The following is the third in a series of four Advent Blessings that I wrote for our weekly chapel services this advent season. I wanted to share these with you, as well.
Legend has it that during the war on Christmas Eve 1871, in the midst of intense fighting between France and Germany, a French soldier suddenly jumped out of the trenches with no weapon in hand, lifted his eyes to the heavens and sang the beginning of “Cantique de Noel.” The response from those watching on both sides were silenced, and a German soldier climbed out of the trenches and sang in German Martin Luther’s “From Heaven Above to Earth I come.”
“From heaven above to Earth I come,
to bring good news to everyone.
Glad tidings of great joy I bring,
of which I must both say and sing.”
The story goes on to say that both sides stopped fighting while temporarily observing peace in honor of Christmas day. (Historical information compiled by Joanna Polarek.)
And amidst gunfire, the war cries of the battle and the wailing of the wounded, a Christmas hymn suddenly pierces through. The sounds die down. The booming artillery stops. A sniper slides a finger from a trigger. The bullets stop, if but for a time. The soldiers turn towards this sound that has no place on the battlefield. As the final notes fade, another sound begins, from the other side. The war itself takes a breath and at this thrill of hope, a weary world indeed rejoices, one lonely voice at a time.
Perhaps they fell to their knees, perhaps not. We can be certain, though, that there was something angelic about those voices and that something purely divine broke through. For a few stanzas, both sides were united. For a time, the prince of peace brought healing to a war-struck world.
God always appears in the struggle. Not just that night as a baby, but in any and every eternity-revealing moment that He shows up, it’s when we are torn, broken, bruised and weak. As the second verse of “O Holy Night” declares, “He knows our need and our weakness is no stranger. He is there. He is present. His time is coming.”
It may be from the heart of our darkest moments, from the chaos of our striving without ceasing, or from the battles that rage without and within, but the voice will rise. That clear, angelic voice of hope will rise up and courageously sing against the storm.
For some of us, a battlefield is the last thing to cross our mind in these weeks. For others, it is our daily reality and it knows no season. We are waiting and waiting and waiting for that elusive thrill of hope, for that new and glorious morn in our lives. We are ready for that voice to rise.
Lord, teach us to sing in the battle.