December 25 | Advent Devotional

From Charles Ray Barrett
Westminster Presbyterian Church
Luke 2:15–20

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace to men upon whom his favor rests.”


There was a time, before cell phones, when I was with my Reconnaissance Platoon (First Battalion, Thirty-Fifth Infantry, Fourth Infantry Division,) in Vietnam’s western Plieku Provence. My guys and I were following some enemy unit trying to figure out where they were going, and how many there were.

The night of October 26–27, 1969, was still and a little tense as we went into the perimeter defense in two locations per standard operation procedures. We did not know how far we were behind them, and, therefore, how close or far they were from us.

My shift with the radio ended about 2 am. I gave the good old A/N PRC 25 radio to Platoon Sergeant Homala for his shift, and stretched out right next to my “slit trench” foxhole for my turn at “shut-eye.” My wife Midge and son Mark were half a world away. She was near term with our second pregnancy. (That pregnancy was my family “DNA Insurance Policy” in case I was “greased” in the field. I had suggested the name “Sean” in a letter to her recently.)
Somewhere between 0400 and 0500 hrs. Homala shook me awake and handed me the handset with a terse, “Hey, LT! Battalion wants to talk to you,” and he puts the handset right in my hand. Through the fog I exchange groggy call-signs and hear, “Stand by for groups.” This meant that the boys in the Tactical Operations Center at the “Firebase” are going to transmit an encoded message in the nighttime to a lowly Platoon Leader in a lonely but quiet ridge in the jungle.

It also meant that I had to slide into that fox-hole, find my poncho to cover up, then rummage the bottom of my rucksack to find my green, right angle GI flashlight, and see if I still had a red filter for the stupid thing as I wondered, “Whose stupid idea is this?”

That was not all! I had to find that dumb little notebook and that pencil! I know that I still have a pencil! “Where is that pencil? I got a pencil! I know it.”

Found it!

Must be pretty important. This was so unusual, that I was a bit frightened by the implications.

“One Three, this is Five-Three! Send your groups!” (“This” I thought, “better be a pretty important message.”) IT WAS!

When unscrambled, the message read “The American Red Cross is pleased to inform Lieutenant Charles R. Barrett, United States Army, that on October 25th at 8:30 AM in Fresno California his wife Margaret Barrett, gave birth to a heathy baby boy. Mother and child are doing well. Congratulations”

DNA Insurance!

Now we were not exactly watching for sheep out there, but there was another time in Palestine where some other men were in another field doing just that.

Luke 2:3–14 describes the Angel of the Lord appeared to some other fellas in the field. Those guys were also scared. They didn’t know what to expect either.

They did not need to be scared. The message was all good. The message is still good – in fact, it’s the best!

The message to those fellas on that starry night was: “Today, in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you.”
This scared them at first, just like that message from headquarters coming at night and in code scared me, at first. But both messages, as it turned out, wound up being very good. Very good indeed!

Eternal Life Insurance!

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