Celebrating V-E Day (and Christian Hope)

The V-E Day celebrations of 75 years ago have nothing on the celebrations Christians will have when Christ returns:

Exactly 75 years ago much of the world was celebrating the defeat of the Nazis and victory in Europe. After six long years of war that would eventually cost around 75-80 million lives (Japan did not surrender until some months later), a war-weary world erupted in mass celebrations.

While many of us are getting cabin fever with corona lockdown measures, we have only had to endure this for two or three months now. And except for the power-hungry leader of Victoria keeping that state under draconian lockdown measures, much of the rest of the country is now slowly easing the restrictions.

So the celebrations were of course much greater 75 years ago than anything that will be seen as the corona crisis continues to abate and freedoms are returned. The famous pictures from Times Square in New York City are just some of the many memorable images from that incredible day.

To put all this in some chronological perspective, let me offer this:

World War II timeline

September 1, 1939: Germany invades Poland, initiating WWII in Europe.
September 3, 1939: Britain declares war on Germany.
May 10, 1940: Germany invades Belgium, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
December 7, 1941: Japan bombs Pearl Harbor.
December 8, 1941: The US declares war on Japan, entering WWII. 
June 6, 1944: D-Day – Allies land on the Normandy beaches of France.
May 7, 1945: Germany surrenders to the western Allies.
May 8, 1945: Victory in Europe day declared.
August 9, 1945: The US drops an atomic bomb on Nagasaki.
September 2, 1945: Japan formally surrenders, ending WWII.

Let me speak further to some of the celebrations that occurred exactly three-quarters of a century ago. One article says this about how the UK reacted to the good news:

As news of the official surrender spread on May 7, relieved and exhausted citizens poured into the streets of London to welcome the war’s end and the defeat of Nazi Germany. Tens of thousands crowded Central London, cheering and partying until midnight, when a thunderstorm ended the celebrations for the night. 

Though British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and King George VI wanted May 7 to be celebrated as V-E Day, they acquiesced to their American allies and declared an official celebration on May 8. Street parties took place across Britain, as neighbors shared food that was still being rationed, and crowds gathered in London’s Trafalgar Square to hear Churchill’s radio broadcast from 10 Downing Street piped through giant speakers. 

“We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing,” Churchill said, “but let us not forget for a moment the toil and efforts that lie ahead. Japan with all her treachery and greed, remains unsubdued. We must now devote all our strength and resources to the completion of our task, both at home and abroad. Advance Britannia.”

Churchill later appeared before cheering crowds on the balcony of Buckingham Palace with King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, along with the Princesses Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth II) and Margaret, who had been allowed to wander incognito among the crowds to experience the celebrations for themselves. That night, Buckingham Palace was lit by floodlights for the first time since 1939, and a giant V of light was projected above St. Paul’s Cathedral, ending the darkness that had blanketed London, and the rest of Britain, for nearly six years. https://www.history.com/news/v-e-day-around-the-world

Another recent piece speaks to the celebrations that took place in New York:

In Manhattan, the impending surrender led to widespread celebrations. People working in high-rises threw homemade confetti from windows, disappointing the city’s sanitation commissioner, who rued the loss of more than 1,000 tons of the “vital war-commodity” that his crews had to clean off the streets, according to The Times.

On May 8, Times Square filled with hundreds of thousands of revelers — though the party was curtailed a bit by rain that began falling at noon. (Bars and grills did “a rushing business” all day.) The brownout of nighttime lights that lasted throughout the war ended across America, with the lights of Broadway shining once again and the Statue of Liberty bathed in light after sunset. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/05/07/magazine/ve-day-anniversary.htm

Spiritual lessons

As I reflected on those glorious days of exultation and celebration that took place on 1945, my mind turned to an even greater celebration that will take place one day. At some point all the suffering and heartache and misery and sin and death of this world will come to an end as Jesus returns to claim his rightful rule and reign over planet earth.

The contrast will not be greater. One of the most frequent prayers I utter on a regular basis of late is quite short and to the point: “Come quickly Lord Jesus”. I don’t know about you, but I routinely groan in my spirit and cry out to God as I see overwhelming darkness everywhere, horrific evil all around, terrible suffering and unceasing sin everywhere. It breaks my heart and tires me out.  I want out.

As I wrote four years ago: “But it seems to me that anyone who deeply loves the Lord Jesus Christ and is seeking to be conformed to his image will increasingly feel utterly out of place in this world. They will be heartsick over what they see happening all around them – even in the churches.” https://billmuehlenberg.com/2016/05/22/come-quickly-lord-jesus/

Yes I know, until the Lord returns I have a job to do. So I will indeed ‘occupy till he comes’. But the one thing I long for more than anything else is to see all these dark days come to an end, and to see Christ set up his glorious rule of true peace, justice and righteousness.

The Bible speaks in various ways about the coming of the Lord. Yes, much of that has to do with judgment and the wrath of God being poured out on all those who continue to shake their fists in defiance against the Living God. But we get some inklings of incredible celebrations and times of worship in the book of Revelation. As but one example, we read this in Rev. 19:1-10:

After this, I heard what sounded like a vast crowd in heaven shouting,

“Praise the Lord!
    Salvation and glory and power belong to our God.
His judgments are true and just.
    He has punished the great prostitute
who corrupted the earth with her immorality.
    He has avenged the murder of his servants.”

And again their voices rang out:

“Praise the Lord!
    The smoke from that city ascends forever and ever!”

Then the twenty-four elders and the four living beings fell down and worshiped God, who was sitting on the throne. They cried out, “Amen! Praise the Lord!”

And from the throne came a voice that said,

“Praise our God,
    all his servants,
all who fear him,
    from the least to the greatest.”

Then I heard again what sounded like the shout of a vast crowd or the roar of mighty ocean waves or the crash of loud thunder:

“Praise the Lord!
    For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.
Let us be glad and rejoice,
    and let us give honor to him.
For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb,
    and his bride has prepared herself.
She has been given the finest of pure white linen to wear.”
    For the fine linen represents the good deeds of God’s holy people.

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” And he added, “These are true words that come from God.”

Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said, “No, don’t worship me. I am a servant of God, just like you and your brothers and sisters who testify about their faith in Jesus. Worship only God. For the essence of prophecy is to give a clear witness for Jesus.”

We can only imagine what those times of praise and worship will be like. But it is such a tremendous hope that all true Christians have. Do you love the Lord’s appearing? Do you long for that day? Is his return your blessed hope? Well hang in there. Soon enough it will happen, and the celebrations of 75 years ago will pale in comparison.

Come Lord Jesus.

[1400 words]

20 Replies to “Celebrating V-E Day (and Christian Hope)”

  1. Bagpipers around the world will be playing at 3PM their local time, all playing the same two tunes. First is an old classic “When the Battle is Over” and the second is one specifically written for the day, “VE 75 Years.” I will be playing at our local American Legion post (of which I am a member) at their veterans memorial. I think bagpipers around the world doing the same thing is a great way to honor those who sacrificed so much during that war.

  2. Much of the 75th year celebration here in Britain has been suffocated by virus lockdown. Beaches still barricaded, and so forth; and today I read of people in a particular town complaining about union jacks being hung up outside the homes of their neighbours. We cannot even display our own flags on a day like this without some miserable nation-haters having a pop. And you are right, Jesus’ return will be a massive event that no politician or mealy-mouthed neighbour will be able to extinguish.

  3. Hi Bill, do you think that, rather typically, we did not give thanks and show solemn repentance after the war? God had clearly responded to our prayers of those days and delivered us from such a great peril. As I sit with the freedom to be watching the sun rise over Main Beach my chest shudders for humongous loss of human souls in that astonishing endeavor the world was involved in against an evil so grievous. We had to do such hideous things to prevail. After a short celebration should have been searching God so hard. Perhaps some did, I wasn’t around yet but it seems instead we plunged into pride and dissipation. We thrust Him behind our backs rather than holding our heads low and Him up as the wonderful delivering God of love and justice He is.

  4. Yes, I certainly long for the Lord’s appearing many times a day and wept as I read this part of your article, because there is another side to His coming that tugs my heart in the opposite way at the same time as if tearing it apart – a sort of spiritual schizophrenia – begging that He delay long enough that loved ones, especially close family members, have time to call out and be saved. So I cry out for His coming and at the same time for Him to rescue the perishing, in one and the same breath. Weary.

  5. Thanks Anon. Yes I think about that often as well. Of course there is an appointed time for the Lord’s return. If we wanted him to hold off till all our loved ones were saved, he might never return. So yes, we pray a double prayer: ‘Lord save him and her, but also come quickly’!

  6. Dear Bill,
    Thank you for this article on a very important subject.

    I was three when the war broke out and nine when it finished and I am trying to rack my brains about how VE day was celebrated in the North of England village where I lived. I have a photo of my Aunty in a big crowd outside the mansion house in the nearest town so I know joyful crowds gathered there.

    My father didn’t like Winston Churchill because of the derogatory comments he was supposed to have made about coal miners but even he acknowledged his role in winning the war. My father went down the coal mine when he was thirteen so I can understand why he felt as he did. He also died of pneumonicosis in his fifties.

    I think we had a bonfire on VE day where we burnt an effigy of Hitler and a street party where our piano was dragged out into the street to be played with all the neighbours standing around singing. I remember distinctly that I wasn’t quite sure what this ”peace” was as all I could remember up to then was blackouts, rationing, looking at the fires lighting up the night sky over the steel town 18 miles away which was being bombed or sheltering under the stairs during air raids. I will never forget the wailing sound of the sirens from the local police station. We also took in evacuees. The lady in one family made my sister and I a politically incorrect”golliwog” from bits of wool and old black stockings How we loved them! I also remember seeing German and Italian prisoners being marched through the village to work on the farms surrounding it guarded by ”Tommies”. One prisoner smiled at me and I remember looking up at my mother who said ”He is thinking about his own little girl in Germany”. That was because I had long fair plaits. My mother never taught us to hate the German people just the Nazi regime.

    I also remember after the war when rationing was still in place receiving food parcels from my pen pal from New Jersey in the US. This influenced my opinion of America for the rest of my life as a god fearing, kindly, Christian nation.

    I also remember the newspapers and Pathe newsreels at the local cinema with the pictures of bodies from the concentration camps and the liberation of the walking dead which I remember seemed unreal to me.

    I often think now how fortunate we were compared to other parts of England. Coal Mining was a reserved occupation but some miners joined up all the same. Those who stayed still had a hard life far removed from the prosperity of today’s world but there is no doubt Fascism had to be stopped.

    Let us hope and pray that the Covid 19 pandemic and the subsequent economic crisis which looks like following in its wake is not used as an excuse to create conditions in which fascism could rear its ugly head yet again.

  7. I remember as a Roman Catholic pre-teen watching a war movie in which the Catholic Germans were praying to win the war, and the prayers they were saying were exactly what I’d say.

    I remember asking myself something along the lines of “They were Catholics which is the true religion, and they prayed, how come they lost the war?”

    I had much to learn.

  8. Hi Bill, the Jews are also celebrating 75yrs since Liberation. This moving account was sent to me from a Fellowship trying to help Holocaust survivors in different countries.
    Decades ago, Nazis marched Katerina and her loved ones to a bridge outside her tiny Ukrainian village – a bridge she can still see to this day from her home. A bridge that was used as a “killing field.”
    …and as she marched, Katerina knew exactly what laid ahead – certain death.
    As Katerina took each step towards that bridge, one by one, despair must have been welling up within her – her eyes flooding with tears, her mouth gasping for air in panic. Would this breath be her last?
    Praise God, it was not her last breath! At the last moment, American soldiers rescued Katerina and her loved ones, defeating the Nazis on that bridge.
    So you can imagine how deeply moved Katerina was when I brought a few American Fellowship Family members into her home weeks ago to represent YOUR godly commitment to bless her and the Jewish people.
    She must have kissed each of our hands a dozen times.
    Katerina had always wanted to thank America personally for saving her life. The words she spoke next will stay with me forever… but they’re really meant for YOU.
    “Americans saved me in the beginning of my life and now they’re saving me at the end of my life. Now I know why God has kept me alive… so that I could be saved by Americans once more. Now I can die with a smile on my face.”

  9. Hi Bill, sorry for my previous reply that was off topic. I do thank you for bringing V-E Day to our attention as it is the first time I’ve heard of it – I’ve been working most my life with a family and didn’t have it taught to me in school, that I know of. My Australian parents didn’t say much about the war except they couldn’t go to high school in their teens due to the war. Also, one of my aunties feared her two sons, born in the late 1950s, could be enlisted in the next world war, that hasn’t happened yet but maybe only 10 years away I believe.
    One reason why I say that WW111 is not too far away is that I’ve heard the coronavirus could be one of the things that spark an organization of nations like the European Union into becoming more powerful. The German leader of the EU apologized to Italy a few weeks back saying they didn’t help Italy when Italy called on them for help and the WHO didn’t seem to help either. I can see that politicians will want to give an organization like the EU more funds and authority so that things like a worldwide virus will not run rampant again. Thus a power or Beast as in Revelation 13 could easily come about in the next few years. And with all this Totalitarium policing in nearly every country it seems, a universal power (Beast) won’t have much trouble taking over nearly every country where we have to bow down to it or be put into prison/lose our lives, Rev 13:7-8.
    What makes WW111 or the battle of Armageddon different from WW1 and WW11 is that we now have nuclear power that can annihilate us, so that is why Jesus has to come back just before we blow ourselves up. It’s going to be a terrible time ahead as things will get worse before they get better and I cannot wait till its all over.

  10. Anon I too have loved one I wish saved and God is patient wanting all saved but just as eventually the door to the ark closed and the flood rains came so too will the greatest time of tribulation eventually come. At least some can still be saved in the great tribulation. I sometimes find the hardest thing is you can’t accept Christ for someone else they have to come to him themselves.

    Victory on earth day the TRUE international day of peace!

  11. For several months preceding the virus lockdown, I was getting very ho-hum about attending church. Same old, same old… I admit my heart was cooling off, but not really toward Jesus. In a small group once, I voiced my frustration over what heaven might be like. I said, “If it’s going to be just one long church service, I’m not really excited about it.” Another woman said, “Did you really just say that?” I’m afraid I did. What advice do you have for this lukewarm believer?

  12. Judy from what I have seen of many church services I don’t blame you. many are good for an hour of worship but everlasting timeframe uh NO. but that problem is here. we won’t be sitting for all time singing songs and listen to sermons. we will worship in many ways in all the things we do. Look at Adam he tended to the garden so too will we have thing to do not just sit and sing and say Hallelujah and Amen. And yes we will spend plenty of time with Jesus (I often question if I would be worth much of his time) but it will be like spending time with a great friend or favorite uncle a great time you enjoy that you don’t want to end not a chore that you are bored with after an hour or so and keep looking at your watch to see when it ends.

    Church can’t just be showmanship entertainment which is what I see many of the youngest denominations as Pentecostal/Charismatic (though their theology seem mostly sound) because that is just a shallow faith for far too many if you take away to showmanship and the “christian” rock/metal/pop/rap/whatever people leave showing it isn’t the FAITH they are there for but the ENTERTAINMENT. but likewise church can’t be just a set of boring repetitive song, sermon and readings (the christian version of wine, women and song if you will) for then you have a dead faith one that might be right but has NO life to it so it wouldn’t save anyone. church should too be MORE than just a hour on Sunday but engage they believer throughout the week. engage the community where believers live. I say this as a person who while strong in my faith hasn’t had a church in years. I can’t find one that fits my beliefs. far too many these days are either liberal or focused on there here and now and what God wants for you in this life. none of them worry about giving account for their life. Other times I meet Holier-than-thou christians that once you disagree with them you are the devils minion and treated accordingly.

  13. Yes, Maybe I got spoiled as a child thru young adult. I’ve sat under some excellent preaching, thrilled to beautiful music, was deeply moved by prayers and testimonies of real saints. It’s been a long time. I know I’m mostly to blame for my own lack of prayer and devotion. Now that I’m one of those old saints, I’d best get busy…for the sake of the youngsters!

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