It was December 1950. General MacArthur had told the press that he expected his troops in frozen, windswept Korea would be home by Christmas. A photographer for LIFE magazine asked an embattled Marine on the front line, “If I were God, and I could give you anything you wanted (for Christmas), what would you ask for?”
“Gimme tomorrow,” he said.
When we think of the thousands upon thousands of times the question, “What do you want for Christmas?” has been asked, this answer must be among the most unusual. “I want to spend Christmas with my family.” “I want this war to end.” “I want to survive Korea.” Any of these would be understandable and expected replies. But this Marine was not aiming that high. He had seen the fresh Chinese troops flooding across the border. He only wanted to survive through the night.
Those who have never been in desperate life or death situations may be surprised at those words. Many who have stepped into harm’s way for their country know exactly how he felt. So would the psalm writer, David. Like that Marine, David was also now surrounded by an enemy. Like that Marine, he wasn’t thinking about the far future. He just wanted to make it to the next day.
Unlike the Marine, his enemy forces were not foreigners with a strange uniform and language. He was being attacked by fellow Israelites. Their commander was none else than David’s own son: Absalom. These were some of the darkest days of David’s life. The warrior king, the killer of Goliath, had to slink away from his throne like a weak coward. Gone was the glory. Gone was the power. Shame, misery, and death marked the trail of retreat. It appeared he had lost everything that counted in life. But that was not true. He still had his faith in the Savior God. And the Savior God still had him.
MacArthur’s boast, “They’ll be home by Christmas!” rang hollow in the end. David’s declaration was rock solid. “I lie down and sleep; I wake again.”He knew that with the God who promised there would one day be a Christmas, he would always wake up alive—on earth or in heaven. He didn’t have to ask, “Gimme tomorrow!”
Neither do we.
We pray: God of our fathers and Lord of our life, we do not know what the future holds, and sometimes we fear that we will not make it through our day of trouble. We thank you for sustaining us in the past. We trust you for all our tomorrows. Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida-Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military