Christmas in the Trenches

Sometimes when we are going through a period of melancholy, a story of hope can make a huge difference. A story that shows that despite the grimness of war there was a tiny flicker of light that showed that peace can burn even in hearts that were cold.

The story of Christmas is of that kind of hope, and yet, for many of us it is also a reminder of pleasant days, happier days, of days when hope was not a dream but part of the everyday.

I have always been fascinated by the story of Christmas in the trenches because of how it conveyed that peace is a universal hunger and involves not signing of papers but sharing laughter, drinks and football. It involves breaking down of barriers not through some treaty but because of the will of ordinary individuals who cannot bear to live in the shadow of hate and war.

For those of us who are grieving this Christmas, the story provides a poignant touch since we are aware that the young soldiers who were celebrating Christmas that night were all prepared to die for their countries. Who knows some of the soldiers never returned to their homes and families and maybe some did and were able to share what happened that night.

I imagine that just as some of us are mourning for our loved ones, the families of these solders would have done the same since they never returned home or if they did it was probably in a box. We have been so used to associate Christmas with joyful celebration that sometimes it's hard to connect the festival with sadness and grief.

But the truth is, there has always been that shadow right from the beginning - a baby boy was born in Bethlehem might have seemed like a reason to celebrate but there was also that other dimension to that baby boy's life. Crucifixion was very much part of his mission and though the resurrection seemed like a happy ending but nevertheless there was the painful and sordid experience of torture, sham trial and crucifixion.

We love to celebrate and yet there is also that faint reminder that the reasons we celebrate was also made possible through suffering on the cross. The new life through resurrection might be reason enough to rejoice but there was a process... Easter had to follow Good Friday and without these two, Christmas is quite meaningless. After all, to celebrate Jesus one has to embrace all three together and then understand that the love he talks about is not mushy but comes with considerable depth.

So when we approach Christmas with our grieving hearts we are not out of synch with the realities of the celebration but in fact we are doing so in the true spirit of the festivities. All we understand is that though there is pain and weeping there is also a peace that passes all understanding since he is also called the Prince of Peace.


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