Archive | November, 2014

Christmas in August

14 Nov

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

Lk 2:14

His name was Hans.  I was manning at a booth at London’s Western Fair, when he appeared from out of the crowd and very quickly engaged me in his story.  During the Second World War, Hans, at barely seventeen, had been conscripted into the German Army.  In his first engagement, he was mercifully captured without firing a shot.  After a short stay in France, he and other teen soldiers were moved to England, to a POW camp not far from a small English town.

There, to pass the time, a favorite activity was playing football (soccer).  Thinking to lay a thrashing on the young Germans, the guards challenged them to a match, which ended in a lopsided victory for the Wehrmacht.   Soccer provided Hans with another unique opportunity.  One of the guards arranged for Hans, a talented footballer, to join the local English squad.  All he had to do was make sure he never spoke to the opposition, or cried out for the ball, either of which would reveal he wasn’t a proper Englishman.

Near the end of the war the guards, wanting to spend Christmas with their families, left the Germans lads on their own, and made them promise not to attempt escape.  Left on their own, the young men, feeling lonely and somewhat homesick, decided to attend a Christmas Eve service.  Walking to town, they nervously entered a chapel and slipped as quietly as possible into the back pews.  Their entry, however, did not escape the notice of the elderly priest.

The service continued without incident until the priest announced, “We have some guests with us this evening.”  All eyes turned to the young men, who thought they were about to be tossed out, but instead something remarkable happened.  The priest asked them if they would stand and sing ‘Stille Nacht’ in their native tongue.  With a little apprehension the reluctant German choir began, only to be joined by the parishioners.   I’m sure all of heaven paused that night as German and English voices mingled together, and there, for a short while, in a small English church during the darkness of World War II, the words of the angels rang true – “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Lk 2:14)  After the service not one young man failed to receive an invitation to spend Christmas in an adopted home.  It was a Christmas Hans says he will ever forget, and for me, it was how enjoyed Christmas in August.

Thought:  The angels were not singing a song only to be enjoyed at Christmas.

Further reading: Ephesians 2:17; Isaiah 2:4; Isaiah 9:6

Prayer:  Lord, as we celebrate Christmas this year, may we do so remembering that you came to offer peace on earth.  May we, as far as we are able, seek to be peacemakers always.  Amen.



Night Light

4 Nov

Night Light

Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light,
trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.

Isaiah 50:10

When our sons were much younger they would enjoy those trips we took that lead us past the Lester B. Pearson International Airport. One runway in particular runs parallel with the highway, and if we were fortunate, at times we would pass by just as an aircraft was either landing or taking off. For two lucky boys, they would have a brief mini-van window seat that provided an unobstructed view of a jumbo jet lumbering off the earth, or one slowly descending with a small puff of smoke as the wheels grabbed hold of the waiting pavement. Of course, they took great pleasure in narrating the event to their brothers who feigned disinterest.

On one occasion we happened to drive by just as a DC-10, “one of planes daddy built” touched down in Toronto. Michael was entranced by the whole process, and so we entered into a discussion about how big the plane was, how much it weighed, how many people it carried, and were it may have been arriving from. During a brief pause I happened to ask Michael, “Would you rather land a jet during the day, or at night?”

He thought for a brief moment, that in itself a monumental moment, before answering, “At night.”
Surprised at his answer, and the confidence in the tone, I asked, “Why at night?”
“Because,” he swiftly replied, “at night you would have the runway lights to guide you.”

It seemed like such a simple answer, but as I pondered his reply I began to see his wisdom. During the day a pilot would have much to distract him and conceal the ‘narrow way’ that is a runway. Below there would be roads, railway lines, rivers, highways…while above, the brilliant blue sky and billowing clouds. However, at night, though the way be dark, there would be a light piercing the shadowy veil, and illuminating that narrow road that led to safety.

Likewise, in our lives there is much that we allow to distract us. The world is filled with shiny things and alternate paths that promise to satisfy and make us complete. There is many a broad road that leads to destruction, yet at first appearance seems inviting and safe. It can become hard to keep our eyes fixed on home—fixed on Jesus. Perhaps that is why God permits those times of darkness to come upon us. For in those times His light can be more clearly seen. In those moments we learn to walk by faith, trusting in His word to light our path.

Thought: To be distracted is often to blinded by our sight.

Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”

Isa 42:16, “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”

Prayer: Lord, help me to not be lured by those things around me that seek to undo me. Help and guide me by the light that gives light to all men. And grant that I may have the privilege of being that city on a hill that lights the way for others.