But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting Micah 5:2 (KJV)
One of the strangest and most heartwarming events of war is the story of the 1914 Christmas Eve truce on a battlefield in France. That December 24th night, British and German troops somehow suspended the killing and terror of war, and celebrated for hours together in the “no man’s land” area. Even the death and destruction of modern war that night succumbed to the human need for a little time of peace.
The First World War was unprecedented in its tools of bringing mechanized death. Machine guns, enhanced artillery, poison gas, land mines, and airplanes were new ways of bringing mass death to the combatants. It was so ugly, so demoralizing, so hopeless, that there needed to be a way to bring some hope and cheer into the mind-numbing terror of total war. So that Christmas Eve night, peace broke out in time of war. Soldiers found a common theme of celebrating the miracle of Christmas to bring just a moment of relief to horror.
Men from opposing trenches tentatively trickled out into “no man’s land”. Christian hymns- Christmas carols- began to be sung and were picked up by men on both sides who hours earlier had tried to rain death on their enemy. Soccer games sprang up, and enemies exchanged gifts of cigarettes, brandy, and sweets. For a brief few hours, peace reigned over the killing fields.
Of course, that peace did not last.
This Christmas Eve, 2021, we are not in a general hot war fought with guns and artillery. We are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic that has persisted much longer than we anticipated. It is still a leading cause of death at the present time worldwide. We too need a little peace, and a respite from the anguish of the past years.
Little Bethlehem, the afterthought of Jewish villages, brought forth the birth of a Savior who is the hope of the world. Despite the present painful circumstances, “the hope and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” Our hope is in that deliverer, Jesus, and we welcome the remembrance of his presence once again.
Prayer: Thank you Father for the gift of the Prince of Peace as we celebrate this special birthday, Amen.