"Peace on earth, goodwill toward men." In songs, on cards and from the animated lips of cartoon characters we'll encounter this phrase myriad times during this Christmas season.
But peace on earth is a funny thing. It is fragile. And, too often, it is only properly valued when lost. Ultimately, peace on earth -- at least on the whole earth -- has proven elusive.
And yet this Christmas, as on so many Christmases before, men and women will stand guard around the world to protect the peace. Thousands of U.S. Soldiers will spend Christmas morning poised for combat rather than posed for pictures. They will spend the holiday season pursuing the peace the rest of us will take for granted.
I can't help but wonder about their own sense of peace. Can these brave men and women who risk their lives for my freedom experience peace even while they fight to achieve it?
As I mentioned, peace is a funny thing. It is both tangible (the cessation of wars or the maintenance of cordial relations) and intangible (a sense of calm and security). While storms rage around us and wars threaten, inner peace remains possible.
Just ask Mary and Joseph.
They were young, poor and homeless. They were living in an occupied land under a paranoid and unpredictable ruler. They found themselves out on the street and in labor. Not exactly a peaceful scene. But they experienced the ultimate peace of Emmanuel, God with us.
Many of America's Servicemen and women will be in harm's way this Christmas. They will be far from loved ones and their Christmas traditions. Where will they turn when they are dealing with loneliness, depression and despair? Many of them will turn to a chaplain.
There are more than 10,000 chaplains currently serving our Servicemen and women. They are on the front lines of a different kind of battle, a war against hopelessness. Their services are never mandated but are often invaluable. They encourage the doubting, strengthen the faithful and comfort the injured and dying. They are ambassadors of peace in every war zone.
But they cannot do it alone. Our military chaplains need practical tools to serve their diverse constituencies. That's why for 193 years and through nine wars, American Bible Society has provided Scriptures to millions of men and women in the U.S. Armed Forces, most often through their military chaplains. Just since the United States declared war on terrorism, American Bible Society has helped provide more than 2 million New Testaments and Bibles to Soldiers and their families.
The need for the Bible remains great and its value is incalculable. As one infantry platoon leader on return from active duty reported, "A man's relationship with God tends to grow a lot closer during an experience like war. It is impossible to truly understand the incredible comfort and courage that a Bible brings during these trying times."
Peace on earth may never be achieved in our lifetime. But peace while on earth is available to every man, woman and child. For many members of our military, that peace is found in the Word of God, provided by a caring chaplain.