“Silent night, holy night… all is calm, all is bright.” “Sleep, my child, and peace attend thee all through the night… guardian angels God will send thee all through the night.”
Two stories have touched my soul and spirit over the past year… one that I read and one that I heard… I hope they touch your spirits as well…
The first comes with credit to Grant Wood, who served as Senator John McCain’s Chief of Staff, and who spoke at his funeral. Here’s part of what he said about an incident that Senator McCain reflected on from his period of captivity during the Vietnam War.
“And one of them asked him, since it was December, what about Christmas in prison? And he told them a couple of stories. He told them about one night when he was interrogated for quite a while long time and it did not go well for his captors. They were upset with him, and so they tied him up and tied the ropes tight, and it was very painful, and they left him there for the night. And some guard came in who he did not know, had never spoken to. And at 10 p.m., the guard walked in and loosened the ropes. And about 4 a.m., the guard came back and tightened them up again so he wouldn’t get in trouble. And John did not know why that happened. But he found out a little clue a couple of weeks later, right before Christmas, when he was standing in the dirt yard and that guard just walked up next to him. That guard did not say a word, but with his sandal, he drew a cross in the dirt . And they looked at it for a minute, and then the guard rubbed it out and went on his way. And it was quiet in that room when John told that. And then he said, you know, on Christmas Eve, we celebrated. And we got together under this bare light bulb and we sang Christmas carols, and we quoted Bible verses that we could remember. And we told the Gospel story to each other. And I guess just that image of this band of brothers together in this godforsaken place, singing to each other, and there at the front, our guy, John McCain, beaten up but not down, singing his favorite Christmas carol. ‘Silent night, holy night, All is calm, all is bright. Round yon virgin, mother and child, Holy infant, so tender and mild.’ The words seemed so far away from that place, but they leaned on the faith of their fathers and their faith in each other, and their faith in their country. And their faith in God.
The second thought comes from pastor and inspirational author Max Lucado, from his book, “Because of Bethlehem”. It’s a story from World War One, which has been told by many, but these words touched me in a special way.
“It was Christmas Eve 1915 near the village of Laventie in northern France. World War I was raging. Bombs shook the soil of Europe. Frigid temperatures shook the bones of the fighters. Germans were entrenched on one side and the Royal Welsh Fusileiers on the other. Most of the soldiers were only a few years removed from boyhood. They were young, homesick, and longing to be with loved ones. The guns had blazed in relentless fury for months. Christmas seemed far away from this blood-soaked land. At one point from the German side of the field came a chorus of voices singing a Welsh holiday hymn in German. ‘Sleep my child and peace attend thee, all through the night. Guardian angels God will send thee, all through the night. Soft, the drowsy hours are creeping… hill and vale in slumber sleeping… I, my loving vigil keeping all through the night.’ Soldiers on both sides set down their weapons. For a moment, in that moment, there was no war; there were no enemies; there was just the song. What happened next could only be described as a miracle. The night was spent in carol singing. Around dawn the feelings of goodwill emboldened the soldiers to step out of their trenches and greet their foes. Shouting greetings… they shook hands…”
So, what will it take for peace? In our world? In our country? In our town? In our family? In our life? You tell me… thank you for listening…
Notes: “All Through The Night” written by Harold Boulton. “Silent Night” was originally a poem by Joseph Mohr, priest and writer. “Because of Bethlehem, written by Max Lucado, 2016.