Something amazing happened on Christmas Eve in 1914. It was, of course, the early days of World War I. On the western front, Allied and German forces were dug in, each in their own muddy trenches. On Christmas Eve, some of the German troops decided to decorate their trenches with candles and Christmas trees. Then, floating on the frosty air came the voices of soldiers singing Christmas carols. Before long, their Allied counterparts answered with carols of their own, and so began an amazing moment. Reports say that soldiers actually left their trenches to walk into No-Man's Land and exchange gifts with the enemy. You can see some of this scene depicted in the 2005 film Joyeaux Noel (you'll find it on YouTube).
If you're like me, this story tugs at your heart. Don't we long for a world where enemies are reconciled, where wrongs are made right? I've been thinking about this moment in history as the Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale prepares for our upcoming Christmas concerts. Isn't this part of the reason that we find words like these so meaningful?
Hark! The herald angels sing "Glory to the newborn King!"
Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.
(Hark! The Herald Angels Sing)
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love.
(Joy to the World)
Peace will pervade more than forest and field:
God will transfigure the violence concealed
Deep in the heart and in systems of gain,
Ripe for the judgment the Lord will ordain.
(The Dream Isaiah Saw)
The Christmas truce of 1914, as amazing as it was, turned out to be temporary. Sadly, the soldiers soon went back to their hostilities. We long for a more permanent armistice, a true pax Dei. And this is exactly what the angels sang about in the sky over Bethlehem: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests. Christmas is God's annoucement of a truce between heaven and earth—between God and man—for all who will receive it as a gift.
I consider it a privilege to meet with more than 60 other people on Tuesday nights and sing words like the ones above (all of which, by the way, will be sung in our concerts). We need the hope they bring! I hope you will make plans to be with us when we sing them—and many others—in our Wintersong 2016 concerts. See details on this website, and make plans now to join us. I think you'll be glad!
Music Director, Glen Ellyn-Wheaton Chorale