To the Family of The Living Church: The Christmas We are Fighting For (Dec. 24, 1944).
Somewhere in the South Pacific
This is a Christmas message from us overseas to you at home. Though it is written from a Marine base in the South Pacific, it might as well come from any battle front, overseas Army post, Air Force flying field, or ship of the American Navy — from the jungles of Burma, the isolated airfields of China, or the foxholes of Leyte; from garrisons in Alaska, the West Indies, South America or Africa; from fighting troops in Italy, in Holland, and in Germany itself; from camps and airfields in France and Britain; from sun-baked supply bases in Iran and the Middle East; from ships in the seven seas and submarines under them; from fighters, bombers, patrol and transport planes flying combat or routine missions; from hospitals and enemy prison camps; from every corner of the civilized and uncivilized world. Wherever American fighting men are serving our country.
The message, in brief, is this:
We are not in any of these distant posts from choice or inclination. We do not, most of us, enjoy fighting, and we know too much about it to see any romance in it. Many of us have seen our comrades fall at our side, to be buried in foreign soil. Some of us have suffered painful wounds or the ravages of strength-sapping diseases. All of us have known scores or even hundreds of days of dull routine, others of arduous and exhausting training, sometimes as rugged as combat itself. We take pride in our efficiency and skilled training as a part of the greatest fighting force in history but, by and large, we hate war.
War is something we didn’t choose, but being in it we are determined to see it through to decisive and overwhelming victory. We can see that victory ahead — but unlike some of our civilian friends, we know that between us and victory lies some of the toughest and most costly fighting in this or any other war. Knowing this, it makes us a little bitter to hear about some of those at home who are talking as if it were all over but the shouting, who are letting down on war work, or cashing in their war bonds instead of buying more.
What do these things have to do with Christmas? Just this: In a very special way, Christmas symbolizes all that we are fighting for. It is the festival of home and family. It is a time for giving, not only of tangible gifts, but of something of our very selves, as Christ gave Himself for us. It is a time when we show forth the best of our human nature, as God showed His divine nature in the Babe of Bethlehem.
We are not theologians; many of us are not even regular churchgoers — though a surprising number of us attend services out here more frequently than we did at home. We can’t and don’t express these things in terms such as Nativity, Incarnation, and salvation. But we feel these truths nonetheless. And while we would claim be the last to set ourselves up as crusaders, or to proclaim this or any other war as a holy one, we know instinctively that these are at bottom the things we are fighting for. We want our children and our children’s children to enjoy all the fine things for which Christmas stands, without the threat of oppression by any dictator, foreign or domestic.
So, we send our sincere message of greeting, at this holy season, to our families and friends at home. The phrase “Merry Christmas” may sound a little shallow this year, but we shall use it nevertheless because of its familiarity and the memories it calls to mind. You will understand that in saying it we are really paraphrasing and making our own that glorious message of the angels on the first Christmas Eve:
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
Clifford P. Morehouse
Clifford P. Morehouse (1904-1977) was editor of The Living Church from 1932 to 1952. He served in the Marine Corps from 1942-1944, when he was also assistant editor of the Marine Corps Gazette.