The irony of this day lies in its original name, Armistice Day. With great modernist aplomb our ancestors declared this day, November 11, 1918, to be the end of the “war to end all wars”, and sadly this is what we now call World War One! But now, after losing hope in mankind, we are resigned to simply call this day “Veterans Day”. For until Christ comes, there will always be veterans.
O Goethe, Newton, and Jefferson, you had so much hope. You promised utopia was in our grasp. That we could one day understand everything. We could one day build a new world, end poverty, make everything right, and even one day put down our weapons and pick up our plows. The pieces were in our grasp. All we had to do is put them together!
What marvelous articles of governance we can produce. What fantastic rocket ships we can throw far into the universe. What beautiful works of art, even a three day opera in Bayreuth, or I can listen to it all in my recliner with an espresso after work. I have seen such convincing moving pictures presenting pretty resolutions to our chaos; a superhero saving the day, a lost love returned, a broken world restored. We can make it all look good on film.
But our hopes have dried since we split the atom. Our skepticism has increased since we lost our brother knee-deep in rice patties. Our hearts have broken since I saw a girl put in foster care because her mother couldn’t get off meth. Meanwhile, there is a rover looking for life on mars.
Happy Veterans Day, indeed. Veterans we will always be. Survivors of wars, scarred, bruised, half of what we once were. We left something back there to be sure. We are all veterans of some sort.
But one day, the name shall return. Armistice Day. But it will not just be a temporary agreement to put down arms. And it will not last only a day.
The lamb will lie down with the lion,
The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
And the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
We will turn our swords into plowshares,
Our spears into fishing hooks,
Our bombs into bouquets,
And our fists into a warm embrace.
Lay down your hope in man, oh man.
And behold the One who laid down His life
Who did not rise above the violence like Buddha
Or smash the enemy like Mohamed
But walked right into the violence, the hate, the sin, the absence of love
And received it for us.