If I recall my history while growing up in England, it was Lord Nelson, the fiery Duke of Wellington, who defeated Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo on June 18, 1815. OK, I admit I did Google the date to be certain.
In any event, Lord Nelson faced a superior enemy in the numbers of cavalry and artillery and the odds of defeating Napoleon and his superior forces seemed virtually impossible.
The schoolboy saga of Napoleon’s sound defeat always brings me back to Easter time. You see, when the flag signaled its first declaration of the results of the infamous battle, the message seemed clear: “Wellington defeated…”
It’s easy to imagine the disheartened feelings those British soldiers and sailors must have felt. Despite their gallant efforts, the battle had been lost. But, alas, as the late morning mist cleared, the entire dispatch that the flagman had signaled became completely visible — “Wellington defeated Napoleon.”
I’ve always believed that it must have been a little like that for those early believers in the days of that first Easter morning. The initial “Good Friday” must have clearly felt like a staggering defeat until the good news came in the light of that first sunny Easter morning. For it was then the final message was completely made visible that Jesus Christ had defeated death.
And so, it is on this day that all Christians acknowledge and celebrate good over evil, love over hate, triumph over defeat, hope over fear and ultimately life over death. Easter, then, not only defines but renews our faith.
So today, as we continue our own life and death struggles over a pandemic, perhaps it’s the best time ever to renew our faith in a world-wide struggle that has perhaps left us feeling downhearted or even defeated.
It is during this difficult and stressful time I’m reminded of a sweet young girl named Heather who once bought a canary from the pet store. The salesclerk put the bird in a small cardboard box that, of course, had tiny holes at each end but still left the small bird in complete darkness.
Heather couldn’t get home fast enough. She was so worried about her new pet crouching along in the dark. She carefully placed the box on her lap during the long bus ride home. Then to Heather’s surprise, the little canary began to beautifully sing to the delight of everyone on the crowded bus.
I like the story of that brave little bird imprisoned in that tiny box because it had no idea what was happening, where it was going or even what fate awaited it. But still that small bird faced all that uncertainty with a joyful song.
In our struggle against this ruthless yet invisible disease, none of us really knows what tomorrow may bring or whether our days will be dark or bright. But don’t you think it will help if we face the unknown with a smile and perhaps a joyful song of our own.
Happy Easter to all (and a happy 41st wedding anniversary to my wife).