Focus on Faith

Phil Collins is Pastor at Willow Park Church Kelowna.

This week was an end-of-the-year project for my son, who built a First World War trench scene; armed with creativity, he (we) gathered boxes, scraps, clay, paints and small figurines and got to work. He connected with the stories as he crafted and painted.

One story caught his attention.

Young men, not much older than my son, marched off to war. A war that would be over by Christmas, or so they optimistically thought. On December 24th and 25th, 1914, as the frontline froze in torment, a glimpse of heaven appeared.

Dread and animosity were gently covered by the snow that fell — preconceived opinion, fuelled by false news, unmasked by the light of the crisp, clear moon.

As Christmas arrived, an invisible message infiltrated the battle lines as the soldiers realized that they were all in this together.

For a while, it felt like war had vanished as hatred turned into a friendship.

Private Albert Marrow blinked with disbelief as the Germans sang “Silent Night.” The British responded with “The First Noel,” and a sing-off began across No Man’s Land as Christmas trees, lights, and lanterns appeared. Then came a joint rendition, “O Come All Ye Faithful,” in Latin, no less. Soldier Graeme Williams noted the wonder of hearing two enemies singing in the middle of a war.

Corporal John Ferguson was asked if he wanted tobacco; he climbed up and walked across to be greeted by a German soldier.

The British offered tea, chocolate, and cakes. The Germans offered Schnapps, Sauerkraut and cigars. One cheeky Brit went over the German line into the trenches, was taken to a wine cellar and enjoyed a bottle with his new friends.

Group photos were taken with unifying smiles, and reunions were planned in London or Munich after the war.

A joint service was held to lay to rest the dead. Then the blessed soccer ball appeared, and the games began, with cheers and a slap on the back; 3-2 to the Germans, followed by 4-1 to the English.

Most British were shocked at how friendly and kind the Germans were; their dark view was lifted. Fake news and propaganda had poisoned minds, generating such deep hatred. Forty percent of British media was controlled by one man who fed the lie of hatred towards all things German.

Orwell Tilly said it best, thanks to soccer and Christmas, we all came together.

Everything that is inspiring about Christmas is reflected in this story.

Forgiveness, singing, generosity and the end of fighting. Because of Christ, we no longer battle with God or each other. We have been shown a far better way, and while the establishment tried to say that this event was a myth, propaganda even. We know a different story.

It is time to believe the Christmas message, a narrative that will always help us get out of the trenches.