All Is Calm
Isaiah 52:7–10, Luke 2:1–20, John 1:1–18
December 24, 2014
First Christian Church
One hundred years ago on Christmas Eve something miraculous happened. A few months prior, in the early summer of 1914 the assasination of European monarch began the First World War. Nations took sides in the conflict. Germany teamed up with its neighbor, Austria-Hungary against nations such as the United Kingdom and France. The war would last over four years and would change the world immensely. Some thought that after such a long bloody sog, there would not be another war. Of course, 20 years later the world was aflame in war and again and this time it would be even worse.
But back to Christmas Eve 1914. This was the first Christmas that many men would be separated from their loved ones. In some parts of Europe opposing armies stood in trenches only feet from each other. This is where the miracle happened. No one expects opposing armies to get out of their trenches and meet each other, but that’s what exactly happened on the Western Front. British and German troops left their trenches and for a few hours over Christmas came together. Some troops got together and sung Christmas carols. Other engaged in a game of soccer. What would be called the Christmas Truce of 1914 was a time where in the midst of a bloody war, love broke out if only for a few hours.
Future nature writer Henry Williamson wrote a letter to his mother on Boxing Day (which is the day after Christmas) about the event: “Dear Mother, I am writing from the trenches. It is 11 o’clock in the morning. Beside me is a coke fire, opposite me a ‘dug-out’ (wet) with straw in it. The ground is sloppy in the actual trench, but frozen elsewhere. In my mouth is a pipe presented by the Princess Mary. In the pipe is tobacco. Of course, you say. But wait. In the pipe is German tobacco. Haha, you say, from a prisoner or found in a captured trench. Oh dear, no! From a German soldier. Yes a live German soldier from his own trench. Yesterday the British & Germans met & shook hands in the Ground between the trenches, & exchanged souvenirs, & shook hands. Yes, all day Xmas day, & as I write. Marvellous, isn’t it?”
No, the truce didn’t last forever. A few days later the armies had to get back to their trenches. In the proceeding years, there came to less desire for a truce as the war dragged on and on claiming more and more lives. But here for a few moments, there was peace. The guns fell silent and humanity came together in song.
The passage that was read tonight from Isaiah has the writer talking about the messenger of peace. “How beautiful are the feet of the messenger who proclaims peace,” the writer notes.
That’s kind of an odd saying isn’t it? I don’t many people walking around telling me that I have beautiful feet. And most of us would look at someone funny if they said that about us.
The writer isn’t talking about feet as much as a person or people who bring peace and good news and salvation. This is person is not simply a good guy, not someone that is attractive, but someone who is wonderful and good and just. Someone that is seems to good to be true. Someone that can make the darkest day seem bright.
We have no idea who the writer was talking about, but for those of us who are Christians we can read Jesus into this. The writer isn’t talking about Jesus, but Jesus does fit the description. This amazing person, the son of God that would bring peace and good news and salvation.
What this writer knew is that this messenger would change everything. That’s why he calls for those living among the ruins of Jerusalem to shout for joy, not something you would normally do living among ruins. This was a sign that God had not forgotten God’s people. The messenger told all that they were remembered and for that reason, they could have hope.
I don’t think things are worse than in recent years, but we are surely more aware of the bad things this year. Two policemen in New York murdered. The rising cases of African Americans being shot and killed by the police. The murder of children in Pakistan and thousands killed by Ebola in a number of African nations. We are reminded that the world is still in chaos.
Which is why we need Christmas. The arrival of God in human form is a reminder that God has not forgotten creation. We are loved by God so much that God sends a messenger that proclaims peace. Yes, there will still be violence and wars for now. But the arrival of the Christ child means that the powers of death won’t have hold of us forever. One day their reign will end.
Christmas Eve of 1914 was a sign of God’s peace. No, it didn’t last long, but it showed what God intends for us for all of us, to be a peace, to be healed to become fellow messengers of peace.
A bit of heaven was shown during the Christmas Truce of 1914. A bit of heaven was shown recently when a young black man received a loving hug from a Portland Oregon cop. God’s rule is breaking through, even when it seems like the world is more messed up than ever. This is why we can have hope during Advent and Joy during Christmas.
“Yesterday the British & Germans met & shook hands in the Ground between the trenches, & exchanged souvenirs, & shook hands. Yes, all day Xmas day, & as I write. Marvellous, isn’t it?”
Yes it is. Thank God it is. Thanks be to God. Amen.