DAILY CATHOLIC   CHRISTMAS-NEW YEAR'S ISSUE   December 24, 1999 - January 2, 2000   vol. 10, no. 245


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        I was told that this is a true story, but I can't verify if it actually occurred

          On a French battle field in World War I, German and Allied soldiers huddled behind their trenches hoping to survive just one more day. It was the night of December 24th, and the sounds and smell of death were all around them.

          In their cold wet trench, they heard the rattling of machine gun fire as chunks of dirt flew before them. The sharp report of rifle shots, the deafening explosions of artillery shells.

          They were wet cold and covered in filth, much of it, their own. Their feet were numb from cold, and bloated from the cold water flowing in the trench. Wanting to move, to stand up and find a warmer, drier place, they held themselves fast for fear that even moving would bring death.

          The world was going mad, and death reigned.

          Then, softly, almost unnoticed, a single voice was barely heard:

          Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht!

          Soon, more voices joined it, slowly matching, then overcoming the din of battle.

          Alles schlaft, einsam wacht.

          Suddenly, their voices were joined by another:

          Round yon virgin mother and child! Holy Infant, so tender and mild.

          A crescendo of song overcame the noises of war, until the battle slowly ended and only the song remained. Sleep in Heavenly peace, sleep in Heavenly peace.

          From the German lines a voice cries out:

          Froliche Weihnachten!

          Answered by: Merry Christmas

          Then a soldier, beyond all reason, raises his head above the trench, and leaving it, walks, unarmed toward the others lines. A soldier from there soon does the same. In the middle of no man's land, they embrace. Soon, they're joined by others. Bread, coffee, tea and chocolate are exchanged. Pictures of families are shown, children are shown and missed. Without speaking the same language, they communicate their hope, their dreams. Brothers in arms form different nations embrace and console each other. As the sun rises over the horizon, they return to their trenches. Soon the battle will begin again, soon, the death will begin again.

          But they have received a gift greater than any they ever received or will ever receive. The gift of hope.


    On Dec. 24th, we'll be dazzled and distracted by the lights and ornaments on the Christmas tree. Cards for family and friends may be lined up on a bookshelf, and colorful ornaments hang from the wall. Gifts, wrapped in colorful paper and tied on bows draw attention to themselves and curiosity will gnaw at those trying to figure out what's in them.

        But off in a corner somewhere, there is something plain. It isn't colorful, in fact, it looks sort of run down and plain. But every once and awhile, this draws ones attention. Maybe it was put there haphazardly, as an unthinking reaction. Maybe it was placed there out of love and devotion. But however it got there, it slowly touches us, drawing us to it. Though hardly the most extravagant thing in the house, it can't be passed with a thought being given to it.

        The Christmas creche, the nativity scene, begun by St. Francis of Assisi to remind people of the true meaning of Christmas, slowly, silently, draws us back to the true meaning of Christmas. And when we come out of the 'trench' of life we have set ourselves in, and contemplate the birth of a small, vulnerable child 2,000 years ago, we are filled with a great gift. Hope!

        On December 25th, we'll be back in the trenches. The kids will be up early making a bee line to the tree and the gifts, families will be cooking and cleaning getting ready for their guests. But as we attend Mass, we can look and meditate on the creche, and find hope in a world gone mad.

        Merry Christmas. May the Peace that only Christ can give, be with you and yours. Now and forever.

    Pax Christi,

Pat Ludwa

December 24, 1999 - January 2, 2000      volume 10, no. 245
Christmas Message


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