Love, War, the Manger, and Marry Christmas

An elderly lady sat on the church pew in the empty sanctuary. Someone must have dropped her off early. With Christmas carols playing softly, the shiny garlands decorating the loft, poinsettias lining the altar and a manger scene underneath a sparkling star, it was a peaceful place to wait.

I was picking up the leftover bulletins from the prior service. As I quietly moved from pew to pew, I could tell she was deep in thought. I approached where she was sitting and quietly wished her a Merry Christmas.

Her luminous eyes looked back at me from behind thick lenses. When she smiled, her wrinkled face brightened. She said she loved Christmas—it was also the day she had been married. I noticed the thin gold band on her gnarled left hand. “It was war time, and everyone was getting married before the men had to leave.”

As she spoke, I was transported to a tiny church in New England, family members gathered to celebrate Christmas, and the pastor agreed to marry the two young lovers who had just a few precious days before his deployment.

The next four Christmases she returned to the church to celebrate her anniversary alone. Throughout the lingering months, she’d write newsy letters ending each one with their shared greeting, “Marry Christmas”.  She worked as a clerk in a factory and walked home each day to the little apartment she hoped to soon share.

Well, the story continued, as old stories often do. The happy reunion wasn’t what she’d hoped, but as many soldiers and their families know, war changes you. 

One thing didn’t change for this woman—her love. She soothed his wounded soul. Even though he returned to work, the light of life had been snuffed out.

He was often despondent and shut people out of his small world. People left him alone, but his wife cared for his every need. After they retired, he refused to go out, except for the Christmas service.

Perhaps it reminded the old veteran of simpler times. Maybe it was the lights, the garland, and the familiar Christmas hymns. 

But his faithful wife suspected something more—it was the manger scene. When her disheartened husband would hear the Christmas story he could feel at peace. 

She could see it in his eyes—and he’d smile and say, Marry Christmas—those special words of endearment they always shared.

Indeed, the manger scene does bring peace—the Prince of Peace. And for one soul-wounded soldier and his devoted wife, it was the place where they  found  solace. 

The elderly woman now celebrates alone, but she’s quite certain that her husband received a healed heart from the One who gave him the peace he couldn't find on his own.

Looking for peace? Christmas can be the perfect time to find it.

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