Christmas is a time of year for celebration; a time to return home and spend time with family and friends, to give gifts, and enjoy home-cooked meals and sweets. It is a joyous time of year but we cannot forget that we are celebrating the coming of One who came to be the servant of all.
There are many servants in our country who have given up the opportunity to spend this holiday with their loved ones. They are as far away as Afghanistan and as close as the nearest fire station. This holiday, as you gather with your family, I hope you can remember those who enable us to celebrate in safety and freedom.
Jesus came as the Prince of Peace, and today we have brave young men and women serving in our armed services who seek to create and preserve peace. Even on Christmas Day, they will be putting their lives on the line.
Last year’s Christmas Day bombing attempt reminds us that our enemies see this holiday as an opportunity to murder and maim. Our soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen are directly confronting the threat of terrorism on battlefields in Afghanistan, Iraq, and in other dark corners of the globe.
Many of our soldiers there will have no opportunity for a hot meal or to unwrap presents. Their military service at this time of year recalls the Christmas of 1776, when General Washington and his troops stealthily crossed the Delaware River and won an improbable victory.
Washington’s small army of untrained volunteers had fought a series of losing battles across New York and New Jersey. Poorly equipped, many of his soldiers lacked shoes and left bloody footprints in the snow-covered ground. Washington himself doubted whether the revolution could continue without a significant victory.
Late on Christmas night, Washington’s forces famously crossed the Delaware and attacked Hessian mercenaries fighting for the British. The victory came at a critical time, helping Washington to hold his army together and helping American diplomats to convince the French to increase their assistance to the rebels.
Our servant soldiers give up a peaceful holiday so that we can maintain our freedom and security. Ronald Reagan in his 1983 Christmas remarks said to our armed services: “On this, the birthday of the Prince of Peace, you and your comrades serve to protect the peace He taught us. You may be thousands of miles away, but to us here at home, you’ve never been closer.”
We also have many who are serving over Christmas right here at home. Doctors, nurses and first responders remain on duty to preserve life and keep us safe.
Doctors, nurses, and other medical servants already give up so much: rushing to the hospital when there is an emergency, working long and late hours to provide care and going beyond their medical training to provide comfort to patients and their families. When we are gathering under the Christmas tree and around the dinner table, they are working in hospitals and clinics saving lives.
In the same way, firefighters and police officers are working to protect us. Sadly, the holidays aren’t a respite from fire or from criminal acts. Keeping our communities safe is a 24/7, 365-day-a-year job. Some of our first responders will be ready to answer 911 calls, rescue lives, and protect our homes.
Mark 9:35 reminds us that, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and the servant of all.” Those Americans who are giving up a restful and peaceful holiday in order to serve our nation deserve our thanks and gratitude. The servant hearts of our armed services, medical workers, and first responders honor the true spirit of this season.
Rep. Joe Pitts represents Pennsylvania’s Sixteenth Congressional District.