Thursday, December 22, 2016

Christmas Peace in the Trenches

It’s Thursday,  Day 26 in the Fourth Week of Advent.  The Christmas Story is remarkable for the Angelic proclamations.

Luke 2:8-14
8  And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.
9  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
10  But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
11  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
12  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
13  Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14  "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

The words they proclaimed – “Glory to God in the highest”... because the miracle of the Incarnation is in God who sends his only Son into the world to “be with us”.  It is God who deserves Glory, honor, praise for the wonderful plan to redeem a lost world.  The last part of that sentence reminds us of the results of this plan.  “On earth peace to men on whom his favor rests”...which reminds us that Jesus’ life is peace for all who receive him.

Perhaps one of the greatest examples of this that has ever occurred happened in World War 1 in the trenches of Europe between the German and English, French and Belgian soldiers at the front lines in 1914.

As Christmas Eve day came, the Germans placed candles on their trenches and Christmas trees, and then continued the celebration by singing Christmas carols. The British responded by singing carols of their own. The two sides continued by shouting Christmas greetings to each other. Soon thereafter, there were excursions across No Man's Land, where small gifts were exchanged, such as food, tobacco and souvenirs such as buttons and hats. The artillery in the region fell silent.
Joint services were held. In many sectors, the truce lasted through Christmas night, continuing until New Year's Day in others.  Unfortunately it didn’t last.  Soon the fighting continued.  Yet for a brief time – at Christmas -  the time of Advent brought those who fought against each other to a place of peace.

We live in a world today where once again we long for peace.  It seems so elusive and perhaps we will never see the end of national hostilities as long as the Prince of Peace does not rule the earth.   Yet we need to understand that “Peace”, Biblical Peace from God, is not simply the absence of hostilities.  Peace is not when we stop arguing, or when we walk away without fighting. 
Peace is when Jesus Christ becomes the reason for our decisions, for our attitudes and actions.  Paul reminds the Galatians that the Fruit of the Spirit in us is “love, joy, peace...”  and he reminds us in Ephesians 2 that “He himself is our peace” (vs 14). 

In 1867, Phillip Brooks was on horseback riding in Israel from Jerusalem to Bethlehem.  As he rode closer to the city he heard choirs singing Christmas carols of faith, hope and love.  It inspired him and he sat down to write “O Little Town of Bethlehem”.  The second verse speaks of this peace:
For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars together, proclaim the holy birth,
And praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth!


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