Miracle on Red Square

Andrew E. Busch

December 1, 2002

The United States is approaching this Christmas on the verge of battle with Iraq. We are now approaching the second Christmas during which we have been openly and self-consciously at war with the forces of Jihad (though they have been at war with us since at least 1979). It is a war which will surely see many more Christmases before it is done. The ultimate cost of this war on our lives, our liberty, and our property cannot even be hazarded in the mists of the future.

It is thus calming to reflect on the permanence of Christmas. It was not many years ago that we regularly celebrated Christmas in the shadow of looming evil. The holidays of 1941, not three weeks after Pearl Harbor, or 1950, only weeks after Chinese forces swept across the Yalu, or 1962, with Soviet missiles barely gone from Cuba, or 1979, with Soviet paratroopers in Kabul and American hostages in Iran, were no better. Indeed, only twelve years ago we prepared for Christmas on the verge of our first war with Saddam Hussein. With the end of the Cold War, the rest of the 1990s were the first decade in half a century when the next year could be counted safely better than the last, when one could celebrate with pure joy undinted by a fearful future.

An obscure CD, cut in 1998 and sold cheaper than it was worth at a major discount store, has reminded me of this lesson in ways I did not imagine when I bought it. Amid The World’s Favorite Christmas Carols are some old standards. A powerful chorus sings “The First Noel,” “Oh Come All Ye Faithful,” and “Joy to the World,” including Isaac Watts’ moving stanza “He rules the world with truth and grace/ And makes the nations prove/ The glories of His righteousness/ And wonders of His love.” I listen in amazement.

Another choir begins with “Silent Night” and moves on. “God rest ye merry gentlemen,” exclaims the baritone soloist with ever so slight an accent, “let nothing you dismay. Remember Christ our Saviour was born on Christmas Day.” The chorus launches a beautiful, haunting, minor harmony. I get a lump in my throat.

The baritone continues. “’Fear not then’ said the Angel, ’Let nothing you affright; This day is born a Saviour Of a pure virgin bright; To free all those that trust in Him from Satan’s power and might.’” My eyes moisten.

“O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy; o tidings of comfort and joy.” I close my eyes. I fear not.

The performers? The latter, the Moscow Boys Choir, the former, the Red Army Chorus. That is to say, the chorus of the army whose purpose for three-quarters of a century was to spread communism, who threatened the free nations of the earth on nearly every continent, whose dearest wish was to put an end to Christmas for all people everywhere. The chorus of an army that for seven decades served a regime that destroyed thousands of churches, murdered tens of thousands of priests, sent millions of believers to the camps. The chorus of an army that, to speak much within compass, was the very representation in military form of “Satan’s power and might.”

At the end of the road, that power and might crumbled into nothingness. Christmas lived. The Party died; the church survived. Like cathedrals deliberately built over the ruins of pagan temples, the Red Army Chorus sings Christmas carols, and Marx, Lenin, and Stalin rotate in their tombs. God rest ye merry gentlemen.

No matter how frightening the things of the present, no matter how uncertain the future, no matter the cost we may have to pay to deflect our enemies from their course, this stunning recording should remind us of the enduring things. The false gods of bloody and tyrannical ideology, be they communist, national socialist, fascist, or jihadist, will not prevail. The avowed enemies of the human freedom that is imbedded in “the laws of nature and of nature’s God” will not prevail. The blasphemy which appoints mere men as the masters of others—whether in the name of the people, the volk, or Allah—will not prevail.

God is not dead, nor doth he sleep.

Andrew E. Busch is an Adjunct Fellow of the John M. Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs and an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Denver, where he specializes in American government and politics. Dr. Busch is the author of Ronald Reagan and the Politics of Freedom. He is also the co-author of The Perfect Tie: The True Story of the 2000 Presidential Election.