Episode 23. Blue Grace.
It was Grace.
It was pure, unadulterated grace.
Like the old-fashioned kind.
The Gift of the Magi kind of grace…when the young bride cuts her hair to sell — to buy a chain for her new husband’s pocket watch. But he has just sold his watch – to buy sterling combs for her long beautiful hair.
It’s the kind of grace in that story — the gift of the magi — but not quite. It is a story of our times.
Whatever your ideological leanings I hope you will take a moment to take in this story in — and to feel its power. It is a good one and I believe it shows us the path to get us through these times.
Also — this episode has a story — and another story — and you may need a scorecard to keep up. Thank you for your indulgence.
First I want to tell you about the Christmas truce of 1914.
During World War I — people expected that the incursion would end quickly. They did not expect that the war would still be going on in December of 1914 and many troops were feeling low. Now I take you to a No Man’s Land battlefield somewhere in Belgium.
Imagine a long foxhole of German soldiers. A short distance away — across a frozen field — a long foxhole of British soldiers. They have been shooting at each other — the field before them — in the no man’s land — is littered with their dead. As I said — Morale is very low.
And now it is Christmas Eve. Remember — there had not been a war like this before. And it is late. Midnight. From the German foxhole you can begin to hear the Christmas carol – Shtille Nacht — silent night. And unexpectedly, all of the sudden, a German soldier raises his arms — and stands up in the foxhole. Can you imagine his fellow troops? Hey, what are you doing? Get down or you will get us all killed. But he stood.
With his arms over his head, still singing shtille nacht, he climbs out of the fox hole and begins walking to the center of the field. Exposing himself to enemy fire.
And no British soldier shoots. They hold their breath.
The snow is falling.
The stars are falling.
The midnight is blue.
Just as suddenly a British soldier begins to sing Silent Night…in English. And raises his hands above his head — and steps out of the foxhole.
And he walks towards the German soldier singing the same song — his enemy.
They meet in the middle of the field, singing. They reach each other — lock eyes — and shake hands.
The snow settles on the dead which litter the field. After so much loss, they open their hearts.
Other soldiers from both sides pour out of the fox holes and into the field. They size each other up, they smile, they embrace.
There is a truce — a Christmas truce.
All through the night they talk (many of the German soldiers speak good English) — they share cigars, rum, sweets and stories. They speak of their families. They agree — to jointly — bury their dead.
They have stepped out of themselves to find a bit of grace in wartime.
This is such a gorgeous story — but there is another story.
This week I heard from a friend. She said that she had a friend from college who in recent years had developed widely diverse political views and this had affected their friendship — but they still held so much love for each other. Maybe ten years ago — in those times — in any other times this would not matter.
But these times are different — and maybe not in a good way.
Last week — my friend got a call from this college friend. My father died, she said…and I wanted to hear your voice — the college friend said. Despite their recent differences my friend was invited to come to the funeral — two hours’ away.
Please forgive me here — but the point of this story is that my friend was going to a funeral where the guidelines surrounding public health during this pandemic were very different than those to which she is accustomed.
My friend drove the two hours to the funeral and she protected herself to the best of her ability — knowing she has young children at home.
But she was following her heart — because her friend, the daughter of the deceased, had asked her to attend. But she was uncomfortable in that setting. sometimes it is not easy to do the right thing. And she was not sure she was doing the right thing.
At the funeral she sat at the back. There was at least one person who approached her in an unfriendly way — and made it clear to my friend that she was not welcome because she wore a face mask. Yet my friend stayed.
And then she drove home.
But here is the point. The world — our world, such as it is — is in an ideological war. We are set in our own foxholes. In the dark. In the snow, cherry red with the blood of the fallen.
My friend – by driving to and attending that funeral — stepped out of her foxhole with her arms in the air — singing — in her own way “silent night”. Holy night. All is Calm. All is bright.
Just like in that field — that blue night in 1914 — there were stars falling, snow falling —- there was fairy dust, everywhere, covering them with grace.
Covering all of us with grace.
I believe that Grace grows. A bit of grace grows into a field of faith and humility.
Faith that lifts us.
My friend asked me what i thought of what she did. In response I told her the story of the Christmas Truce of 1914. I cried as I told her about the German soldier stepping out of the foxhole, singing into the night. And the British soldier meeting him.
And she cried as well.
If more people stepped out of the their foxholes in faith and in grace, there would be more hope for the world we are in now.
consider that we are living in this time for a reason. This is, for each of us, an opportunity for grace. If I cut my hair to sell to buy you a chain — will you sell your watch for my hair combs. What is it that we can sacrifice — let go of — that we have valued in the past — to find grace?
Our need to be right? Our pride?
If we could step out of our foxholes, bury our dead together…
This would be the grace we need.
One person at a time, everywhere, in small ways.
I ask you — where in your life can you find grace?
In song. In faith. In beauty. In night. In stars. In snow.
All is calm, all is bright.
Glories stream from heavens afar.
Heavenly hosts sing alleluia.