Christmas in the Trenches

As the holy day approaches, a number of people are asking, “What is your favorite Christmas song?” A variation is “What non-religious holiday song that moves your spirit?

Recognizing the amazing amount of wonderful holiday music, whether intentionally religious or intentionally non-religious, that exists, I believe my answer would be the same.

Thanks to the Rev. Essie Koenig-Reinke (my daughter-in-love), pastor of Dickey Memorial Presbyterian Church, here is a brief reflection on the song that is my answer. This was originally written for the church’s Advent devotional.

“They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Micah 4:3b)

“My name is Francis Tolliver, I come from Liverpool.”

So begins ”Christmas in the Trenches” by singer-songwriter John McCutcheon, a song about the 1914 Christmas Truce told through the eyes of Tolliver, a fictional British soldier.

On Christmas Eve in the filth and muck of the trenches along World War I’s Western front, peace broke out.

Most accounts say it began with German soldiers singing Christmas carols. Others joined. And almost in a collective impulse, many German, British, and French soldiers put down their weapons and met in No-Man’s Land.

They sang, shared photos, told stories, and traded gifts from care packages. Some reports speak of makeshift soccer games played on Christmas Day.

Peace did not last as “with sad farewells we each began to settle back to war.”

The war raged until November 1918 and did not end war—wars and conflicts have followed to this day.

Still the Christmas Truce was a wondrous moment. of peace and and promise and possibility, of hope and justice.

Those themes resonate each year at the manger. They echo through Jesus’ life. He invites us to live into them—at Christmas and through the year.

May we so do.

Check out this call for a 2022 Christmas Trues in Ukraine.

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Filed under Advent, Current Events, Family, Human Rights, Music

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