For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. (2 Corinthians 1:20)
On March 11, 1942 as the Pacific War raged in the months after Pearl Harbor, the Philippine Islands were invaded by the Japanese. Faced with overwhelming enemy resources, US General Douglas MacArthur was ordered by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to leave his adopted home of Corregidor and transfer his base of operations to Australia.
It was a heart wrenching journey for MacArthur, as he knew he was leaving behind hundreds of thousands of vulnerable Philippine citizens and 90,000 American troops to an uncertain fate. When he arrived at the US army base in Australia, a loud speaker was hastily set up for the tall imposing American general to address his troops and the world. It was here that he first spoke the words that would later be immortalized in American folklore and in the famous Fallen Soldier statues on the Philippine Islands. He said with his patented authoritative voice,
“I have left the Philippines but I shall return!”
It wasn’t long before all of the Philippine Islands fell into the hands of the Japanese and 70,000 American troops were captured, most of whom suffered mightily at the hands of their captors, including over 6,000 who were tortured and killed.
For two long years MacArthur would repeat those words over and again. He campaigned for the Philippine cause not just with the Joint Chiefs and the administration, but with the American people as well. The American press began to publish emotionally charged stories of the atrocities of Japanese imprisonment on the Islands, including the horrific “Batan Death March” which resulted in 60,000 Philippine and American dead. Finally the Pacific War began to turn as the American forces gained an upper hand at Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands and MacArthur received the go ahead for his long awaited plan to invade the islands and recapture his former home base.
On October 20, 1944, after successful US campaigns in the initial invasion, MacArthur waded ashore the Island of Leyte in the Philippines and announced in a nation wide radio broadcast:
I have returned. By the grace of Almighty God our forces stand again on Philippine soil -- soil consecrated in the blood of our two peoples. We have come, dedicated and committed, to the task of destroying every vestige of enemy control over your daily lives, and of restoring, upon a foundation of indestructible, strength, the liberties of your people.
As they say, the rest of the story is history. MacArthur and the American forces did indeed liberate the Philippines and the war was won.
The reason this story looms so large in American history is it captures a very important value. The value of “promise kept”. We all have great admiration for a man who stands in front of the world and makes a promise, and then focuses all his passion on keeping that promise.
This brings me to the next important topic I want us to focus on as we continue our journey to discover the many ways the Old Testament points us to the advent of Christ. In the Old Testament text. The Lord God made a very important promise to His people. The promise was not unlike the promise MacArthur made to the Filipino people on that fateful day. The promise was in affect,
“A day of liberation is coming!”
The biblical story makes clear the desperate condition we are in. The enemy has established temporary control over our lost world. This story line is emphasized over and again throughout the Old Testament text. But within the text there is a divine promise.
It is important to understand the meaning of that promise as we think about the reason that Christ came. Because it is not just significant that many signs and stories point us to His coming, it is also significant to understand how His coming fit into the eternal purposes of God. Those purposes were made clear in His promise. That promise is alluded to several times in the biblical text and restated over and again in His covenants. So Christmas is not just about a baby in a manger, it is about God fulfilling His promise that a day of atonement is coming. The first advent is a celebration of that promised liberation. And so in this way the Christmas season is about more than a miraculous birth, it is our way of declaring that "all the promises of God find their Yes in Him!"