Belfast Telegraph

Thought for the weekend: When we repent and trust in God, we are granted more than a fragile peace

Rev Gareth Burke, Stranmillis Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Belfast

Christmas Eve in the trenches of France,

The guns were quiet.

The dead lay still in No Man's Land -

Freddie, Franz, Friedrich, Frank….

The moon, like a medal, hung in the clear, cold sky'

These words, from Carol Ann Duffy's poem Christmas Truce were read at a recent Christmas event I attended.

While I was aware of the existence of the poem, I had never been present at an event where it was read.

It was a moving experience to listen to the Poet Laureate's vivid and moving commemoration of the Christmas Truce of 1914.

The poem is too long to quote in full, but allow me to quote from one more verse in which you really get the feel of the events of Christmas 1914:

'Men who would drown in mud, be gassed, or shot, or vaporised

by falling shells, or live to tell, heard for

the first time then -

Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht, Alles schlaft,

einsam wacht'

Carol Ann Duffy is, of course, celebrating in verse the remarkable events on the Western Front during the Christmas period in 1914. In the week leading up to December 25, French, German and British soldiers crossed trenches to exchange seasonal greetings and talk.

In some areas men from both sides ventured into no man's land on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to mingle and exchange food and souvenirs.

There were joint burial ceremonies and prisoner swaps, while several meetings ended in carol singing. It is also reported that some men played football with one another.

This was, of course, a remarkable thing which was really not repeated in successive years at Christmas time.

The guns fell silent and a fragile peace broke out. Wonderful as it was it was just that - a fragile peace, not a lasting one.

When you and I were born into this world, we were born as those who were at enmity with God.

Jesus went to Bethlehem so long ago so that we may be reconciled to God and be at peace with Him.

The good news of the Christmas season is that when we repent of our sin and trust in Jesus Christ by faith, we are at peace with God. (Romans 5:1).

This is not a fragile peace, but a lasting peace. In fact it will last for all eternity.

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