I Was Not Alone

Robert Hoffman, Washington, USA

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    soldier in foxhole

    Illustration by Allen Garns

    Sitting in a hastily dug defensive position, I looked out over the sand toward the north—toward Iraq. It was December 24 during Desert Shield, and I had drawn guard duty starting at midnight.

    I was the only Latter-day Saint in my battalion, so the holiday was even lonelier. We had been in the desert of Saudi Arabia since August, and now Christmas was here with a cold, star-lit night. The camp was asleep, and I had a few hours with the bluish-grey dunes and my thoughts.

    I thought of my wife and son in Georgia, USA, and how I would miss the festivities back home—the tree, the presents, a real Christmas dinner. Then I began to ponder the Christmas story.

    I wondered about the night that Christ was born. I wondered how dark it was and if there was a moon to cast its brightness over the landscape or if there was only starlight. Since there were no electric lights at His birth, the night must have been something like the one I was witnessing. There would have been no festivities—just dark, quiet night.

    Then a wonderful thought struck me. The Bible states that Wise Men later came from the East, guided by a star that appeared in the night sky. As I looked into the dark sky, I realized I was to the east of Bethlehem and that one of the centers of knowledge at that time was Baghdad. Could the Wise Men have come from a location not far from where I was? What star shone? Was it still in the sky? Could I see it?

    I gazed skyward in wonder at God’s creations and felt a warmth that came from within. It did not matter if I was in the same location or if the same star was in the sky. What mattered is that I shared the same knowledge as the Wise Men of an infant born in Bethlehem who is the King of kings.

    I was not alone that Christmas; rather, I was united with all those who seek Him, whether they be Wise Men, prophets, or just lonely soldiers in a hole in the desert. That night my testimony of the birth of the Savior was strengthened, and the next morning the Holy Spirit was still with me.

    Instead of being a sad Christmas that year, it became one of my most prized Christmases.