At the end of the American Civil
War, after the fighting had ceased, a division of the Union Army spent its last
night in tents together. The shooting was done; tomorrow they would be
disbanded. It occurred to these soldiers that this would be the last
night they would be able to use the government issued candles for
light—sparingly issued. But for this one night they could light all they
pleased, and so they did. The camp ground soon was washed in candlelight,
brightly lighting their last night as soldiers.
Christ too had His last night—His
last night before His crucifixion. The night took on special meaning for
his disciples, for in that night he transformed Passover into Communion, which
we still have with us to this day.
Soldiers grow older day by
day. There comes a time when they remember the hardships of combat and
the men whose lives were more precious than their own. They long for a
time of reunion—a time to tell old war stories, to remember those fallen; to
care for those now in need who once were comrades in arms, or for their widows
and children. It is a time of celebration, a good time, yet it is also a
time of remembrance. It is a rare veteran who stands at attention and
listens to taps with dry eyes. These men came together frequently, and
always remembered the night of the candles.
We, too, have a time of
remembrance. Like the veterans we remember the One who walked this earth
with us, beyond anything we ever deserved.
There is one obvious fact about a
soldier’s reunion: only those who made it through make it to the
reunion. Yet the topic of conversation often concerns those who did
not; the heroes who died that others might live; the unfortunate who were
so close to leaving when they died; the friends buried at some far off
battlefield. Soldiers often enough have the feeling that the reason they
survived and others didn’t is that God so selected it—no other explanation
seems adequate. We remember the ones who took a bullet headed our way.
The Christian celebrates his
salvation as well, at the hand of His Lord who sacrificed Himself on the Cross
so that we might have eternal life.
The unit with the best discipline
usually produces the largest number of veterans. This division no doubt
remembered the hardships of close order drill under a howling sergeant—and no
doubt marched better in the Veteran’s Day parades for it. Even if the
uniforms no longer fit.
The Christian, too, knows that
obedience is the way to becoming a veteran, so to speak. Obedience shows
what Christ is doing within. So when He tells us, “take and eat,”
remember that obedience turns the new Christian into the veteran one.