© Barbara F. Meyers 2006. All Rights Reserved.
Mission Peak Unitarian Universalist Congregation
December 24, 2006

On this Christmas Eve I have adapted a tale of another Christmas Eve, written by Abbot John Klassen. It is based on a true story and was also recently portrayed in a movie entitled Joyeux Noel.

On Christmas Eve in 1914, the first year of World War I, something amazing happened along the front lines of the deeply dug trenches between the armies in France and Belgium. The space between the trenches was called a "No-Man's Land". The Germans were on one side and the French, British and Belgians were on the other. Soldiers from either side who ventured into No-Man's land were shot by soldiers from the other side. The war was at an impasse.

The German people already had a tradition of Christmas trees with candles for light. On Christmas Eve 1914, they erected some trees in front of their trenches. When the British, French, and Belgians saw the lights, at first they started shooting, thinking it was gunfire.

After a while, they stopped shooting and understood that it was the light of candles. The Germans sang "Stille Nacht," the carol when translated into English we know as "Silent Night." And the other soldiers listened.

That night was particularly cold, with heavy frost. On Christmas day, at first only a few men ventured into No-Man's Land. As officers from both sides saw what was happening, they allowed small groups of three or four to go.

Ultimately an informal truce was made, and large groups of men from both sides came out from their trenches. They shared sausages, beer and tobacco, schnapps, chocolate and pudding. Each side buried its dead. They played several soccer games.

These truces occurred in several places, and sometimes lasted for days. Most of what we know about these events comes to us from letters that soldiers wrote to their families.

Now, when the Generals in German, French, Belgian and English army headquarters heard of these events, they were very upset. After all, they had a war to fight and sharing beer and games in No-Man's Land does not make for a good war.

In some instances they were so afraid that their men would not shoot to kill, that they rotated in fresh troops, and those who had participated in the truce were taken off the front.

For a brief moment mortal enemies looked on each other and saw each other's humanity. They recognized each other as all God's children: as brothers, husbands, and dads. For a brief time they let humanity triumph over fear, distrust, and hatred.

When I think about these events, I cannot help asking the question, "What if?"
"What if we could all see so clearly as they saw, the humanity of those who are labeled being our 'enemy.'
What if we could see in their human faces, the child of God within?
How many wars would be ended?
How much oppression would cease?
How many of the world's problems would be resolved?
Instead of being like their generals, unhappy with what these courageous soldiers did,
I think we should salute them as showing us another way to live.
Even in no-man's land."

Froehliche Weihnachten, Joyeux Noel, and Merry Christmas!

Christmas Eve Prayer

Christmas is a time for celebrating gifts, and we celebrate it with gifts.

But, let us remember that no gift we receive this season
can ever be as important as those gifts we already possess

We give thanks for the gifts of health, of home and of food.
We remember and pray for those who are sick, or homeless or hungry.

We give thanks for the gift of the presence and blessings of the Holy.
We remember and pray for those who do not feel them.

We give thanks for the gift of family, and for the love of good friends.
We remember and pray for those who are alone.

We give thanks for the gift of being able to laugh and find joy
We remember and pray for those who can't share it.

We give thanks for the gift of hope that allows us to see a brighter future
We remember and pray for those who don't feel hope.

We give thanks for the gift of peace where it is found in our world
Even in no-man's land.
We remember and pray for those who are in harm's way.

And on this Christmas Eve, we give thanks
for the gift of Jesus, whose birth is celebrated on this night
And whose life taught us about the power of the Holy, love, joy, peace and hope.
May it shine like the brightest star in the heavens
Above the wickedness, hatred, sorrow, war and despair - all the "no-man's lands" - of our lives

Even as it did in no-man's land in 1914

Help us to remember these gifts as we gather here to celebrate his birth.


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