“I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”

Edward Everett Hale

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Silent Night, Holy Truce

Today I, and other ministers and worship leaders across the country, will be leading a Christmas service with a difference. I will be commemorating that special day in 1914, when ordinary soldiers at the Front "all the way from the North Sea to Switzerland" decided that their common humanity, their common Christianity, was more important than continuing to fight each other.

The Martin Luther King Peace Committee sent round a marvellous resource pack, entitled Silent Night, Holy Truce, from which I have obtained most of the material for the service. And I would like to share some words from this, and to reflect on them:

"Although the most famous, the Christmas truces weren't isolated incidents. They followed weeks of unofficial fraternisation by soldiers who discovered that, rather than being monsters, the other side were men like themselves, with a preference for staying alive rather than dying. Common humanity oftentimes broke through the propaganda images perpetrated by both sides. Throughout the entire war, many combatants managed, through the so-called 'live-and-let-live' system, to reduce discomfort and risk by complicated local truces and tacit understandings that enraged the high commands on both sides. Nonetheless, the truces are a key moment in the history of the period that reopened the possibility of a Europe based on peace and solidarity rather than imperial violence and nationalism.

We argue that the impromptu Christmas worship services held in no-man's land offer a glimpse of the church as it is meant to be, a new nation of peacemakers uniting former enemies in love and friendship as they celebrate the birth of Jesus."

And we Unitarians today can witness for peace too. Many individuals and congregations are members of the Unitarian Peace Fellowship, founded in the darkest days of the First World War. Members of the UPF "witness for peace and against the futility of war. Today our vision includes the ethos and values of the Charter for Compassion. The surest route to peace is through the compassion of human beings for each other, and for all living things. We support and encourage Unitarians in their witness for Peace and Compassion, locally, nationally, and internationally."

In this year of the centenary of the "war to end all wars", various countries around the world are in a state of bitter conflict with each other, or with themselves. The recent tragic massacre in Peshawar is just the most recent example of this. The efforts of everyone who believes in the possibility of world peace are needed, now more than ever. So that the sacrifice that the men in the Great War made, should not be altogether wasted.

I wish you a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy and Peaceful New Year.

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