I have to admit I’ve struggled a bit to get into the spirit of this holiday season, but I got a text from my son that helped point me in the right direction.  In our group family text, my oldest son Carter, shared a Garth Brooks song called “Belleau Wood” that I had heard before but forgotten.  It is also a song that gained attention this week as it was performed during a concert that Garth Brooks and his wife Trisha Yearwood put together for CBS.  Here is a video clip from ET Canada about the song and his performance.

While the song is a fictionalized account of the Christmas Truce of 1914, I find it powerful in many ways.  Two links below are included which provide the History Channel’s examination of the first Christmas during “The Great War” and a piece from Wisconsin Public Radio that includes the song in it’s entirety and other renditions of music inspired by the events.  (I am a history teacher, so I have to put in the context, right?)

https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-i/christmas-truce-of-1914

https://www.wpr.org/world-war-i-christmas-truce-1914-serves-witness-peace

I find this historical event and these artistic interpretations so moving partly due to envisioning adversaries crawling out of their entrenched positions, not to reconnoiter, to fire a shot, to bury mines or inflict damage on an enemy, but to cross the “no man’s land” that spread out between the trenches and find humanity in others.  This year has seemed to be an assault on norms, health, decency, kindness, compassion, economics and so much more.  This song also serves as a reminder with a message of hope and a mission of seeking others, finding what is common between them and setting aside differences, even if temporarily, to share the hope of the Christmas message and season.  These words from the song chastise me for a lack of courage but also call me to action…

But I stood up in my trench
And I began to sing along
Then across the frozen battlefield
Another’s voice joined in
Until one by one each man became
A singer of the hymn

This is a time for hope but also a time for courage.  I have a responsibility to leave what I perceive as the safety of my trench (though trenches were not safe at all as targets of shelling, rodent and disease infested holding pens), to stand up and to sing a song of humanity in search of others who would join.  The song concludes with…

Heaven’s not beyond the clouds
It’s just beyond the fear
No, heaven’s not beyond the clouds
It’s for us to find it here

I know many words have become prominent in 2020 – pandemic, “new normal”, pivot, asymptomatic and many others, but I have witnessed the growth of fear both as a word and as a reality in lives.  I have at times been fearful for the safety and wellness of my own family as well as the students and staff I serve.  I’ve had concerns from the coronavirus itself but also the mental health effects that besiege us.  Like the song writers, I do believe in the power of hope and the power of heaven, and in the power of the Christmas message.  We have the ability to choose intentionality even as this strange year that has seen so much pain and suffering draws to a close. In this very moment and the moments to come, we can crawl out of our trenches.  We can sing a song of hope.  We can find strength as others join in.  And we can move beyond fear to the hope for a new day as our efforts truly make a difference.  The Christmas message found in Luke’s Gospel may be an old message, “Do not be afraid! For behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people…” but it is a timely one as well…”And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”  I do believe that peace is just beyond the fear.  May you find hope in this Christmas season and blessings in 2021.

(Featured image is the 1914 Christmas Truce Monument, Mesen, Belgium Photo Credit: Historic War Tours at https://www.vcchc.com/the-christmas-truce-of-1914/)

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