Minister’s Letter December 2014/January 2015

Dear friends,

What a wonderful time of fellowship and reflection we had on the congregational outing to Ypres and surrounding memorials and graveyards. It was a very special day and I am grateful to the Kirk Session for the suggestion. Those of us who participated are grateful to those who made the arrangements.

Now that the season of Advent is upon us I am thinking about that first Christmas in the trenches on the Western front.   It is well documented by war historians that along the front peace between British and German soldiers broke out in a number of places on Christmas Day 1914. Christmas greetings were exchanged, food rations were shared, hymns were sung and even the odd game of football was played in no man’s land! It is ironic and bewildering that only days later the same men were trying to kill one another to win the war.

On the very first Christmas there were other men out in the cold dead of night. They weren’t soldiers in trenches, but shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem tending their flocks. They were exposed not to the deathly chorus of machine guns or mortar attacks, but to the sweet and glorious sound of heaven’s angels who filled their ears with a chorus of song that welcomed the Christ to earth and proclaimed the glory of God in all of his splendour. As John at the beginning of his gospel puts it ‘The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us‘ [John 1:12]. There was certainly something to celebrate in Bethlehem that night.

But back to the trenches and the Christmas truce. Why did sporadic peace occur among the ordinary soldiers that night? I have been reflecting about this a lot. Even in the worst of human situations, in the midst of war’s brutality and horror- the true humanity of these soldiers on the western front was not extinguished. These sworn enemies, who would be back to the business of trying to kill another when the truce elapsed shared something together; their common humanity. These men, who were enduring the most appalling conditions, had been made in the image of God. On each side of the conflict, they had left behind families and communities where they were loved and known and they came to fight for ‘ a cause’ in which they believed. Whatever side they were fighting for and whatever tribe they came from or language they spoke – they were all the same under the skin. They were all beloved by God and in need of his redeeming power and saving grace (like any of us). It seems to me, that for a short while at least, the God-given goodness of those soldiers shone through.

So what of us in Brussels at the end of 2014 and into 2015 fellow believers in our memorial Church? 2015 marks the 90th anniversary of our Church building- there are plans afoot for some special services and special events to mark the occasion and more importantly give thanks to God for his goodness. What do we want you do? Get involved, see where you can help and be part of the celebration.

Wishing you God’s peace over Advent and Christmas and every blessing for the New Year,

Your minister and friend,