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.



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