Christmas In August

December 24, 2014
by Gary Reilly

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.

About the author:

Gary Reilly <majorgaryreilly@gmail.com>
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    What a great message for today! Thank you!!


    A touching story Gary. Have a Merry Christmas.


    Lovely – brought tears to me eyes. The true meaning of sharing God’s love. Thank you


    Dear Gary,
    I really enjoy your devotional “Christmas In August”.
    Thank you.


    What a wonderful experience that you shared in this devotional. Thank you for sharing.
    May you and your family have a wonderful Christmas in 2014 and a very Happy New Year.
    God’s blessing to you.


    What a lovely story and what a special way for me to start the day by reading it. Thank you Gary and thanks for the reminder of how it really is not difficult to share the story of Jesus. Those English folks understood.
    (Texas)


    Thank you for a real “Peace on Earth” lesson, Gary,
    Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. Such great love. And war is full of sin. Thanks for showing us one spot where people forgot to hate. We continue to spread the joy of the Savior’s coming and with prayer and knowledge of his Way.


    My eyes are filled with tears as I read this devotional. Thanks for sharing. We are asking a nurse to come spend some time here tomorrow as her leave to go home was rescinded yesterday. She was in tears all day.
    Her dad had just passed away recently so her mom is alone.
    Christmas can be such a hard time for many.


    Thank you for your wonderful true story. It reminded me of the Sainsbury’s advertisement now making the rounds in England and across the globe of how in Christmas 1914 German and British soldiers alike stopped shooting each other for awhile to spend Christmas in the trenches together worshipping God with carols, playing soccer and engaging in just plain good fellowship. That, too, is a true story. The sad part is that it was never allowed to be repeated in any of the next three Christmases of World War I.


    Hi Gary,
    What a wonderful story, I was a boy in Holland during the German occupation and two or three German soldiers would attend our Church on a regular basis and as a child at the time, I could not understand that the “Enemy” could be Christians, surely God was not with them. But obviously they were. I must say that the hatred/dislike of the occupiers was deep-rooted in the older people.
    It is so good to read and hear stories about the fact that we are all one in the Lord.
    Blessings.


    Hi Gary
    Thank you so much for your devotions today and it was with great interest that I read them this morning, as I have been to Oswaldtistle several times this summer listening to interesting stories about the German and Italian POW camp and the contact between the prisoners and Methodists at the end of the war. A lady who was a child at the time has kept in contact with her former POW until he died a couple of years ago.
    May God bless you richly this Christmas and throughout 2015.


    Hans’ story reminded me of how I spent the Christmas of 1956.
    my parents and I left Budapest during the Hungarian Revolution leaving everything behind that November.
    We travelled to England where, on Christmas Day, families from the military base where we stayed were paired up with English families so that we could have Christmas dinner in a home rather than in the army barracks.
    God Bless.


    This is a great story. Thank you.

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