War Christmas

December 24, 2012
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Listen while you read: "Silent Night Holy Night"1 (Lyrics)

Luke 2:11 – To you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. (NRSV)

Why is it that we rarely appreciate what we have, until it is taken from us by financial circumstances, natural disasters, or war?

It was on November 30, 1939, my tenth birthday, that Russia attacked eastern Finland. We said goodbye to my father, who was called to the front lines, and we were evacuated from our homes to seek shelter away from the war zone. We found the first roof over our heads in a farm cabin. There were eleven of us, and room was made on the cabin floor for us to lie down for the night. In a few days, some left for another place, but some of us stayed with the family of five over Christmas until March, when the Winter War was over. During that time, I became a candidate to take in God's Word.

In Finland, Christmas Eve is the big day, but the church was 10 kilometres away, and we had no warm clothes to wear in the minus 40 degrees Celsius weather. In many respects, it was a day like all the others. Everyone did their daily chores and the feeding of the animals. Enemy planes flew low overhead and the sounds of war were heard clearly in the far distance. Every cannon fired seemed to echo the sound of death all around, yet I felt as if we were covered with a divine shield that bounced the fear and noise away. I did not understand what it all meant, but it had a lasting effect in developing my faith in God. I knew God saw everything. It was as if we were enveloped in the inner peace of the Prince of Peace.

I remember the farm woman singing hymns, and I would hum with her until she handed me a hymnal and asked me to sing Martin Luther's A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. I sat on the window bench of the cabin singing, with everyone listening. That hymn was instilled in my heart that war Christmas, and I have sung it hundreds of times since in church services.

    A mighty fortress is our God,
    A sword and shield victorious.
    He breaks the cruel oppressor's rod
    And wins salvation glorious.
    The old satanic foe
    Has sworn to work us woe!
    With craft and dreadful might
    He arms himself to fight.
    On earth he has no equal.

    No strength of ours can match his might!
    We would be lost, rejected.
    But now a champion comes to fight,
    Whom God himself elected.
    You ask who this may be?
    The Lord of hosts is he!
    Christ Jesus, mighty Lord,
    God's only Son, adored,
    He holds the field victorious.

But of course, on Christmas Eve, we had our traditional cleansing smoke sauna before the simple supper, after which we sat around as one big family. The sometimes static-y radio on a shelf on the wall was our well of information. That evening, the church broadcast a special service. Everyone had to be quiet from six until seven p.m. so that the war news and the encouraging message from the president of the nation could be heard. I was wondering if my dad was among the casualties that were reported, as if his name would be especially mentioned.

After that, a single candle was lit on the large wooden table. In thought, we were at the manger as the father read the Christmas story from Luke's gospel. A Saviour was born. A Son was given. Then he led in a deep bass voice, "Silent night, holy night". It was a Christmas with no earthly treasures but of heavenly riches that have lasted a lifetime.

It has occurred to me that Paul writes a lot about Christians being in all sorts of trouble, yet persevering through it all and building on hope in Christ Jesus, who has said, "I will be with you always." And so, our life in Christ gets built from ruins and loss of any kind even today. Jesus Christ with us is the solid answer.

Prayer: Our heavenly Father, You gave us Your Son, who would give His life as a sacrifice for the sin-wrecked world — for our sin. Enable us to receive Jesus and conform our lives to His life. May this Christmas be the changing of hearts and minds to the glory of God the Father. In Jesus name, we pray. Amen.

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About the author:

Kirsti Sipila <kirstiksipila@hotmail.com>
Brantford, Ontario, Canada

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1 Comment

  • Devotional Feedback says:

    What a beautiful story Kirsti. Thanks so much for sharing and Merry Christmas.

    Thank you for your devotional. It is so good to read such stories of wonder on this Christmas Eve.
    God bless.

    What a beautiful and inspiring message Kirsti.
    May your Christmas be filled with Joy in your faith and Peace in your Heart.

    Kirsti, This is an awesome story and thank you for sharing it with us. May God continue to bless you and may You have a Very Merry Christmas.

    A beautiful Christmas devotional! When I was ministering out west I heard a very similar story from a Dutch lady in my congregation. It’s hard for some of us younger ones (68) to even imagine!

    What a wonderful story, as it brings to us who were children at the time, or born during or after the war, and were in Canada, a sense of what it was like for those in Europe.
    Thank you for sharing your story and your faith.

    Dear Kirsti,
    I really enjoy your testimony “War Christmas”.
    Thank you.

    Thank you so very much for today’s devotional. It was more inspiring than I could ever imagine.
    May you have a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year.
    Please write more devotionals.
    (Oklahoma USA)

    Dear Kirsti: Thank you for sharing such a beautiful and touching devotional with us today. I particularly was touch by your words; “Our life in Christ gets built from ruins and loss of any kind even today”. So many people have so much sadness in their lives and yet they let the light of God shine through. God Bless you at the very Holy time of the year.

    Kirsti, thank you for sharing your childhood memories with us, thus reminding us of the many blessings we have this day to be living in a nation where peace, joy, love, and yes, hope still predominate. We are truly blessed by our Lord. Blessings and a joyous Christmas season to you and those with whom you will share it. Blessings.

    Oh, Kirsti, I cannot begin to imagine what you went through at such a young age. To not know about whether you Dad was even alive on Christmas Eve – tears are in my eyes right now, just thinking about it. And yet Christ’s Light shines even in the darkness of war.
    Your words “During that time, I became a candidate to take in God’s word” are the proof
    that God uses evil to bring about good to His people.
    Thank you Kirsti, thank you from my heart, for sharing your story. I wish we could meet, to sit & talk, maybe share a cup of coffee or tea. But that will probably be heaven, and then I want to meet you. May God bless.

    Good Morning my dear Kirsti:
    What a beautiful message on Christmas Eve Morning. I was a toddler in 1939 and also watched daddy leave home and go to war one bright and sunny but sad morning. I was a confused little girl as I watched daddies mother, the neighbors and my dear mamma hug daddy and say good-bye with tears in their eyes. I wondered what all the sadness was about. I still remember my dear little mother, picking me up, carrying me and taking my grandmothers by the hand as they walked back towards the house, both loving each other and crying when they said good-bye to Daddy, who, like many of our young neighbors was proud to serve his country and praise God he returned home to us safely after the war was over.
    However, we, children living in Canada, were blessed with the fact that we did not have to leave our homes or our loved ones to survive many of the experiences you endured in your dear little lifetime. Corrie Tenboon’s life is also a great example of hurt and disarray, but her will to live and her love for her Lord also reveals how God gives one the endurance to survive when Satan is working overtime to destroy the strength we find in the fortress our lord provides for us, our strength alone could never carry us through.
    I loved this message, thank you for making us aware of the fact that War is indeed devastating and we must never forget, Satan is at War with our Lord and His will for us all the time. Let us always be clad with the full Armour of God.
    Have a blessed New Year.

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