"Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, God with us. ... Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." -- George Frideric Handel, "Messiah"
WASHINGTON -- This magnificent musical work penned by Handel in 1741 is heard all around the world in this season. His powerful lyrics are drawn directly from the Bible and remind us all to be thankful for the birth, sacrifice and resurrection of the Lamb of God.
In our family Christmas tradition, Handel's oratorio is performed at our Christmas Eve church service. The following morning, we play it in the background as our children -- and now a dozen grandchildren -- rip into their presents around a carefully decorated Scotch pine. Each time I hear it, the music prompts me to be grateful for the Prince of Peace -- and thankful for those whose selfless service makes it possible for us to enjoy this celebration in tranquility.
The Christmas season is rarely a holiday for Americans serving in uniform -- or their families waiting anxiously at home. George Washington led the Continental Army on a perilous crossing of the Delaware River on Christmas in 1776. A year later, the tiny force barely survived the privations of winter at Valley Forge, Pa.
Throughout World War II, the birth of Christ was anything but a celebration. Wake Island fell two days before Christmas in 1941. The following year, American troops were taking heavy casualties in North Africa and Guadalcanal. For U.S. soldiers battling their way up the Italian Peninsula and the Marines and sailors at Rabaul and Cape Gloucester, Christmas of 1943 was miserable. On Christmas Day in 1944, the 101st Airborne was surrounded at Bastogne.
During the Korean War, every Christmas season was a "living, frigid hell" right from the start. On the first Christmas Eve we were there (in 1950), U.S. and Republic of Korea troops completed the evacuation of Hungnam and saved the lives of more than 90,000 refugees. Every Christmas in Vietnam was a lonely test of courage and perseverance. Little has changed today.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.