It was the largest ever airborne and amphibious invasion.
It turned the tide of Nazi occupation.
It turned the course of global history.
D-Day. 75 years have passed. This week we remember. At the landing beaches surrounding Normandy, and at the American Cemetery, veterans of World War II are being treated like heroes, as they should be. Indeed they were, and are, our heroes. I know that you’ve seen lots of photos, so I’ll choose only one: this was Wednesday’s celebration and military parade at Portsmouth, England.
President Donald Trump said it remarkably eloquently yesterday morning, and I’m sure that his words will live on: “You are the pride of our nation. You are the glory of our republic. And we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.” France’s President Emmanuel Macron said it like this: “We know what we owe to you, veterans: our freedom.” Both men were spot on: an entire generation sacrificed that you and I might live in freedom.
Since 1995 I have carried with me the sense of horror that I experienced when I walked onto the grounds of Buchenwald concentration camp that summer. I was doing the tourist thing while Eileen, who worked for the U.S. government, did depositions in Berlin – so I was all alone in feeling what it must have been like when horses pulled German artillery into the rooms where victims were hung from hooks. Where men were told that they were going to receive needed medical treatment, only to be shot from behind in the back of the neck when they stood to have their height measured in the “clinic” – and where women left bloody patches all over the walls as evidence in the plaster of their desperate death throes. All while much of the world looked the other way.
The war would not end until September 2, 1945, but D-Day changed everything. It was the decisive victory, and all because the bravest of soldiers were willing to cross the English Channel, storm the fortified coastline, and defeat their “undefeatable” enemy!
So today I’m fixated on the “Operation Overlord” of June 6, 1944. In regard to D-Day itself, the Lutheran theologian Oscar Cullmann once wrote that “there is something about all this that has close resemblance to the Christian experience.” I agree. I’m not sure if I know exactly what he meant, but I’m going to give this a try.
First of all, the wounded and bleeding soldiers would have had no way to know that it was a victory. It certainly would not have felt much like a victory when you were dodging bullets! Have you ever had a day like that? Even when you know and believe the gospel, our daily trials don’t always feel like wins, do they?
Secondly, there would be many tough days ahead. The war was not over. There would be some real encouragement stemming from the results of D-Day, but there also would be more steep hills to climb. Can you relate? Every morning I pray for my family: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Why do I pray that? Because each new day, in spite of the promise that it holds, also brings with it a whole new crop of “dangers, toils, and snares” (borrowing from John Newton).
Thirdly, God Himself has invaded history! That’s the glory of what we, as Christ followers, hold dear: God has come to us! God is with us! God will be with us forever! He has proven that on the cross and in the empty tomb!
Lastly, our enemy is surely defeated. Though we can’t see that win fully yet, final victory has been assured. Christ has “secured an eternal redemption” for us (Hebrews 9:12). He has paid our sin debt in full. “The ruler of this world has been cast out” (John 12:31). The devil may make a lot of noise ‘round here, but he’s as good as done. Because Christ lives in and through us, who are forever His people, the Prince of Darkness is going down like a drunken fighter. Not only that, but the Bible promises that you and I are being set free by the Spirit to live a new life of righteousness and joy (John 6:38-39; 10:10; First John 3:8; and so many other verses that I can’t cite them all).
So you and I have all kinds of freedom to celebrate this week!
Christ Jesus is the Overlord, friends. He is, and forever will be, Lord over all.