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Two Scenes from Christmas in Afghanistan

Leigh C. Bishop, a psychiatrist and military reservist, was stationed at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan on Christmas Eve 2008. In the dim light of dusk, he watched as a procession of military vehicles approached the airfield, came to a stop, and carefully unloaded a flag-draped steel casket. He knew that somewhere in the U.S., a family was going to suffer a Christmas homecoming that no one wanted. It was a heartbreaking scene for Bishop to take in—and one all-too-familiar in war.

But then, another scene from that Christmas Eve.

In an article for Christianity Today magazine entitled "Christmas in Afghanistan," Bishop writes:

[After watching the casket be unloaded from the military vehicle], I find myself walking along … the main avenue of Bagram Airfield. All is different …. Soldiers holding candles are belting out Christmas carols with gusto. Down the street, luminaries brighten the walkway into the clamshell-shaped auditorium, where cheerful groups of uniformed men and women enter for a Christmas concert. Two blocks away, the chapel is filling for the six o'clock Christmas Eve service.
War, writes C.S. Lewis in the essay "Learning in War-Time," reveals a hunger in human beings for joy and meaning that will not be set aside for even the most difficult of circumstances ….
Jesus did not come just to provide an occasion to sing carols, drink toasts, feast, and exchange gifts. But we are right to do these things, even as soldiers die and families grieve, because he came. And in his coming, he brought joy and peace—the joy that overcomes our sorrows, and the only kind of peace that ultimately matters. It's the peace of which the end of all wars, terrible as they are, is merely one token. It's the peace that means the long war between the heart and its Maker is over. It's a peace treaty offered in Bethlehem and signed, in blood, on Calvary.

Bishop concludes: "So joy to the world, and to every celebrating or grieving or hurting soul in it. The Lord has come. Let heaven and nature—and even those who stand watch with lighted candles in the land of the shadow of death—sing."

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