Kenny's Korner- This Season is all about Jesus

By Kenny Rader

A War Story

Pino Lella was a young Italian teenager when Italy became one of the Axis Powers, and its citizens came under the control of Nazi Germany in WWII. When Pino was 17, he helped Jews escape to Switzerland by leading them through mountainous, rugged, and dangerous territory. But when nearing eighteen, the age at which Germany drafted men into the war, Pino’s parents convinced him to join a division of the German military that ensured he would not fight on the war front. Although hating to help Germany, it opened the opportunity for Pino to become a spy for the Italian resistance movement.

Early in Pino’s military career, by luck or God’s Almighty hand, Pino became German General Hans Leyers' driver. General Leyers was the minister of armaments and war production over Italy. Pino’s driving role landed him directly into the position that gave him inside knowledge of some of Germany's top-secret military information that proved vital to the Allies.  

As General Leyer’s driver, Pino Lella encountered an extreme emotional roller coaster. In less than 24 hours, Pino witnessed, in horror, the execution by machine gun of fifteen war prisoners, one of whom was Pino’s friend. Later the same day, while still distraught over the executions, he received his first, second, third, and then fourth kiss from a girl he had only dreamed of ever holding in his arms. But then, later that evening, now feeling much better about his day after experiencing the affection of his girlfriend, he fought his younger brother, Mimo, who was joining the resistance against Germany. When Mimo learned that Pino wore a Nazi military uniform, Mimo grew a deep hatred of his older brother. The two brothers were close before that evening, and the two had worked together less than a year earlier, leading Jews to freedom. Now, with Pino’s seeming betrayal of his country, Mimo wanted nothing to do with his older brother.

Life’s confusing aspects

Although Pino Lella’s World War 2 story continues in the book, Beneath a Scarlet Sky, written by Mark Sullivan, this brief peak at a segment of Pino’s life during the war might make us wonder why God would allow such horrible events that take place and such emotional swings to happen: from mass executions to love, and then the loss of his brother’s love. How can a person survive such distress? 

You must now wonder what this story has to do with Christmas, But let’s go back almost 2,000 years earlier from Pino’s nightmarish experience.  

A bumpy birth narrative

The part we love about Bible stories is their realism. The Bible lays out the ugly as well as the beautiful, and the Christmas narrative has it all; plus, we know the Bible leaves out so much of the story. We often wonder what else happened that we are not told about Jesus’ birth.

Every year, we read how the angel told Mary that she was God's chosen vessel to deliver the Messiah into the world. Her uncertainty and then her joy, followed by Joseph's disbelief and preparation to divorce Mary, makes us realize Mary was on an emotional swing, not so much unlike Pino Lella. We read of their torturous trip to Bethlehem, the birth, and the later arrival of the magi. Those are all emotional highs and lows in Mary’s life that we know, but what did the Bible leave out?

What great joy Mary must have experienced through her pregnancy, knowing she was the mother of Jesus! What blessings she must have felt as baby Jesus grew inside her womb! What delight over marrying the husband she knew God had planned for her! What a great appreciation Mary must have felt toward God as a part of His great plan!

But what was it like for Mary, a single young virgin, to explain to her mother that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit? Likely more difficult yet, how did Mary tell her father? How did she tell her parents about the angelic visit? How did she explain it to Joseph?

What was Mary’s life like during those next several months that followed? What heartache might she have endured when her parents, siblings, friends, neighbors, the entire Nazareth community, and Joseph were all unable to believe her? We assume some eventually accepted her far-out story, but how many people continued to murmur and spread gossip? Gossip about Mary? Gossip about Joseph? Gossip about Mary’s parents and siblings?

And the emotional heartaches didn't end with her marriage. We know they encountered an unheard-of journey of many days to Bethlehem under the command of Rome. No room in the inn. Forced to a barn, not giving birth to just any baby, but to give birth to the Messiah! But then soon fleeing from her native homeland and traveling to Egypt to save the life of her son.  

Connecting the dots

You might wonder what Pino's and Mary's stories have in common, but it's quite simple. They both encountered real life – both the joys and the heartache. Both were living for a good cause – a just cause. Pino was a spy helping the allies, yet he was a traitor to his brother and many Italians. He experienced terrible heartache as he watched his friend and others executed for no justifiable reason. He felt love and then experienced the hatred of his brother. How could God permit such injustices? So many extremes in one day! Was he to be joyful or burdened with such tragedies? 

Mary was a righteous young girl, yet she faced the joy of her pregnancy that likely would have risen to the heavens, followed by rejection and the near loss of the love of Joseph. What an experience it was to give birth to Jesus, but in a barn? And fleeing for their lives and the life of her newborn son to Egypt?

Bringing it forward

As we enter the Christmas season, many of us have high hopes for joy, but we also understand that heartache often accompanies the ride. Satan seems never to leave us alone, at least not for long, but that's part of growing up and maturing, isn't it? Highs and lows are part of life, but we dread those lows in the Christmas season.

The long-forgotten innocence of childhood

When we were children, the worst likely thing that happened at Christmas was having to go to bed early, falling and hurting ourselves, or getting sick and missing a party, but we still thrived on the season's joy. We loved the Christmas story, we loved the excitement of family, friends, and food, and we loved all of those gifts under the trees both at our home and at the homes of family. It was a joyful and exciting time of the year.

Our Christmas Experience

As we grow older, Christmas changes – often gradually, but it does happen. Over time, as life's experiences shape us, we begin viewing Christmas differently. While Christmas is still much the same, we view it through adult eyes and life experiences. Rather than grumbling over an early bedtime, we complain because someone upset our Christmas plans. Instead of a tumble and fall that skins our knee, it’s an unexpected car repair that dents our gift spending. In the place of an illness, it’s someone interrupting our perfectly planned evening or party. Oh the problems of Christmas!  But it’s up to each of us to keep our heads high and our eyes focused on the Reason we celebrate the season.  

Christmas is . . .

Christmas is not about perfect gifts, family gatherings, parties, banquets, shopping experiences, or even the most beautifully decorated house. It's about Jesus, and just as Mary and Joseph had their times of joy, great fear, or skepticism of wondering why God would bring Jesus into the world in such a way, we need to learn from Joseph and Mary's experience. It's not about the season. It's all about Jesus.  He came as an innocent baby, lived a perfect life, and died the perfect sacrifice to save you from your sins. That’s the reason He came, so don’t let Satan wreck your Christmas experience. Don’t permit him to distract you. He can’t, not if you keep your focus on Jesus. Difficulties come and go, but the eternal love of our Father and His Son, Jesus, will never fail us. The reason for this Christmas season is Jesus. Let’s keep our focus on Him through all the joy and problems that come.


Love and blessings to you this Christmas season