Quite some time ago (1996!), country music singer Collin Raye put out a Christmas album. Well, probably there was never an album, but a CD and a tape. Still, I remember albums, and know why that’s the term…but I’m chasing rabbits again.
This album featured a song that highlighted a Christmas story. It was the first time I had heard this story, and to this day, the song and the story both haunt and challenge me.
The story is from the Western Front, 1914, during the First World War. It was at a time when it was just the front, and just a European War, a war that eventually engulfed most of the world, and then took a 20-year hiatus in Europe before erupting again. It only took a few years off in Asia, but the US wasn’t as involved as many other nations, except for 1917-1918 and 1941-1945.
The war was being fought between Germany on the one side, and England and France on the other. The two sides were settled into trench warfare around the border of the two countries. (Yes, I’m simplifying. Read a history book.) Trench warfare worked like this: soldiers, generally conscripts (draftees) lived in a dugout trench, some few hundred yards from the enemy, who is also in a dugout trench. From time to time, one side or the other would charge out of the trench, attempting to take the next trench. As I recall from European History, from 1914-1916 the Western Front saw hundreds of thousands of dead and wounded, and the frontlines moved, over that time, 2 inches. It’s a horrible way to fight a war. (Not that there are many good ones. I side with John Clark in the Tom Clancy novels: “Fair means all my people come home.”)
Christmas Eve, 1914, and many of these soldiers are spending their first Christmas away from home, and have spent more time in the war than many expected. Somehow, and historians greatly debate where and how, the small units that faced each other, sometimes just the day before, in battle, the men who had tried to kill each other for months, found themselves between the trenches, celebrating the birth of Christ, the Prince of Peace.
These soldiers took to the idea that, perhaps, they had enough in common as worshipers of Christ to not kill each other. Then, more learned heads prevailed, and the battle was rejoined.
Collin Raye’s song “It Could Happen Again” raises the question, what if it happened again? Would it stick?
Unfortunately, today, much of the world suffers under regimes that have allowed them no opportunity to know the Prince of Peace. There is no common ground of Silent Night to sing, or a shared tradition of trees and mangers. The greatest moment in history, the Incarnation of Christ, the coming of God with us, has been reduced to a battle over the labeling of parades or which songs are sung in school.
Meanwhile, people are dying. Some are dying and going to an eternity with Christ. Others are dying and going to an eternity with the wrath of God. What do I think we should do?
Spread the message. Don’t tell folks “Merry Christmas” as a correction to their “Happy Holidays” but rather as an encouragement to look to the Savior.
Spend your efforts to share the love of Christ. Let what you give reflect His love. Let what you say reflect His Word.
Seek peace, understanding. True, no peace without Christ will hold, and many songs at Christmas sound almost idealistic and naïve, yet we can pray that they come true. Perhaps, someday soon, in the name of Christ all oppression will cease. Perhaps, all the faithful will come, and we will see peace on earth throughout the world.
Until then, let us remember, we’re all we’ve got. Our enemies, such as they are, need the Gospel, and when they’ve heard it, maybe they won’t be our enemies anymore.
And for us within Christianity: can we find ourselves together, humble at the manger and the Cross, astounded at the empty tomb, and quit fighting amongst ourselves? If we can quit fighting ourselves, maybe we can win the world.
(below is an affiliate link to where you can download the song I referred to. I think the intro is read by Kris Kristofferson. I tried to find a way to stream it, but couldn’t find any legal methods. It’s $0.99 on Amazon, so if you can handle digital downloads, get it. If you can’t, swing by the house, I’ll loan you the CD, but you have to promise not to make a copy.)