Second Sunday of Advent

I sent my first tweet this week. Yes, I do embrace technology (!) – I just don’t want to drown in it. So after a few years of being a follower, I cautiously ventured into cyberspace with a message to the Humanities Department at Mildenhall College Academy. This Department embarked on a wonderful project with the Academy’s twin – Gymnasium Theodoranium, Paderborn, Germany – a few years ago whereby the history students looked at the history of World War 1 – particularly the 1914 Christmas truce – not from the standpoint of one against the other but from the perspective of the situation of the soldiers on both sides. One of the outcomes has been the design, planning, construction, and building of a large stone monument in Belgium near one of the possible sites for the Christmas Day football match. This weekend sees the students from both schools together for the official unveiling of the monument. I tweeted my admiration and congratulations to them.

The project is not without its critics. There is no historical unanimity on the Christmas truce and particularly the football match. I remember the history faculty being very excited – and a little shocked – when eminent British his-torians took to Facebook or Twitter (I don’t recall which social media but I do recall the teachers’ amazement) to challenge and even debunk the project or at least the history. It is easy to pick up fairytales – a nice sentiment – and turn it into ‘fact’. The task of history is to look at the evidence and decide which account best explains or interprets the evidence. I like what happened at the Academy in that the students were given, researched and waded through the evidence – from both sides – for this event. Their conclusion includes a monument – a testi-mony that 100 years later we’re still hoping that the peace of a few hours in no man’s land might become permanent on every land.

The peace – the lack of shooting in this case – the singing of ‘Silent Night’ and other carols – the getting up out of the trenches to meet and exchange chocolate and cigarettes, show photos of loved ones, and kick a football – has poignancy because the soldiers were in the middle of a war – and also because that night was the observance among Christians of the birth of the Prince of Peace. That birth is also not without its critics. There is no historical unanimity regarding this birth other than if Jesus existed, he must have been born. And yet the story about this birth continues to be told not as a fable, fairytale, or the prologue for an everyman morality play but as a procla-mation: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12 ESV)

The world has not been able to stop this message or other messages about Jesus. These mes-sages capture us and people find themselves believing them for their reveal that Jesus was born – and he died – and he is alive! Yes, the followers of Jesus trust him and his word and that is faith but any honest study of the historical evidence will not contradict that faith. The world cannot put Jesus back into the grave – the evidence goes the other way! And so Christians respond to what history and proclamation convince us of – that Jesus is our Saviour, Christ the Lord – and that message changes lives and can change the world.  — GS