This past Thursday was Veterans Day, so a few quick facts on Veterans Day: “Veterans Day started out as Armistice Day to mark the end of World War I hostilities at 11 a.m., Nov. 11, 1918 — which was the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. It first was named Armistice Day through an act of Congress in 1926, though it didn’t become a national holiday for a dozen more years. Armistice Day became known as Veterans Day in 1954 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation making it so in order to honor veterans of all U.S. wars. Veterans Day was moved to the fourth Monday in October in 1968 by Congress, but that was reversed in 1978 when it became obvious that Americans wanted the holiday celebrated Nov. 11. At the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington Cemetery, at 11 a.m. each Nov. 11, a color guard composed of members of each of the military branches renders honors to America’s war dead. The U.S. president or a representative”…this past Thursday it was Vice President Joe Biden — places a wreath at the tomb and a bugler sounds taps.”1 As of last year’s census, there are 21.9 million military veterans living in the U.S., and all of them deserve much more that we can ever give them.
Veterans Day also happens to be the feast of St. Martin of Tours, himself a military veteran, some 1600 years ago, but especially appropriate nonetheless. We are a people of days – we mark time not only in cycles of seconds and minutes and so on, but by what happened on specific days. Coming up we have Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day – it’s important that we have these days not only to celebrate them but also mark time in an emotional, spiritual way. There is a day coming up that has caused endless hair-pulling and teeth-gnashing, yet that day has never happened before and will only happen once. That day is the Day of the Lord.
“The Day of the Lord was always a day of anticipation for the people of ancient Israel. Originally it was perceived as a day of fulfillment. It was the moment in history when all of the promises made by God would come to completion, and the people of God would enjoy them forever, promises of peace and prosperity, of contentment and harmony. Many of the prophets looked forward to that day and described it in terms that remind us of the garden of Eden before Adam and Eve sinned and were driven out.”2 “But the sinfulness of the people required that there be a period of purging before that fulfillment could come to pass. For this reason, some of the prophets warned that the Day of the Lord would first be a day of suffering. They even compared that suffering to the pangs that preceded birth, a symbol of new life coming out of suffering. In fact, such suffering was sometimes referred to as the ‘birth pangs of the messiah.’”3
I have heard that Mark Twain once said that the Bible is far too brutal a book to be read to children. Sometimes the Bible can seem too brutal to read to adults. But that’s one of the great things about Holy Scripture: nothing is hidden. There are no codes in the Bible; yes, we can come to a fuller understanding of what Scripture is telling us by study and interpretation, but the Word of God does not attempt to hide anything from us, even the brutal stuff. The Bible is not a particularly nice book, but every word written in it is true, from the warnings to the admonitions to the fulfillment of all things.
The truth can be brutal, and Jesus, being Truth, when asked about His day, the Day of the Lord, He didn’t hold back. He told them that “When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified… Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.” They will persecute you and arrest you and do all manner of dreadful things to you on my account. And yet, Jesus said, these things are not the Last Day itself, the end of the world as we know it is not the fulfillment of all things.
We live in trying times; our days are marked no differently than those who first heard those words of Jesus. Too many of us have been marking time not by feasts but by fasts: the day I lost my job; the day I lost my house; the day I lost my spouse or my dream or my trust or my hope. And if you are having troubles, I’m not here to tell you that your troubles are fleeting or that you should count your blessings; I’m not here to discount your troubles. But I am here to tell you that your troubles count for something. Your troubles are not signs that God has abandoned us, but rather opportunities for you to witness to the world that even in days of trouble, hope conquers fear. Hope conquers fear because our hope is in God, and God has conquered even death. However we are marking our days, let us mark them as Christ’s own, for on the Day of the Lord the Son of Righteousness shall rise, with healing in His wings and the host of heaven as His herald. On that Day, troubles cease, all hope is fulfilled, and victory is the Lord’s forever.
1What You Should Know About Veterans Day, The Washington Post, Valerie Strauss, November 11, 2010.
2The End of Days, America Magazine, Dianne Bergant, November 8, 2004.