The Remarkable Power of Christmas
t. Gitz Rice belonged to a famous Canadian regiment that was sent to France in World War I. His regiment fought across the bleak no-man's-land under fierce fire from the enemy. One unusual instrument Rice's company took with them was a piano on which rice composed the famous war-time song, "Mademoiselle from Armentieres."
On Christmas Eve the piano was brought to the front-line trenches. That night, an eerie quiet settled over no-man's-land that felt like a lull before deadly attacks at daylight. Enemy troops were so close they could be heard talking.
Shortly before midnight, Rice began playing Christmas carols in a British trench. The melody, "Silent Night, Holy Night," rang out and pierced the cold, frightening night. Then he played "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing."
The Canadian soldiers joined in and sang with great gusto. Suddenly they were startled to hear the German soldiers joining them in song: "Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht." Then followed other carols familiar to Christians everywhere.
Rice then played a German aria from Wagner's "Tannhaeuser." As he did a Canadian soldier climbed out of his trench, stood in the open and sang the words.
"Mehr! Mehr!" (More! More!) shouted the Germans. Then one of their own men climbed out of his trench, standing as a possible target for the British rifles, and blended his rich baritone voice with that of the Canadian.
At least for one night the message of Christmas broke through to those battle-weary soldiers as they laid their guns aside and sang together the story about the greatest event the world had ever seen—the story of God coming to earth as a baby to save lost mankind and, ultimately, to end all wars forever.
'Mehr! Mehr!' (More! More!)
shouted the Germans.
The Christmas story is truly amazing. Its celebration every year for the last 2,000 years is a constant reminder of its central place in mankind's history. Even our calendar is dated according to the birth of Christ.
It is such an amazing story, as Harry Reasoner, well-know television commentator shared on 60 Minutes, that "it leaves you only three ways of accepting it."
"One is cynically—as a time to make money or endorse the making of it.
“Another is graciously—the appropriate attitude for non-Christians who wish their fellow citizens all the joys to which their beliefs entitle them.
"The third is reverently. If this is the anniversary of the appearance of the Lord of the universe in the form of a helpless babe, it is a very important day. It's a startling idea of course. My guess is that the whole story—that a virgin was selected by God to bear his Son as a way of showing his love and concern for man—in spite of all the lip service given to it, is not an idea that has been popular with theologians.
"It's a somewhat illogical idea, and theologians like logic almost as much as they like God. It's so revolutionary a thought that it probably could only come from a God that is beyond logic and beyond theology.
"It has a magnificent appeal. Almost nobody has seen God, and almost nobody has any real idea of what he is like. The truth is that among men the idea of seeing God suddenly and standing in a very bright light is not necessarily a completely comforting and appealing idea. But everyone has seen babies and most people like them. If God wanted to be loved as well as feared, he moved correctly. If he wanted to know his people as well as rule them, he moved correctly, for a baby growing up learns all about people. And if God wanted to be intimately a part of man he moved correctly here, too, for the experience of birth and family-hood is our most intimate and precious experience.
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