I recently mentioned Jesus was dropped into a world at war.
But there’s something I left out in that post, and I left it out deliberately.
I don’t know the original artist, but the song “From a Distance” I find beautiful. I know Cliff Richard’s version. The phrase that sticks is “from a distance you look like my friend even though we are at war”
When I visited the War museums in the Somme and Ypres as a young teenager and I saw the graves of boys the same age I was, just 13 and 14 years old, who had been killed in the battles. It was a sobering experience.
In with the photos was a section around Christmas 1914.
The men came out of the trenches – against orders – and walked into no man’s land between the trenches. Armed only with cigarettes, family photos and a soccer ball they spent the day talking, swapping stories and playing together in an unofficial ceasefire.
At the end of the day they swapped cigarettes, helmets, addresses and memories and returned to their trenches. The following day they began killing one another again.
For one day they turned their backs on the petty politics of the aristocracy that had caused the conflict and resumed their lives as men. Before the orders were resumed, humanity reigned for just one day.
In his time on Robben Island, Nelson Mandela grew a few plants to give himself a measure of control and remind himself that nothing stays the same. Viktor Frankl made choices internally whilst in a Nazi concentration camp that gave him a truer freedom than the guards who held them.
Jesus held to His vision, us, and endured the Cross. The Cross is the point of the Battles for Christmas. It’s message through the ages prompting extraordinary actions by the ones courageous enough to follow through. He will guide us in our walk, but we may need to break man’s rules to do so. Sometimes it will mean taking a soccer ball into a war zone and remembering your opposing combatants are men, just like we are. Sometimes it will mean nurturing a single flower in an otherwise barren and hostile environment. Sometimes it will mean reaching far beyond these subtlties and, like Jesus, being prepared to lay down our very lives in His Name.
So our warfare is not only at Christmas, but this time of year we get a chance to remind ourselves what it’s really about.
It’s not a tree. Or turkey. Or mistletoe.
It’s about remembering.
That’s our biggest battle.
We need to remember the “Why” of the manger. We must remember the message of the Angels.
And most of all, we must remember we did nothing that made us worthy of saving.
It was all His idea.
And THAT is the biggest battle in our minds.