I am writing this on the day when the BBC news reports that the Russian Fleet (bound for Syria) is sailing through the English Channel shadowed by ships of our own Royal Navy whose job it is to monitor their progress away from British coastal waters. For some reason this news bulletin brought to mind a film I saw at the cinema in my teenage years during the height of the Cold War called “The Russians are Coming!!” (The film was directed by Norman Jewison who also directed one of my very favourite movies, “In the Heat of the Night.” A classic!!)
“The Russians are Coming” some of you may recall was a comedy about a Russian submarine that ran aground on a small island off the New England coast and when the submariners turned up in the town looking for help the locals mistakenly thought the Soviets had launched a full scale invasion of the United States. Without giving too much of the plot away in the end the peoples of the Cold War’s two major antagonists end up co-operating and realising that there is more uniting them as people who share the same planet than ideologies dividing them. Looking back – the Cold War era was a scary time and let us pray we don’t enter a new one. The only good thing that can be said about a cold war is that it is not a hot one. By God’s grace the period from 1945 to the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 never saw NATO and the Warsaw Pact alliances take up arms against each other, although they came too close for comfort several times.
How unlike the two world wars earlier in the twentieth century and all the other minor (but none the less deadly) conflicts since? On Sunday 13th November we shall remember those who gave their lives in the defence of freedom and give thanks for their courage and devotion and earnestly pray that the day will come when,
“Nation shall not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4)
During the Cold War there were many protest songs in the pop charts sung by the likes of Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez and others. (Those who attended the concert at Emmanuel in September would have heard some of these songs beautifully performed by Lilac Sheer and her backing musicians.)
One of the most memorable protest songs of the 1960’s was “The Eve of Destruction” by Barry Maguire. The lyrics of the song, written by PF Sloan, poetically predict that the world is, as the title suggests, poised on the brink of an apocalyptic demise. The Christian gospel proclaims a somewhat different view of the world’s future. Later in the month of November – on the 27th – we celebrate Advent Sunday. In the season of Advent we look forward to the coming of Jesus into the world and it is an assurance that the world is not bound for destruction but destined for salvation. So no matter how bleak the news bulletins may be, we are called to go on loving and praying and working for justice and peace in our world. Always trusting in the good news first heard by shepherds on a hillside near the town of Bethlehem in Judea long ago –
“Do not be afraid. I bring you glad tidings of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the city of David a Saviour has been born.” (Luke 2:11)