Our family has celebrated and observed the Holy Season of Advent and Christmas in Korea, Vietnam and Germany while on active duty. As a chaplain, I conducted worship services and sang in cantata, the message of hope for this season.Even in Vietnam, our special ecumenical choir on Christmas Eve sang for the Vietnamese at the 91st Evac Hospital. Catholics and Protestants merged their talents in this presentation, which gave a boost to everyone’s morale as we made the most of the occasion so far from homes and families. I can say it was a time of joy and sadness for all of us. To appreciate the season, though, we have each other.In Germany, we celebrated four Christmases. On Christmas Day my assistant and I drove to Fulda, Bad Kissinger and Wildflicken to offer the message of peace, hope and second beginnings to soldiers in ADA who had to work and maintain vigilance even on such a holy day. I’ll always remember the Spirit touching us at Wildflicken on the tactical site. After lunch with our soldiers I showed the movie Trace in the Forest, a drama of a temporary sacrifice by both German and American soldiers fighting against each other for survival.Our meal on that lonely mountain, top with missiles protruding like quills on a porcupine, was prepared and served by German women hired as KPs for this unit. As the film progressed, one of these wonderful women, who sacrificed family festivities to brighten the day of American soldiers, began to cry. Her husband and sons were career German army soliers who never returned to their mother alive. The movie reminded her of and triggered her grief over their demise. Her broken heart erupted with sadness over her loss. On that Christmas Day she expressed afresh bereavement and hopefully discovered spiritual aid in coping with her tragedy.As we know, it’s psychologhically beneficial to expres our grief, especially in an accepting environment.As I now understand the various personal meanings of Advent and Christmas, it seems one messsage is that of healing and hope.Let us not deny the feelings of loneliness and sadness that accompany this season. It is just as healing for tears of sad memories to course down our cheeks as it is to sing with joy and celebrate the season with festivities. The birth pains of Mary brought spiritual renewal to thousands. It reminds us too that pain, despair, and stress is redeemable.In saying Merry Christmas, we are recognizing and confessing and wishing for ourselves and our families strength that’s already available if we choose to recognize it.