By now I expect that you will have seen the Sainsbury’s Christmas TV advert. Whatever your views over the appropriateness of the subject matter, the short film movingly depicts a true story of 100 years ago.
The British soldiers departed to the First World War full of optimism that the war would be over by Christmas, yet when Christmas 1914 arrived they were entrenched in a stalemate battle situation. Far from home and without means of communicating with their families in England, they awoke on Christmas morning with only their fellow soldiers for companionship. As they huddled together in the cold and damp, music drifted over no man’s land as they heard German soldiers singing Christmas carols. Emboldened by the familiar tunes soldiers from both sides climbed out of their trenches and exchanged food, cigarettes and souvenirs as an unofficial truce broke out. Eye witness reports record that a game of football was shared with the German soldiers and no shots were fired on that day. In the midst of a horrific conflict – Peace! That peace was tragically short lived and the conflict resumed the following day, and every day thereafter, until November 1918 when the armistice marking the cessation of hostilities was finally signed.
‘Peace on Earth’ was the message proclaimed to the shepherds by the angels the very first Christmas as they announced the birth of Jesus. Yet this peace is very different to what is longed for in times of war. The root cause of every conflict whether it is wars between nations, disputes between neighbours or fights within families is that at heart we are all at war with God. Jesus said that whoever is not for him is against him. So, whether by choice or by default, all of us are by nature enemies of God. The real meaning of Christmas is only found in the message of Easter: that through Jesus’ death, a way is made for us to find peace with God as we receive his forgiveness.
I pray that this Christmas you will discover for yourself the everlasting peace that only God can bring. For it is only when we are reconciled with God that we can be fully reconciled with each other – that is real Peace on Earth!
This blog post featured in the December 2014 edition of Hook Focus
Up and down the country millions of people will be observing 2 minutes silence as the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month approaches. If recent years are anything to go by there will also be acts of remembrance at stadiums at the start of sporting fixtures around that time. Churches too will uphold the tradition of observing remembrance at 11:00am on the nearest Sunday which this year is 9th November. Here in Hook there is a tradition of laying wreaths at 9:00am at the War Memorial near the junction of Newnham Lane and the A30 which everyone is welcome to attend.
The date and time of the Act of Remembrance is fixed by the time when the armistice was signed, bringing to an end the ‘war to end all wars’ in 1918. So, although this year has seen many events to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, it won’t be until 2018 that the parallel commemorations of the end of that terrible conflict will take place. Between 28 July 1914 and 11 November 1918, 9 million combatants and 7 million civilians lost their lives. Added together the number of military personnel from both sides recorded as dead, wounded or missing in action amounted to almost 49 million people (more people than many entire nations). This is a staggering number of casualties; one which emphasises the importance of these centenary commemorations which will run over into the next four years.
Tragically the war to end all wars has been anything but, as armed conflict has continued to preoccupy international relations right up to the present day. Only last month western governments once again ordered their forces to operate offensive missions. According to one source 160 million people died in wars in the 20th century and already almost 700,000 people have died in armed conflict in the 21st century.
On Sunday 9th November Life Church will be observing the 2 minutes silence in an event that will attempt to bring together strands of historical significance from 100 years ago along with recognition of the impact of modern conflict in modern Britain. Join us for our meeting which starts at 10:30am in the Elizabeth Hall as we pray for peace across all the nations of the world and seek to find hope amidst the ongoing conflict which appears almost daily on our TV screens. Whether you join us for this contemporary commemoration or participate in a more traditional one our prayer is that this world may yet become a safer place for future generations.
This blog post featured in the November 2014 edition of Hook Focus