Preached by Fr. Paul Allick on Christmas Day (Monday, December 25, 2017)

Isaiah 52:7-10; Hebrews 1:1-4; John 1:1-4


My favorite Christmas story is the Christmas Truce of 1914. It was during WWI somewhere in Belgium, out on the Western Front. German and British soldiers were facing each other from the trenches. Those trenches were cold, wet and muddy; the dead lie nearby.


It happened on Christmas Eve. Both German and British governments had sent greetings and supplies to their troops for Christmas. The Germans started putting up Christmas trees at the top of their trenches. Then they began singing carols and the British started singing back. Soon Christmas greetings were being yelled across to each other. Those greetings traveled across the space between the trenches called “No Man’s Land”.


After a while soldiers from both sides started to venture out into No Man’s Land. They started to exchange gifts of cigars, whiskey and candy. There are even stories of haircuts being offered. Some soldiers started performing juggling acts.


Then a most hallowed thing happened: the soldiers helped each other give proper burial to their dead that were wasting away in those trenches.


The next day the war resumed. Those soldiers who stopped to celebrate the Christmas and bury their dead began shooting at each other again.


At Christmas time all kinds of truces are called. Today truces may even be called in our families. We will put aside our grudges and conflicts for the sake of Christmas. Truces may be made in our communities and our Churches. In the spirit of Christmas, we will carefully venture out into No Man’s Land, that space where all of our conflicts and hurts live; where no one is safe. We’ll gather there and sing carols. We may even hug for the sake of the season.

The prophet Isaiah preached, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation.” He is speaking of you and me the disciples of Jesus Christ. We can’t follow Christ and not be about calling truces. It doesn’t mean we don’t ever get angry or that we don’t stand up for ourselves. It means that we are called to work toward reconciliation at all times. When others won’t accept our peace, yes, we’d better get back down in those trenches and keep ourselves safe but at least we gave it a try. And sometimes, as Jesus tells St. Peter, we might have to do that seventy times seven. We offer reconciliation incessantly even when it is not returned.


Just for today, for Christmas, we can let the darkness of our conflicts and hurts be illuminated by the peace of Jesus Christ. The darkness of revenge and resentment will be cast out as we forgive each other. Forgiveness is about mercy; we don’t forgive because the thing is right or wrong; we forgive because we want to understand the mercy given to us in Jesus Christ.


We all have built our trenches. We have emotional trenches, ideological trenches, and theological trenches. Each of us at times finds ourselves living in the freezing mud with death all around us because we haven’t been able to let go of stuff.  Just for today let’s wipe those slates clean. Let’s try to see the possibility of being set free from our resentment and the possibility of setting others free.


When the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, God in Christ crossed No Man’s Land toward us. The Word, the Logos, the whole wisdom and compassion of God, called us out of our trenches of sin and offered us his hand in peace.


God’s sacrifice of becoming human is as great as that of his dying on the cross. Imagine, the Word, the Logos of God who existed from the beginning, who is light and life, crammed himself into a human body so that we could behold his glory in a concrete way. He looked past our sins and offered us new life. He offered us forgiveness that was unearned and undeserved.


Now those who accept him are born not of human will but of God. We are born-again through our baptism. Now we can offer the hand of peace to others whether they deserve it or not.


The Epistle to the Hebrews tells us that Christ is, “the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being.” Now that light lives in us. It is our calling to reflect Christ to others.


Each time we have the courage to leave the trench and make peace in No Man’s Land, we will receive a foretaste of the kingdom that is here and is to come.


Is someone reaching out to you from the other trench? Go to them. The time is short and the day is near. Go to them and find God.