CHILDREN'S STORY AND SONG
In the past week I saw a video that Wendy thinks she has seen shared previously. It is a school or Sunday School nativity play and it must be near the end, because they are all gathered around the manger, a heart-warming and peaceful scene as one would expect in a re-enactment of the Biblical story, that is until one little girl can’t contain herself any longer. Perhaps it was boredom? Maybe jealousy? O maybe just child-like exuberance… in an unscripted moment, she reaches into the manger and takes out the baby Jesus. At first she holds him proudly and rocks him from side to side, tapping into her mothering instincts, and then as she grows a little more excited, she begins to wave him about.
At that moment, Mary, who has clearly begun to look a little bewildered and perhaps a little concerned about what is happening stands up to save the baby Jesus and the nativity play. At first she does so gently and firmly taking the baby Jesus from the other little girl, who I suspect was meant to be an angel. But rather than getting the Nativity play back on track, Mary ends up getting into a bit of a tug-of-war and a wrestling match with the other little girl who has made the decision that she is not ready to give the baby Jesus up.
When it begins to look like things are getting serious, the video ends with some of the parents rushing up on stage to intervene.
Peace on earth and mercy mild! Maybe one might conclude, the Christmas story doesn’t always work.
But one occasion when the Christmas story did work has always moved me. It is the story of the 1914 Christmas Day truce between British and German soldiers when for a few precious hours, fighting on the Western Front came to a halt. Instead of exchanging gunfire, British and German soldiers traded gifts of tobacco, and goodwill, all in the middle of No Man’s Land
Private Thomas Nash, of the East Lancashire Regiment is recorded to have wrote: “We shook hands and fraternised, exchanging Christmas greetings, cigarettes, cigars etc, several of the Germans exchanging their watches for our jackknives.”
One of the most moving stories to have come out of that day is that soldiers from both sides engaged in a football match. I was surprised to read this week that there is some doubt whether this part of the story is accurate or not. One report suggests that on that Christmas Day a further truce was proposed for New Years Day with a proposed football match to take place, but that it did not in fact happen.
Whether or not there was a football match on that Christmas Day of 1914 what had unfolded on that day was something quite remarkable. For a few hours on that Christmas Day, the story of war and conflict was dropped in the minds of those who had been fighting on that small section of the Western Front. And in it’s place, the story of Christmas, the story of One Born to bring peace on earth eclipsed the hearts and minds of those soldiers causing soldiers who had been firing at each other just a few hours before, to exchange Christmas greetings.
May it be so for us as well. May it be that in our lives too, even if for just a few moments, the stories that live and swirl around in our heads and that define our lives in ways that bring brokeness, anxiety and division, could be eclipsed by another story, the story of the coming of One who would be called the Prince of Peace. And in the dawning of that story within our hearts and minds, may our hearts become a few more places in this world where where the Light and Love of God can get in and shine through. Amen.