FROM THE BISHOP
R. LAWSON BRYAN
As we enter Advent and journey toward Christmas, Sherrill and I want to express our gratitude for the privilege of being Alive Together in Christ with you in South Georgia. We wish you a very meaningful holiday season. I also want to remind us that more people come to church during the Advent and Christmas seasons than any other time of the year. This is a golden opportunity to open our doors, our hearts, and our ministries to our entire community.
This year I encourage us to add one particular reflection to our experience of Advent and Christmas. I am referring to the story of “the Christmas truce of 1914.” It happened in France during World War One. The German army and the British army were fighting each other. Both armies were in trenches separated only by a small area called “No Man’s Land.” An amazing thing happened on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 1914. In some areas of that war zone, German soldiers began shouting across to their British counterparts, “Merry Christmas.” And the Englishmen in the other trenches began shouting back, “Merry Christmas.” The Germans began singing Christmas carols. The British responded by singing Christmas carols. They were singing in different languages, but they all recognized the Christmas carols.
After that, discussions were held back and forth among those in the trenches and they agreed to have a truce. Nobody voted on this. No government said this had to happen. It wasn't an order that had been passed down. In fact, it somewhat mystified the higher up officers. But these soldiers in the trenches decided to meet in No Man's Land. They shared with each other food and other items --- enjoying time together. They took off their helmets and swapped them with each other. There are photographs of German and British soldiers shaking hands and conversing with one another.
All of this happened on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Why? Because of the birth of Jesus Christ. The amazing power of Christmas – even in the midst of a world war – called soldiers out of their trenches and enabled them to relate to each other as human beings. What is the power of Christmas? It is not limited to 1914. Today we live in a time when it’s possible to be in a figurative trench of one kind or another, digging into our various positions. Perhaps feeling like others are firing upon us. Perhaps feeling like we’re in a war zone of strained relationships. What opportunity do we have in our local churches to come out of our trenches, to meet together for Advent/Christmas worship, and to connect with each other and with our communities as human beings? What if each United Methodist in South Georgia declared a “Christmas truce” during the month of December? This is more than a “feel good” exercise. It is a truce that only Jesus Christ can make possible, when we began to know each other as human beings.
Don’t say it cannot happen. To everyone's amazement it happened on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in 1914 among people who had been shooting at each other: the Christmas truce. I encourage you to do some of your own research. A lot has been written about the Christmas truce. There is much that could be shared during Advent and Christmas. Many of the Bible passages on which we will be preaching and teaching – from Isaiah, Luke, Matthew, Romans – point to the power of Christmas. Some of those passages talk about beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. Some of them tell of the announcement of peace on earth, good will to all. What is the power of Christmas to bring all of this into reality? It happened in a war zone in 1914. Let’s make it available to all of our church members and to our community so that we can see what God can do with this powerful image in our own day and time. May the Christmas truce begin in each of our local churches and spread throughout the communities of South Georgia.
Alive Together in Witness,
R. Lawson Bryan
Watch a video message from Bishop Bryan: The Power of Christmas