Summary: Christmas is a time of sharing presents and each other's company, a time when rifts between family members should be healed. During the WW1 on Christmas Eve the British and Germans stopped killing each other as Christ's message of PEACE prevailed.
THE GREATEST GIFT OF ALL.
The 1914 secret truce between the German and British soldiers has been told many times but it’s certainly worth repeating.
In many ways it is surely the miracle of Christmas and its meaning was made manifest in the action of the soldiers who brought to light the true meaning of Christmas.
Ironically I found this story way back in 2005 – in the porch there is a detail account from the diary of someone who was actually there – Captain Robert Hamilton.
By December 25th 1914 the British and German armies had fought themselves to a standstill in northern France.
Thousands of soldiers on both sides had been slaughtered and now the survivors stood in muddy trenches, glaring at each other across the narrow strip of land that surrounded them.
For the first time their guns were silent, and in the eerie silence of that grey dawn, everyone was wondering what that day would bring.
When daylight had fully come, the British soldiers saw three men rise out of the German trenches.
Slowly and cautiously, they inched forward.
Their hands were stretched out with open palms, to show that they carried no weapons. They moved past the barbed wire barriers and stood unprotected in 'No man's land.'
Suddenly, hundreds of soldiers began pouring out of both trenches, and rushed out to meet their enemies.
Their hands were clasped in friendly greetings. In broken English and in broken German, they wished one another a Merry Christmas.
Yesterday these men were killing each other, today they were exchanging gifts of cigarettes or anything else they could find.
The British were singing, 'O Little Town of Bethlehem.' The Germans were singing, 'Silent Night.'
They sat in groups and shared their canned rations. They showed pictures of their families and sweethearts and carried on conversations with few words but many gestures.
Not a single shot was fired that day. Then, as the sun began to set, they went back to their trenches, and once again started trying to kill each other.
What brought about this strange peaceful lull in the midst of war?
Why did two armies lay aside their weapons for one day and treat each other as friends?
That brief armistice wasn't planned. It was a spontaneous reaction to the fact that the day was Christmas Day.
The day when God our Father gave us the greatest gift that our world has ever received. That gift was a Baby, His only Son, who became our Saviour, the Saviour of the world.
Why did God give us this wonderful gift?
He wanted to express His love in the most understandable and most convincing way.
God wrapped His love in human flesh and gave it to the world.
Now, we find it is easier to hear God's message of love, and to understand its meaning.
God has poured His love into a life. And there is no more touching way of doing this than by pouring His love in the life of a new born baby.
The JOY of a new born baby is joy indeed to all the family and the birth of Jesus into our lives has to be the greatest gift of all.
Many of the gifts we get at Christmas can be received in a rather casual manner. All we have to do is put them on, or hang them up in a wardrobe, or eat or drink them, or deposit them in a bank.
But never forget that there are 12 days of Christmas leading up to one of the greatest festivals of all, the Epiphany – the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles.
If you like the public showing of Jesus to the world.
Those wise men from the east have a lot to answer for as they brought their gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.
They were a little late for Christmas, 2 years too late!
But they brought their gifts so as to receive Jesus the Son of God into their lives and they were so overcome by what they saw that they fell down to worship the child born to be king and yes a King of all kings and Lord of all lords.
How should we receive God's gift, the greatest gift of all?
There is only one way - with all our hearts, because this is the one gift that we all really want and most of all definitely need.
God wants us to use His gift not just today but every moment of our lives.
Those soldiers in the trenches exchanged gifts and showed friendship to each other on Christmas Day.
But then want back to fighting each other, we must not do the same in our daily lives.
Many of us will receive the Christ Child into our hearts at Christmas, and show goodwill to all we meet, but what about the days that follow, tomorrow, next week or next Sunday?