Christmas in the Trenches
Sojomail - December 25, 2008
"Writing an occasional poem has to attend to the moment itself, but what you hope for, as an artist, is to create something that has integrity and life that goes beyond the moment."
- Elizabeth Alexander, asked by President-elect Barack Obama to compose and read a poem for his inauguration, explaining how she sees her objective. (Source: The New York Times)
Christmas in the Trenches
We first published this reflection by Jim Wallis in 2002. It has since become our Christmas tradition, kind of our own Charlie Brown Christmas special, if you will. With the ongoing conflicts raging during each passing year, it remains tragically relevant.
Silent Night, by Stanley Weintraub, is the story of Christmas Eve, 1914, on the World War I battlefield in Flanders. As the German, British, and French troops facing each other were settling in for the night, a young German soldier began to sing "Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht." Others joined in. When they had finished, the British and French responded with other Christmas carols.
Eventually, the men from both sides left their trenches and met in the middle. They shook hands, exchanged gifts, and shared pictures of their families. Informal soccer games began in what had been "no-man's-land." And a joint service was held to bury the dead of both sides.
The generals, of course, were not pleased with these events. Men who have come to know each other's names and seen each other's families are much less likely to want to kill each other. War seems to require a nameless, faceless enemy.
So, following that magical night the men on both sides spent a few days simply firing aimlessly into the sky. Then the war was back in earnest and continued for three more bloody years. Yet the story of that Christmas Eve lingered - a night when the angels really did sing of peace on earth.
Folksinger John McCutcheon wrote a song about that night in Belgium, titled "Christmas in the Trenches," from the viewpoint of a young British solder. Several poignant verses are:
"The next they sang was 'Stille Nacht,' 'Tis 'Silent Night'," says I.
Soon one by one on either side walked into No Man's land
Soon daylight stole upon us and France was France once more
My prayer for the new year is for a nation and world where people can come out of their trenches and together sing their hopes for peace. We here at Sojourners will carry on that mission, and we invite you to continue on the journey with us.
Blessings to you and your families.
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But his outspoken interview signals less rigid thinking, according to Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners. "Pioneers sometimes get into trouble and even pay a price for their explorations into new territories. But in the new moral center that is now visible, Rich's prophetic voice and leadership will continue to be heard and felt."+Click to continue
Inviting pro-Prop 8 Rev. Rick Warren to inauguration "disrespects" gays
The San Francisco Chronicle Politics Blog
Yes, as we've noted, this is an example of The O trying to reach out to evangelicals of the conservative variety. Yes, he could have played it safe with a Rev. Jim Wallis type, but no. During the campaign, folks liked how Obama tried to connect with people who disagreed with him -- and now he's doing it... and seriously feeling the heat some of his most fervent supporters.+Click to continue
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