Peace on Earth: A Christmas Story
Holiness broke out in the midst of horror.
And the leaders didn’t sense it. . . not at first.
But the followers did; they peeked cautiously out of the squalor of their trenches, fearing their reward would be a bullet in the forehead courtesy of a sniper on the other side of no-man’s land. . .
But no shots came. Rather, shouts:“Don’t shoot, English; Happy Christmas,” in broken English floated over the blasted landscape, as the Saxons in the trenches opposite lifted their Christmas trees festooned with candles onto the parapets of their trenches and began to sing the carols of their childhood in defiance of the slaughter and woe of what would one day be called the First World War.
1914. France. Deadlocked in trenches, armies are on the alert during Christmas, fearing the godless heathen opposite them (mostly Christians of another nationality!) might use the holiday as an excuse to launch a surprise attack. The leaders cultivate a gung-ho, martial ardor among their followers.
And their followers aren’t buying it.
Because memory is stronger than the wrath of your captain, and faith more precious than a good report from your sergeant. Singing “Silent Night” with their comrades became more meaningful than bawling out the bawdy soldier-songs, and so:
Christmas broke out along the Western Front that 1914. The troops left their trenches and met in no-man’s land, exchanging souvenirs, showing off pictures of their wives and sweethearts, and opening bottles of champagne (the French), barrels of beer (the Germans) and canteens of rum (the Brits). They played soccer and traded food and tobacco, and in general acted like non-combatants for a few precious hours.
They had sensed the holy. . . the presence of a God who breaks the bow and shatters the spear by being incarnate in our midst as the most helpless of us all.
And their leaders? At first, appalled. Protesting. Threatening. . . what might such un-warrior like actions lead to?
And most, shrugging, joined their men. Later, the leaders at the top who were not there would make them pay for daring to declare this unofficial peace.
Leaders: there are times followers sense something before you do. To you, what they sense feels wrong, dangerous, off-track from the path that has been set before you.
When your followers start climbing en masse out of the trenches, is it time to act. . . sensibly?
Follow the holy.
John serves as a Vice President and Consultant for Capital Funding Services, and has a passion to partner with congregations seeking to achieve the vision God has for them. His creativity is expressed in his love for writing, designing, and implementing worship and special events during which people are inspired to respond generously to the future God has for our congregations, schools, and institutions.