Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "Silent Night Holy Night"1 (Lyrics)
Luke 2:14 – Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests. (NIV)
I was manning a booth at the Western Fair in London, Ontario, Canada, one August, when a man I'll call Hans appeared from out of the crowd and very quickly engaged me in his story. During the Second World War, Hans, at barely seventeen, had been conscripted into the German Army. In his first engagement, he was mercifully captured without firing a shot. After a short stay in France, he and other teen soldiers were moved to England, to a prisoner of war camp not far from a small English town, Oswaldtwistle in Lancashire.
There, to pass the time, a favourite activity was playing football (soccer). Thinking to lay a thrashing on the young Germans, the guards challenged them to a match, which ended in a lopsided victory for the Wehrmacht. Soccer provided Hans with another unique opportunity. One of the guards arranged for Hans, a talented footballer, to join the local English squad. All he had to do was make sure that he never spoke to the opposition, or cried out for the ball, either of which would reveal that he wasn't a proper Englishman.
After the end of the war, the guards, wanting to spend Christmas 1946 with their families, left the unrepatriated German lads on their own, and made them promise not to attempt to escape. Left alone, the young men, feeling lonely and somewhat homesick, decided to attend a Christmas Eve service. Walking into town, they nervously entered a Methodist chapel and slipped as quietly as possible into the back pews. Their entry, however, did not escape the notice of the elderly pastor, Mr. Howe.
The service continued without incident until the pastor announced, "We have some guests with us this evening." All eyes turned to the young men, who thought that they were about to be tossed out, but instead, something remarkable happened. Mr. Howe asked them if they would stand and sing Stille Nacht in their native tongue. With a little apprehension the reluctant German choir began, only to be joined by the parishioners. I'm sure all of heaven paused that night as German and English voices mingled together, and there, for a short while, in a small English church in the dark shadow of World War II, the words of the angels rang true: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." After the service not one young man failed to receive an invitation to spend Christmas in an adoptive home. It was a Christmas that Hans said he will never forget, and for me, it was how I enjoyed Christmas in August.
While you may not have the opportunity to share Christmas with a young Hans, there are likely those whom God has led to you. What could be more in the spirit of Christmas than to open your home to share the gift of hospitality?
Prayer: Lord, as we celebrate Christmas this year, may we do so remembering that You came to offer peace on earth. May we, as far as we are able, seek to be peacemakers always. Amen.