The Christmas Truce -- Could it Work in our Churches?
- Thursday, November 30, 2006
Last year I posted a story about the decision by a Wisconsin elementary school to rewrite the lyrics of "Silent Night" to make it acceptable for the "winter program." The unfortunate choice for a new title was "Cold in the Night."
And the new lyrics went something like this:
Cold in the night,
no one in sight,
winter winds whirl and bite,
how I wish I were happy and warm,
safe with my family out of the storm.
That is wrong on so many levels. Why not just have the kids sing "Grandma got run over by a reindeer" and go on home? Some things just shouldn't be done. It is like the old Jim Croce song, "you don't tug on Superman's cape, you don't spit into the wind, you don't pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger, and you don't rewrite Silent Night" (New Revised Version).
Rereading that post brought to mind a legend I had heard all of my life involving the real song "Silent Night" and a wartime Christmas truce. I researched the story and found that it actually happened. Here is a nice Christmas story for your Christmas celebrations to share at Christmas gatherings during this Christmas Season (was that anti-pc sentence a little too obvious?). I would normally post a story like this a little closer to Christmas Day but I just found out there is a movie depicting this event and I thought you might be interested in acquiring or renting it. There are some cautions for parents contained in this review in Christianity Today but the positives seem well worth the investment. I just ordered the DVD and I look forward to viewing it this Christmas. Here is the story that inspired the film.
The year was 1914 and soldiers were having to spend Christmas Eve on the battlefields of France during World War I, the Great War, as it was called. After only four months of fighting, more than a million men had already perished in the bloody conflict. The bodies of dead soldiers were scattered between the trenches. Enemy troops were dug-in so close that they could easily exchange shouts.
On December 24, 1914, in the middle of a freezing battlefield in France, a miracle happened.
The British troops watched in amazement as candle-lit Christmas trees began to appear above the German trenches. The glowing trees soon appeared along the length of the German front.
Henry Williamson, a young soldier with the London Regiment, wrote in his diary: "From the German parapet, a rich baritone voice had begun to sing a song I remembered my German nurse singing to me... The grave and tender voice rose out of the frozen mist. It was all so strange... like being in another world... to which one had come through a nightmare."
A man named John McCutcheon wrote a song about the incident. These lyrics are from his work called "Christmas in the Trenches."
The cannon rested silent, the gas clouds rolled no more,
As Christmas brought us respite from the war...
"They finished their carol and we thought that we ought to retaliate," another British soldier wrote, "So we sang 'The First Noel' and when we finished, they all began clapping. And they struck up 'Oh Tannebaum' and on it went... until we started up 'O Come All Ye Faithful' [and] the Germans immediately joined in.... this was really a most extraordinary thing... two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war."
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