poetic word here in part.

For all we have and are,
For all our children’s fate,
Stand up and take the war.
The Hun is at the gate!
Our world has passed away
In wantonness o’erthrown.
There is nothing left to-day
But steel and fire and stone!
Though all we knew depart,
The old Commandments stand—
“In courage keep your heart,
In strength lift up your hand.”
No easy hope or lies
Shall bring us to our goal,
But iron sacrifice
Of body, will, and soul.
There is but one task for all—
One life for each to give.
What stands if Freedom fall?
Who dies if England live?

I can't help but wonder if the gifted poet's words from September, 1914, played in his head in September, 1915.  He stated with conviction that:

For all we have and are,
For all our children’s fate,
Stand up and take the war.
Then his child's fate led to a grave.  His boy Jack died for his nation, England . . .  for family, nation and freedom. 

Listen to the theme.  A father who recognizes the perilous situation in which his nation stands, advocates for the war effort - a war effort in which his son engages.  In fact, the father used his influence to ensure that his son received a commission in the war.  In other words, the father sent his son into the war.

Does that sound familiar?

On Christmas Eve, we will pause in the midst of holiday chaos to celebrate a birthday - the Lord's birthday.

Everyone's birth is unique.  Babies are born in hospitals, homes, and cars that hit too many red lights.  Parents hold their newborns close and, if they call on the Divine, pray for their child's safety and health.  A proud father soon thereafter puffs out his chest and parades his daughter before all who will attend (and even a few who care not to).  A thankful mother soon thereafter feels a healthy sense of pride that that child is her son.

Jesus' birth was likewise unique.  Yes, it took place in an unlikely location - a manger.  And, yes, the first visitors were daunted heaven-struck shepherds.  But those facts are not the most interesting examples of his birth's uniqueness.  Even the fact that his mother birthed a child without having known a man - while certainly, interesting - is not, I believe, the most astounding piece.  Rather, the most interesting (indeed startling) aspect of Jesus' birth is the fact that, as Paul wrote in Philippians 2 . . .


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