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Could you use a little Christmas, this Christmas?
This year perhaps we need more than sleigh bells, carolers, and sugarplums. Our neighborhoods are lit, both with lights and short fuses. Our company parties are one comment away from packing a holiday punch that has nothing to do with eggnog.
We’re on edge. Our nerves are frayed. Our patience is tissue-thin. Blame it on the election. Fault the ever-present threat of terrorism. Chalk it up to a spinning wheel of changes in society and morals. Whatever the reason, we could use some Christmas. We could use a season that is dedicated to giving, not receiving; to caring, not critiquing. Put away the voting booth. Put up the Christmas tree.
Why? Something wonderful happens this time of year.
Something powerful happened that Christmas Eve in 1915. World War I was raging. Bombs shook the soil of Europe. Frigid temperatures shook the bones of the fighters. Germans were entrenched on one side and the Royal Welsh Fusiliers on the other. Most of the soldiers were only a few years removed from boyhood. They were young, homesick, and longing to be with loved ones. The guns had blazed in relentless fury for months. Christmas seemed far away from this blood-soaked land.
But then, a Christmas gift. From the German side of the field came a chorus of voices singing a Welsh holiday hymn.
Sleep my child and peace attend thee, All through the night Guardian angels God will send thee, All through the night.
Soft the drowsy hours are creeping, Hill and vale in slumber sleeping. I my loving vigil keeping, All through the night.5
Soldiers on both sides set down their weapons. For a moment, in that one moment, there was no war; there were no enemies; there was just the song. What happened next could only be described as a miracle. The night was spent in carol singing. Around dawn the feelings of goodwill emboldened the soldiers to step out of their trenches and greet their foes. Shouting such greetings as “Hello, Tommy” and “Hello, Fritz,” they shook hands in no-man’s-land and exchanged gifts. German beer, sausages, and spiked helmets from one side. Canned corned beef, biscuits, and tunic buttons from the other.
Then, of all things, a game broke out. A form of soccer. It was disjointed and unorganized with perhaps as many as fifty players on each side. For half an hour or so, the battlefield became a soccer field, and enemies enjoyed time together.
We can only pray that an armistice would happen again. That warriors would become worshipers. That we would lay down our weapons of pride and vengeance and join hearts to thank the One who came to bring peace on earth and goodwill to all.
Isn’t it time to reach across those lines drawn in days of conflict once again? To come together over what we unites us rather than dwell on what divides us? Isn’t it time to fling open wide our doors to family, co-workers, and neighbors?
One of the best-known characters of Christmas is the innkeeper in Bethlehem. Though he appears in most Nativity plays, the truth is, we know nothing about him. All we know is this: “…there were no rooms left in the inn….” (Lk. 2:6, 7 NCV) Joseph and Mary (third trimester pregnant) tried to find a room, but every place was packed.
Herod’s census had turned sleepy Bethlehem into a boomtown. The innkeeper filled every room and closet. He placed someone in every bed, an occupant in every cot. He lined the hallways with mats and roll-aways. The place was crowded.
But honestly, couldn’t he have found one more space? Mary was as round as a ladybug. Wouldn’t you find a bed for a mother-to-be? Of course you would. Which makes me wonder, would we be willing to do so today?
Our world, like that of Bethlehem, is difficult and crowded. There is much hurry, scurry, stress, and strife. Our days can feel as cold and uncertain as that of a midnight manger. Yet, in the midst of it all, let’s do what the innkeeper did not do. Let’s invite the source of peace to enter our world. Let’s open the door, and our hearts, and let him in.
Who knows. Another Bethlehem miracle might happen.
Image courtesy: Unsplash.com
Publication date: December 1, 2016