Isaiah 2:1-4 and Luke 2:1-7
“Silent Night made its first debut on Christmas Eve, 1818 at the St. Nicholas chapel in Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria. The melody by composer Franz Gruber is instantly recognizable from the first few notes, and the original text by Joseph Mohr has been translated from the original German into over 140 languages. Today, churches all over the world gather together each year on Christmas Eve to light candles, sing Silent Night, and participate in a timeless tradition of the presence of Emanuel, God with us.
We all know that our communities, our churches, and our world are torn and divided by many issues of cultural hate and violence. Families fight, politicians argue, Internet wars spread out of ignorance and hate, and sometimes we feel that hope, peace, love, joy, and light are missing from our lives. Perhaps this year, we will raise our voices in song to celebrate the birth of Christ with spirits of peace and love that transcends all barriers.”
(Dr. Marcia McFee, Calm and Bright)
Gareth Higgins, who was involved in the Protestant vs. Catholic war in Ireland, which was more a political war than a religious war, wrote, “There are lots of ways to prevent violence, lots of ways to repair its consequences, lots of ways to build beloved community. In a polarized society there may be no more effective violence prevention measure than building bridges, or at least none more accessible. Get to know at least one person who votes differently. It’s not necessarily easy. But it is necessary. And the history of conflict transformation proves it works. Start with the person of different political views with whom you feel most comfortable. Just get to know each other. This the hard work, but it will be worth the work to bring peace.”
Perhaps by working to bring peace, we could practice being quiet and listening more deeply to the needs of others, especially those we feel oppose us in some way. The children’s message showed us that to calm a crying baby we wrap that baby in a soft baby blanket. Maybe this Advent season we could envision wrapping the people we are in conflict with in a blanket of love, and listening to what the world needs from us, instead of what we need from the world.
We opened today’s message with the Isaiah text that gives the prophetic vision of peace. This scripture prophesizes turning the weapons of war into the tools of gardening, of growing and nurturing. Isaiah 2:4, “He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plow shares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”
Think what the world would be like, if there were no more war. We can only dream of what that would be like, because we have lived with wars all of our lives.
God’s presence is associated with light throughout the scriptures. That’s why we lit candles during prayer time. As we move closer to God, and ponder how we can be God’s light to our world; we can commit ourselves to bringing peace. Being the one to forgive and to love unconditionally as God loves each of us. Each of us can commit to showing more compassion and less judgement in our lives.
In a moment the men will read parts of letters from the soldiers who were there on that Christmas Eve in WWI. I looked up the word “truce” and found that it comes from the root word for “faith, faithfulness, covenant, truth, fidelity, and promise.” We don’t advocate for truce to solve the concerns of tyranny and oppression, but I believe that is what we need. No problems were ever solved through killing our fellow human beings.
In the silencing of war, if only for a day we can hear the cries of the suffering of humanity and ask, “Is this the way out of the dark night or is there another way?” The Prince of Peace has been transforming lives by calling us to right relationships around negotiating tables in all the wars, and on that battle field in WWI. Let’s hear what our soldiers said in their letters. *
#1, “The Germans started singing and lighting candles about 7:30 on Christmas Eve, and one of them challenged anyone of us to go across for a bottle of wine. One of our fellows accepted the challenge and took a big cake to exchange.”
#2, “We came from our mouseholes and saw the English advancing towards us and waving cigarette boxes, handkerchiefs and towels. They had no rifles with them and there we knew it could only be a greeting and that it was alright.”
#3, “We had a church service and sang hymns, we met the Germans midway between the trenches and wished each other a ‘Merry Christmas’. We exchanged buttons, badges, caps, etc. and we all sang songs.”
#4, “They gave us cigars and cigarettes and toffee and they told us they didn’t want to fight, but had to. Some could speak English as well as we could and some had worked in Manchester. The Germans seem very nice chaps who were awfully sick of the war.”
#5, “We were able to move about the whole of Christmas Day with absolute freedom. It was a day of peace in war…it is only a pity that it was not a decisive peace.”
#6, “A German soldier said to me, ’today (Christmas Day) nice; tomorrow, shoot.’
As he left me, he held out his hand, which I accepted, and said: ‘Farewell, comrade.’ With that we parted.”
As the two countries, England and Germany found their common humanity on the
battlefield, by declaring a truce and bringing peace of just one day: We also can be peace bearers by working to bring peace to our families, churches, communities and our world.
The benediction song we will sing each week at the close of our service says this,
“We need a silent night in here. We need your presence to come near. Give us the hope we need and the peace we seek. We need a silent night in here. Give us the hope we need and peace we seek. We need a silent night. We need a silent night. We need a silent night in here.” May we all do the hard work for peace.
Pastor Rosemary DeHut
References: *Worship Design Studio, Calm and Bright, Dr. Marcia McFee.
We Need a Silent Night in Here, Marsha Jean Moors-Charles Chuck Bell (ASCAP)