2020 Christmas

by Rocky Fleming

Some people believe this will go down as the most disruptive and disturbed Christmas of their lives.  Being a child born in 1945, I would say that I’ve never experienced a Christmas without family being together to eat, open presents, and celebrate Christmas as it should with eyes on the Baby Jesus.  It has been a tradition from Sallie’s and my childhood through our marriage and immediate family, and then in our children’s families.  Christmas has always been special for us all because of those things.  But that tradition has been put aside this year because of Covid-19.  We will have limited gathering and so much will be put aside, though hopefully not forgotten.  In case some of you are in this self-pity perspective that wants to grab us and shack our joy away, I’ve got good news.  This country and world have seen this before, and people were able to return to the best Christmas tradition ever afterward.  Until that could occur, they turned their hearts to that scene at the manger and the Baby who would be our Savior.  There have been personal tragedies and challenges that had to be overcome, which I will share.

I’ll never forget a Christmas Eve scene I experienced as a child.  My family and I were driving to my grandmother’s house to spend Christmas there.  I was about five years old.  It was nighttime.    On the way we saw a house that was on fire and rapidly burning.  My dad stopped to see if he could help.  It was a poor man’s house.  There were children and a mother crying, and a distraught father outside the house.  The father tried to run back in the burning house to bring out the washing machine he had no doubt bought for his family as a Christmas present.  To save his life he was held back by men, which included my father.  Afterwards we continued to our destination, but it was with sadness that we did.  I think of that family as an example of a Christmas tragedy.  The children would be my age now and they would likely say it was their worst Christmas.  On the other hand, they might say it was the best one, for all family members made it out alive.

I think of a teacher in my school named John Christmas, believe it or not.  His daughter was killed in a car wreck on Christmas day.  Perhaps he would justifiably say it was his worst Christmas, as many of us would empathize with the family’s pain?  It for sure would be remembered.  But hopefully it could also be celebrated, for her death might have been her entry into heaven, a day that Christians rejoice when they lose loved ones who know Jesus.  It depends on how we look at it.

Then there was the battlefield in WW-1 where hundreds of soldiers lay on the ground dead and unburied.  The battle had been fierce and bloody.  It was Christmas time, and some would say it was their worst Christmas because of it.  But as strange it may seem, some would say that it was the most meaningful Christmas of their life.  Why?  It was due to an unplanned momentary truce that happened because men returned to a manger to celebrate the Christ child.

Most of the accounts tell that the truce began with Christmas carols being sung on each side of the battle line.  Here’s what Graham Williams of the Fifth Rifle Brigade said:

“First the Germans would sing one of their carols and then we would sing one of ours, until when we started up ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’ the Germans immediately joined in singing the same hymn to the Latin words ‘Adeste Fideles.’ And I thought, well, this is really a most extraordinary thing ­– two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war.”

The next morning some other amazing things happened because of a celebration of the Savior of the world.  In some places, German soldiers left their trenches while calling out, “Merry Christmas” in English.   Here’s what the Times Magazine wrote:

“Allied soldiers came out warily to greet them. In others, Germans held up signs reading ‘You no shoot, we no shoot.’ Over the course of the day, troops exchanged gifts of cigarettes, food, buttons and hats. The Christmas truce also allowed both sides to finally bury their dead comrades, whose bodies had lain for weeks on “no man’s land,” the ground between opposing trenches.”

Yes indeed!  To my point.  The true Spirit of Christmas will not be hindered if we will emerge from our self-imposed fox holes and trenches to reach out to people around us with our gift of Jesus Christ, no matter how we wrap Him up.  A call.  A letter.  An email.  A text.  A call out to a neighbor.  A kind gesture to a busy driver by allowing room for that person to go ahead of us.  A gift of a smile, a warm wave to a stranger, a gift to a needy person, food for a poor person, or forgiveness to an enemy.  A gift of reconciliation whether we need it, or another person needs it from us.  We can make this Christmas the best ever for ourselves or someone else in need if we try.  Wouldn’t Jesus want us to at least try?

It is said that one lone German soldier began the carols which both sides of the battle line joined in, and a chorus was formed going back and forth with Christmas songs.  It is said that one soldier stood up with a sign saying, “No Shoot,” and it was this act of faith that began a Christmas Day truce.  Do you get this?  One man started something that made a Christmas worth remembering.

How would you like this Christmas to be remembered?  Do you want it to be the worst or the best that you recollect?  It can be the best if you and I will go back two thousand years ago when the Prince of Peace, the Giver of peace was born.  We go there to rediscover why we celebrate this time of year.  We live in a world ravished by war and pain, by hurt and jealousy, by anger and violence.  But, at that manger, at the cross, at the empty tomb, at His feet as our Lord God, we find peace, His peace, not as the world gives, but only as He can give.  Let’s go to Him and let His peace fall over us.  As far as I’m concerned, this would be the best present this year that I would ever get.

To His glory and Merry Christmas,