Christmas 1914 and the Hope for Peace

British and German officers on the Western Front during the Christmas Truce of 1914.
The Christmas Truce of 1914 is fairly well-known; my brother once wrote about it here:
“The First World War broke out in August of 1914. Many rushed to war almost gleefully, confident in victory for their particular side. Many thought the war would be over by Christmas. But when Christmas came the war was still young. It would last another four years and claim the lives of some 8 million soldiers before it was through. 
In the midst of this bloodshed, though, a remarkable thing happened. In many places along the Western Front, particularly where the British and the Germans faced each other, unofficial Christmas truces were made in 1914. And here, for a brief few hours, the killing ceased.  
Instead of firing bullets at each other, the mortal enemies sang Christmas carols to one another on Christmas Eve. German soldiers even decorated their trenches with candles and with Christmas Trees—tannebaum, they called them. On Christmas morning, soldiers from both sides met in no man’s land and exchanged what gifts they had: buttons and medals, candy and tobacco and liquor. Soldiers who had once been barbers gave free haircuts. One German soldier who had been a juggler in happier times gave a performance in no man’s land.  
The goodwill between enemies was only temporary. In a matter of days they were back to the grim business of trying to blow one another apart. But for a few brief hours, the influence of the Prince of Peace had been felt.”
Moments like these where the Kingdom of God breaks into the twisted and fallen world in which we live don’t seem to come often enough. But they are made possible by the fact that 2000 years ago, the Word became Flesh and the Son of God came to earth. The baby Jesus grew to be a man, lived a perfect life, and then died on our behalf, and for Christians, that is a source of great hope. 

A lot of times we don’t understand the concept of biblical hope very well, because in everyday usage, the word hope means something very different than what it means in the Bible. We use hope as a synonym for wish, as in “I hope I win the lottery”, or “I hope our economy gets better soon”—both of these are things that people wish would happen, but they don’t actually expect either of them to happen.

Biblical hope is something different though—it is a confident expectation of something that will happen because it has been promised by God. And the entrance of Jesus into the world and his subsequent death and resurrection are a source of great hope for Christians because they make possible a Day of Peace—a day when there will be no more suffering, no more disease, no more school shootings, and no more war. For those who have made peace with God, it is a day to look forward to—an everlasting day which will find the faithful in the presence of the Heavenly Father. That’s the hope—the confident expectation— that Christians have. 

And in the meantime, as we wait for that day to come, Christians have a lot to do to keep busy:

–We gather together to remind one another of that hope and to pledge our devotion to the cause of Christ…

–We work to instill the values of the heavenly Kingdom into our earthly surroundings, so that our friends and neighbors can taste the peace of God for themselves…

–And we celebrate the small down payments on the promise of peace that God has given us…such as the few blessed hours when the armies of the world ceased their strife and remembered the Baby of Bethlehem.

Merry Christmas to you and your family this holiday season! Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good will toward men!


An Update On Kinsley

My wonderful wife has started a blog to keep people updated about the progress of our sweet daughter Kinsley.

Although I haven’t written about it here, Caroline and I have been concerned for several months because Kinsley was having some developmental delays. After a slew of doctor appointments and different tests, it seems very likely that she has a condition which would put her somewhere on the spectrum of congenital muscular dystrophy (we are still waiting for genetic test results to come back).

I’m sure I’ll write some about Kinsley here from time to time, but Caroline’s blog will be much more in depth. Kinsley is the light of our lives and has been such a joy to us, and will continue to be in the future. Please keep our sweet daughter in your prayers, and also pray for her Mommy and Daddy as well.


Winter Retreat Recap: SHINE

This past weekend was our annual youth group Winter Retreat. This is one of my favorite youth group events of the year, because we are able to take a break from our regular schedules for a weekend and focus on other things instead. It is always a time where the kids in our group grow closer together, get spiritually re-engergized, and have a ton of fun.

This year, the theme of our retreat was “SHINE,” and we talked about light and darkness from a spiritual perspective. Throughout Scripture, God is consistently portrayed using the metaphor of light, and as followers of God, Christians are to be people of light as well.

Our teachings on this topic were organized around three lessons which showed the progression of the theme throughout the weekend:

(1) The Shining Face of Moses (Exodus 33.18-23; Exodus 34.28-35). After Moses leads the people out of Egypt, he spends 40 days and 40 nights with God on Mt. Sinai while God gives the Law to him. Moses is protected in the crevice of a rock, and is only able to see the back of God’s glory as He passes, but the glory of God is so bright that it leaves Moses with a face that literally shines. He even wears a veil to cover his face. Being in the presence of God changes us.

(2) The Shining Light Comes to Earth (John 1.1-14; The Nativity Story). With the birth of Jesus, God reveals His glory and brings His Light to the earth in a new and special way. Jesus was fully God and fully man at the same time, and this means that the life of Jesus gives us the perfect example of how we can live in our dark world and still shine God’s Light.

(3) Shining God’s Light to Others (John 8.12; John 9.5; Matthew 5.14-16; Philippians 2.14-15; 1 John 1.5-7). After talking about the greatness of God’s glory and how that glory was brought to earth in a special way through the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, our last lesson brought all this together, and focus on our main task as Christians: shining the light of God into our dark world.

Instead of presenting this material in a traditional lecture format, our teens were broken into discussion groups based on age, and processed and learned the material that way. We then combined the separate groups for a larger group discussion, which (hopefully) helped to reinforce the material.

It was a great weekend! We had a lot of fun, and I am optimistic that the teens learned a lot as well.

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