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"Sleep in Heavenly Peace"

Intergenerational Worship Service

Rev. Greg Ward

Unitarian Universalist Metro Atlanta North

December 22nd, 2002

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Characters:

Gerald Mason – (English) 17th Infantry Division at Flanders
Cameron Shearston – (English) 24th Battery, Royal Field Artillery
Gerald’s mother – Brighton
Franz Shulman (German) – 133 Royal Saxon Regiment at Flanders
Johannes Shulman (German) – Franz’ friend
Franz’ mother – Frankfurt
Henrich Kurtz (German) – Commander Saxon Regiment
Commander Stryker (Kurtz’ replacement) (German)
Charles Lewis (CL) Stockwell – Commander Royal Welsh
Roscoe, Angel of Mercy, Second Class

 

MUSICAL PRELUDE

CALL TO WORSHIP – "We Shall Overcome" (1st verse)

STORY PART I – The Early Letters

Letter from Gerald’s mother

Dearest Gerald,

Everyone here was excited to hear that you graduated from your training. We baked a cake and wrote ‘Congratulations’ on the top. Stevie has been marching around in his uniform pretending to be you. We’re so proud of you here. There was a parade here last week to cheer on the new boys who enlisted. Ashton Creswell and David Lancer from town were called and enlisted. There was a lot said in the speeches about how mean and savage the Germans are. And how important it is to show them that the British are made of much stronger mettle and noble. Still, everyone keeps saying over and over that this will all be done and you will be home for Christmas. I know I am not supposed to, but there are moments when I worry about you. I know you are all grown up, but you are still my first born. And it will be awfully sad if you’re not home for your birthday. Promise that you’ll be good and do what your commanders tell you. I pray for you every minute.

All my love,

Mother

Letter from Gerald

Dearest Mother,

We’re stationed outside of Dover for the moment but word is that we’ll be going over to France or Belgium soon. So far it hasn’t been too bad. Most of the guys are okay. Some are a little odd. But when we began bunking down with the other regiments, I met a good bloke by the name of Cameron. He’s from Manchester. But he’s told me about many of the places he’s been in India and Europe. His parents died when he was young and he sort of took odd jobs where he could. Sometimes just to travel. That’s sort of ‘how he ended up in this unruly place’, he says. Commander Stockwell hasn’t calmed down since we got here. He’s always trying to keep the lads fired up. Promising us all Christmas back home. I’ll write more when I get to our next post.

Your loving son,

Gerald

Letter from Cameron (to Gerald’s mother)

Dear Mrs. Mason,

I know it may seem a bit queer but Gerald mentioned I might put a post in to you. All the other boys seem to get a bit of good cheer sending off letters. Gerald said he put a bit about me in his note to you and, since I don’t drink like most of the other blokes I thought this might be a better way to pass the time. I’m not a very good writer. I can never think of much to say. But Gerald, your son, has been a good egg. I thought you ought to know. He’s a right man, your son is. Always talking about you and the life back in New Hampshire. You don’t have to write. But if you want to I promise to write back.

Gerald’s friend,

Cameron

 

Letter from Franz

Dear Mother,

Thank you for the cakes and the extra set of woolies. Right now it is warm enough but it will turn cold soon enough. Tell Papa I said thanks for the cigars. Like he promised, they have made me very popular with the guys in my regiment. Don’t worry, I am not giving any to Johannes. He is fine, by the way. No one would guess he is my ‘little’ brother since he’s grown even more since he left and he eats like a horse. He is also a little too eager about this fighting business. He has not stopped boasting about what he’s going to do when he meets the enemy. The commander likes him well enough. I’ll watch out for him. Besides, the way they talk about it we may not even see any action. We have just moved into Belgium and they are saying that we will take France by the end of the month. Most of the time they tell us that the whole thing will be over by Christmas. It will be good to get home. The food is much better. Give my love to Papa and Grandma.

Always,

Franz

PS. The other letter is for Clair. Maybe you could somehow find a way to get it to her. I have heard that her parents have refused to let her see the notes I sent to the house.

Letter from Franz and Johannes’ mother

Dear son,

It has been beautiful all over Frankfurt this past week. Your father and most of the town is getting ready for the German festival. They way they have been talking the surrender will come soon and we can have a real celebration. You would love it now. It is very warm and green and football is everywhere. The baby is walking now. He is talking up a storm and your father has almost taught him how to salute. I saw Clair Strobel in the market yesterday. She was very curious about what news I might have about you and Johannes. I said you were fine. You will have to tell me about her when you get home. Stay close to Johannes. Remember how proud we are of you both.

Mama.

Letter from the Angel

Dear God,

This is the worst assignment yet! Angel of Mercy?!? What’s that all about? Where’s the mercy in this? Playing Jimi Hendrix on the harp certainly doesn’t mean I deserve this job! And you put me out in the middle of this field. Somewhere on the border of Belgium for crying out loud. But there’s no one here. What’s up with this? What am I supposed to do now?

Sincerely,

Roscoe, Angel of Mercy, Second Class.

CHALICE LIGHTING - We light this chalice for a brighter path. A path of peace woven through battlegrounds of war; a path of hope within trenches of despair; a path of love inside mine fields of hate.

WELCOME AND ANNOUNCEMENTS

Service Leader:

Good Morning, My name is Karen LoBracco and I am the Director of Religious Education here. Along with Greg Ward, our minister and a cast of thousands, we welcome you to the Unitarian Universalist Metro Atlanta North Congregation – a place we call UUMAN. For this morning’s service we present a piece of historical fiction. The characters who appear in this dramatization are not real characters. But the events and circumstances they describe come from actual letters from people who served at the Western Front in the first year of World War I. This is the story of the Christmas Eve Truce. We would like to remind parents that this is a story about war, and although it is not graphic, it might be emotional. If, at any time, there is anyone who would be more comfortable spending time in the nursery or a classroom, we invite you to make that choice…

…Now I invite you to stand as you are able and sing with us, our opening hymn, # 95, "There is More Love Somewhere."

HYMN – #95 "There is More Love, Somewhere"

HAND OF FRIENDSHIP

Service Leader:

Please now, in this time of great uncertainty in our nation’s future, with thoughts of war so close, take this time to greet those who are near to you with a greeting of peace.

MUSIC ("We shall all be free")

STORY PART II – Letters from the Front – Early December

Letter from Gerald’s mother (to Cameron)

Dear Cameron,

Thank you for your last two letters. I hope you got the mittens and the chocolate we sent. I feel so much better knowing Gerald has a friend like you to look out for him. You are right. He has always been a ‘right man,’ as you put it. Brave, even as a little boy and always willing to do the right thing by others. Which is why I worry. We have now been getting a lot of reports saying different things. Some say the fighting is worse than anyone could imagine. But some of the papers and the people from the recruiting offices and the mayors office are saying that the troops are close to victory. I know Gerald wouldn’t tell me if it got really bad. But I hope you would trust me with the truth. It’s pretty clear that no one is coming home for Christmas. Stevie is still playing soldier and bragging to his friends about his older brother. But I’m beginning to get a bad feeling about this. I hope you will take good care of yourself. And please keep an eye on my son. I know you will do your best. You are a brave young man, Cameron. I hope you will consider our offer of coming to stay with us after the war is over.

Godspeed,

Mrs. Mason

Letter from Gerald (to father)

Dear Dad,

I am writing to you because I can’t quite bring myself to tell mom about what I see here. I have enclosed another letter for her which I hope you will pass on. It’s a lot different than the one I write to you now. I wouldn’t be telling you this at all except that you always taught me to tell the truth. The truth is that this is nothing like what anyone here expected. When we met the Germans here close to the border of Belgium and France we managed to stop their advances. Since then we have dug in and have been fighting only two hundred yards apart over this same patch of dirt for nearly two and a half months. In this time I have seen thousands of men killed to make an advance of only five or ten yards. And then, a week later, those yards are lost back for another thousand lives. Meanwhile the rain and cold has set in. Most everyone here considers the weather an even greater enemy then the Germans. For every man in my division that is wounded by fire, there are ten more who are taken to the field hospital because of frostbite or gangrene or trench-foot. Sometimes the enemy stops shooting but the rains never seem to stop. There is usually water in the trenches up to our waste and half of the men are needed just to keep bailing water. So far I am cold but unhurt. Please don’t tell anyone, but I have only fired my rifle once. No matter how hard I have tried, I can’t seem to bring myself to fire it. I have volunteered as a runner, which is the person who goes to the field station with information and then returns to the lines with new supplies. It is an important, but not very glamorous job – running through the mud five hundred yards each way – but it gets me out of the water of the trenches and gives me fewer nightmares. I want you to know I am well and I am thinking of you and the dream of returning home is what keeps me going – that and what friends I have made here. I understand that it is important that such a stand as ours is taken – a stand for freedom - but I have come to hate this place. And I still hate Germans – maybe even more now then when I came – they are the reason we are all here. But what is odd is that I am beginning to believe that the Germans on the other side are hating us for the same reason. I find it hard to believe that they hate this whole situation any less than we do. I don’t know. But it is nearly two weeks to Christmas and there is no end in sight. I fear that we have been given false hope about our early return. In fact, I can’t see that we’ve made much progress since we arrived. But I continue to do my best. And I continue to think of all of you and mother and Stevie. Please give mother my other letter and don’t let her read this one. And give Stevie a big hug from his older brother.

Your loving son,

Gerald

Letter from Johannes

Dear Mother

As I write this letter now it is from a small lantern behind the lines in our sleeping tent. It has been raining now for several days and it was all I could do to keep this paper dry. I kept it out of the rain by putting it in the tin that held the cigars that Papa gave Franz – don’t worry, I didn’t smoke any – yet. The fighting has not changed at all since I last wrote to you. In fact, except for it raining harder and getting colder, not much has changed at all. We are still on the same piece of land that we were on two months ago. The commandant still tells us that we have the superior army and have better supplies but we cannot seem to advance. And all the while we are living in this mud. Everyone here still fights hard but I can see that there are many who are becoming tired and homesick. Franz has gone back to the station because his feet had swollen too big for his boots. He should be back soon. It seems different on the line when he is not there. He is good at keeping us in good spirits. Telling jokes and remembering old songs. I will be glad when he returns. I will not tell you about the fighting. Only that it now makes me more sick to my stomach than I would have imagined when I left home. But I am still proud to serve the homeland. Please send new socks and more cigars – they’re not for me, I promise.

Love,

Johannes

Letter from Commander Kurtz

Colonel Schlager, Field Commandor Saxon Regiments

The casualties in the first 100 days of the offensive are extremely high. Weather is increasing this number. We had not planned on being stationary in this area past October. The freezing water is taking a greater toll than the gun fire and grenades. The men have not lost their will but many of their spirits are sinking. What has helped the most seem to be the letters and packages from home. And the newspapers reporting victories in other areas. It is recommended that we bring supplies to reinforce the courage of the men. Beer and cigars seem to fortify their courage. Some men are asking for Christmas trees. We will need some of these reinforcements if we are to maintain the discipline required to fight and outlast the enemy.

Please send as soon as possible,

Major Kurtz

Letter from Captain L.C. Stockwell

Captain Sir Edward Hulse, 2nd Scots Guards

Sir,

The offensive waged on the 19th, designed to boost moral in time for Christmas was far from successful. The high numbers of casualties has had a tremendously sobering effect. I speculate that this has created a notable difference in our ability to return fire. I further fear that the enemy has detected this and may possibly launch an offensive of there own. Word has come down, which may be rumor, of a possible attack to come during Christmas or New Years. We have been ordered by General Headquarters to maintain a special vigilance during these periods.

L.C. Stockwell, Battalion Field Commander, Welsh Fusiliers

Letter from the Angel

Dear God,

I have never before seen the level of human suffering as I have in this one stretch of men which reach over 466 miles in length and 20 miles in width in some places. In most areas, heavy fire is a regularity and casualties are everywhere and tremendous suffering abounds. I have never in my time as an angel been amidst so much suffering or felt so useless. I have made the unbearable discovery that when people act with this much hatred and experience this much hopelessness, I cease to exist. Why have you sent me here? I am at a loss for what I am to do. I fear that should I stay, there will not be enough goodwill or care to sustain me in the imaginations of these men. I fear that even I shall perish in this fighting. I pray with all my might, that these men will not lose sight of hope – and in so doing, lose sight of me.

In faith,

Roscoe, Angel of Mercy, Second Class

HYMN – # 241 "In the Bleak Midwinter"

JOYS AND CONCERNS

Service Leader:

Now is the time in our service where the love that binds us together is spoken aloud. If you have a joy or concern that, by bringing to the attention of this community, might bring a measure of healing or a moment of happiness, we invite you to come forward (or speak from your seat), tell us your name and the joy or concern that you would have us hold in our heart for the week to come.

PRAYER OF INTERCESSION

MUSIC (we shall live in peace)

STORY PART III – Letters from the Front - Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

Letter from Gerald

Dear Mother,

Wait till you hear this. As I wrote before, there has been little serious fighting in the last few days. The first battles of the war took such a toll on both sides the fire from each side has lessened until replacements come. So we have mostly stayed in our trenches and waited. But it has been a most anxious waiting. Between the fear of fire and the amount of water and cold in the trenches and the mud caking on hard of the soldiers bodies and spirits, the attitude of the men has turned to sadness and feelings of being homesick.

It has caused many of us to begin wondering about the German soldiers across the way. After all, they faced the same dangers, slogged about in the same muck. And since their first trench is only 50 yards from ours we can sometimes hear their voices late at night. We must figure they are as miserable and demoralized as we are.

Of course, we hate them whenever they kill one of our lads. But in other times, we joke about them and begin to believe we have something in common with them.

Just yesterday morning—Christmas Eve Day—we had our first good freeze. Cold as we were, we welcomed it, because at least the mud froze solid.

During the day, there was little shelling or rifle fire from either side. And as darkness fell on our Christmas Eve, the shooting stopped entirely. Our first complete silence in months! We hoped it might promise a peaceful holiday, but we didn’t count on it. We’d been told the Germans might attack and try to catch us off guard…

Letter from Franz

My Company Commander and I, savouring the unaccustomed calm, sat with our orderlies round a Christmas tree we had put up in our dugout.

Suddenly, as the skies darkened, and for no apparent reason, our enemies began to fire on our lines.  Our soldiers had hung little Christmas trees covered with candles above the trenches. Our enemies, seeing the lights, must have thought we were about to launch a surprise attack.  But, within a few hours, the threat must have lessened for it turned calm once more…

Letter from Gerald

I went to the dugout to rest, and lying on my cot, I must have drifted asleep. All at once Cameron was shaking me awake, saying, "Come and see! See what the Germans are doing!" I grabbed my rifle, stumbled out into the trench, and stuck my head cautiously above the sandbags.

Clusters of tiny lights were shining all along the German line, left and right as far as the eye could see.

"What is it?" I asked.

"Christmas trees!" he answered.

And so it was. The Germans had placed Christmas trees in front of their trenches, lit by candle or lanterns like beacons of good will.

And then we heard their voices beginning to raise in song.

Stille nacht, heilige nacht…

I wasn’t familiar with it, but Cameron knew it. He said it translated as, "Silent night, holy night." Neither of us could believe it.

When the song finished, the men in our trenches applauded. Of all the sights I’d never imagined: British soldiers applauding Germans! Then one of our own men started singing his own carol, and we all joined in.

The first Nowell, the angel did say…

In truth, we sounded not nearly as good as the Germans, with their fine harmonies. But they responded with enthusiastic applause of their own. Immediately after they began another.

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum…

When they finished, we replied.

O come all ye faithful…

But this time they joined in, singing the same words in Latin.

Adeste fideles…

Can you believe it? British and German harmonizing across No Man’s Land!…

Letter from Cameron:

…The next thing we knew they were shouting at us:

"English, come over!" they said.. "You no shoot, we no shoot."

We all looked at each other. No one knew what to do. Then one of us shouted jokingly, "You come over here."

We couldn’t believe it but we saw two figures rise from their trench, climb over their barbed wire, and begin walking - without any weapons - across No Man’s Land. One of them called out to us: "Send officer to talk," they said…

Letter from Commander Stockwell

… We’d just been given strict orders the night before that there was to be no fraternizing of any sort around Christmas.  We were just getting our Christmas meal when the sergeant on duty suddenly ran in and reported that half-a-dozen Saxons were standing on their parapet without arms. I ran out into the trench and found that all the men were holding their rifles at the ready on the parapet, and that the Saxons were shouting, "Don't shoot. We don't want to fight today. We will send you some beer."  A cask was hoisted onto the parapet and three men started to roll it into the middle of No-Man's Land. A lot more Saxons then appeared without arms. Things were getting a bit thick. My men were becoming tense and excited, and the Saxons kept shouting to our troops to come out…

Letter from Cameron:

…I saw one of our men lift his rifle to the ready. I heard others do the same—but our captain called out, "Hold your fire." Then he climbed out and went to meet the Germans halfway. We heard them talking, and a few minutes later, the captain came back with a German cigar in his mouth!

Letter from Commander Stockwell

…We did not want to fire as they were all unarmed, but we had strict orders. Not wanting an incident, I climbed over the parapet and shouted, in my best German, for the opposing Captain to appear. This got my men chattering.

A German officer appeared and walked out into the middle of No-Man's Land, so I moved out to meet him, amidst the cheers of both sides. We met and formally saluted. He introduced himself as Count Something-or-other and seemed a very decent fellow. He could not talk a word of English. Through German interpreters we all introduced ourselves to much saluting and clicking of heals. They were all much better dressed then we.

I said to the German captain, "My orders are to keep my men in the trench and allow no armistice. Don't you think it's dangerous, all your men running about in the open like this? Someone may open fire." He called out an order and all his men went back to their parapet, leaving me and the five German officers and the barrel of beer in the middle of No-Man's Land…

Letter from Commander Kurtz

…When the English Commander explained his situation I knew that he was under the same orders that we were under. The concerns that fratinernization would undermine our military objectives were backed up from High Command to the point where we were both afraid of being accused of insubordination and perhaps even treason. I thought for a moment. I knew the spirit of my men was low. And so was my own. "My orders are the same as yours," I told him, "but could we not have a truce from shooting just for a little while? We don't want to shoot. Do you?"  

Commader Stockwell

…I told him, "No, we certainly don't want to shoot, but I have my orders to obey." So, after some talking, we then agreed not to shoot until [after Christmas], when I was to signal that we would begin again.

He said, "You had better take the beer. We have lots." So I called up two men to take the barrel to our side. As we had lots of plum-puddings, I sent for some and formally presented it to him in exchange for the beer.

Letter from Gerald:

… When he walked back to our lines, our Commander was stern. But he told us, "We’ve agreed there will be no shooting before midnight tomorrow," he announced. Some cheers were heard. "But sentries are to remain on duty, and the rest of you, stay alert," he said quickly.

Across the way, we could make out groups of two or three men starting out of trenches and coming toward us. Then some of us were climbing out too, and in minutes, there we were in No Man’s Land, over a hundred soldiers and officers of each side, shaking hands with men we’d been trying to kill just hours earlier!

Before long a bonfire was built, and around it we mingled—British khaki and German grey.

We had a difficult time communicating since only one of our men knew any German. But there were several Germans who could speak broken English. One German had been a porter at Victoria Station. He showed me a picture of his family back in Munich. He gave me his family’s address.

Even those who couldn’t converse well still exchanged gifts—our cigarettes for their cigars, our tea for their coffee, our corned beef for their sausage. Badges and buttons from uniforms changed owners. I traded a jackknife for a leather equipment belt — a fine souvenir to show when I get home.

Newspapers too changed hands, and the Germans howled with laughter at ours. They assured us that France was finished and Russia nearly beaten too. We told them that such news was nonsense, and one of them said, "Well, you believe your newspapers and we’ll believe ours."

Clearly they are lied to—yet after meeting these men, I wonder how truthful our own newspapers have been. These are not the "savage barbarians" we’ve read so much about. They are men with homes and families, hopes and fears, principles. Yes, they loved their country to the point of war. But so did we. Why had we been led to believe otherwise?

As it grew late, a few more songs were traded around the fire, and then everyone sang "Auld Lang Syne." At last, after midnight, we parted with promises to meet again tomorrow, and even some talk of a football match.

Letter from Johannes

Next morning the mist was slow to clear and suddenly another soldier threw himself into my dugout to say that both the German and Scottish soldiers had come out of their trenches and were fraternizing along the front. I grabbed my binoculars and looking cautiously over the parapet saw the incredible sight of cigarettes, schnapps and chocolate exchanging hands with the enemy.  Later a Scottish soldier appeared with a football which seemed to come from nowhere and a few minutes later a real football match got underway.  The Scots marked their goal with their strange caps and we did the same with ours.  It was far from easy to play on the frozen ground, but we continued, keeping rigorously to the rules, despite the fact that it only lasted an hour and that we had no referee.  A great many of the passes went wide. But all who played, although very tired, did so with huge enthusiasm.  

Us Germans really roared when a gust of wind revealed that the Scots wore no drawers under their kilts - and hooted and whistled every time they caught a glimpse of a posterior belonging to one of "yesterday's enemies." But after an hour's play, when our Commanding Officer heard about it, he sent an order that we must put a stop to it. A little later we drifted back to our trenches and the fraternization ended. But the calm continued. It was Christmas. And all along the lines, except for the occasional singing, it was a silent night.

Letter from the Angel of Mercy

Dear God,

I think I understand now. It is Christmas and, even in this barbaric place, peace has broken out. In all my hopes and all my prayers, I know that I could not have effected this. I have no powers to make peace a reality in such a place. I have even begun to doubt whether I could do anything in such a place. Whether I could even exist amidst such hatred. Who believes in angels amidst war? I know it must have been the courage and the spirit that resided deep in the hearts of these men that has made peace a reality. I understand now, God. Even in these times, even amidst such fighting, peace is possible. And, if this is so, my own existence might be possible too. Perhaps yours as well. Sleep in heavenly peace.

Roscoe, Angel of Mercy, Second Class

HYMN # 251 – "Silent Night"

STORY PART IV – Letters of Confusion – Boxing Day and Beyond

Letter from Commander Stockwell

Dear Martha,

I must make sure that you understand how important it is that this letter, and the one I posted to you yesterday, does not fall into other hands. I ask you to put this away as soon as you finish it and not show it to another soul. It seems odd, I know, to make such a secret of something that speaks of such a miraculous thing. But that is the strange business I am in. Such a strange business that WE are in. Perhaps it will be something that just by our own sharing makes it more special.

Christmas here, though I never expected – and can even now still hardly believe – was peaceful. The German commander and I both, kept the promise that we made two nights ago. Not a single shot was fired for the day and a half of our agreement. And to the best of my knowledge there was no attempt to gain advantage from the declaration of this temporary armistice. Or even any effort to notify others of ‘our situation. When I awoke this morning, there was a hard frost. At 8.30 I stood at the edge of the parapet and fired three shots in the air and put up a flag with "Merry Christmas" on it. I waited for a moment in the echo of those three shots.  Across the way a sheet appeared with the words, "ThankYou" on it. And then the German captain appeared on the parapet. We both bowed and saluted and got down into our respective trenches, and he fired two shots into the air, and the War was on again. What a civil ending to an unbelievable time. I doubt those of us who saw it shall ever be the same.

Though it is true that there was peace here on this field, the time spent was not all good cheer. Many of the men used the time on Christmas to dig graves for the soldiers retrieved who lay in the space between the two trenches. If it could be called inspiring, I did notice that both sides helped each other dig the graves and, in some cases, stood side by side for impromptu services. But still, even in these instances, the thoughts of war were not outside the minds of the men. Rifles that were found closer to either side of the one line were kept for that line.

Even so, I shall not forget the sights that stand in such strong contrast to the horrors I am used to seeing. Perhaps, one day, we may all be beyond such things. For now, it is war. And I pray, godspeed, that you will never know first hand, the devilry that I have seen here. But I thought it might be important for you to hear of the angels within men who stand as well. Though we are seldom aware of their presence in such a place, I have seen them with my own eyes.

Your loving husband,

Charles

Letter from Commander Stryker (Kurtz’ replacement)

January 21st, 1915

I arrived at this new post near Flanders and have found no mention nor any ill effects of the past month. To the best of my knowledge there are completely fresh troops in this entire regiment. Commander Kurtz, and all the men who served here have been dispersed to other regiments. Whatever supposed cease-fire that may have existed around these parts shows no signs of existing now. There have been small advances possible due to the use of gas but we have found that the enemy has also shown signs of adapting and even returning these tactics in some places. We will need to increase the in-surge of new men.

End of report.

Letter from the Angel

Dear God,

I fear that it has ended as quickly and as oddly as it started. At first, shots fired in a confused, sort of haphazard way. And then a few shells. But it didn’t take long to resume the voracity of the fighting. And as quickly as I felt understood and real, just as quickly do I feel myself fading from the hearts of these men on this field. What a quick turn of fate this has been for me. What a quick turn of fate this life is for so many of these men.

Roscoe, Angel of Mercy, Second Class

Offertory

Service Leader:

There are too many places in this world where the love and care that is needed is withheld at the very moments where it could make the most difference. In this community, at Christmastime, and always, we try to give of ourselves that others may know the care they yearn to believe in. In these efforts, we give of our time, our talent and our money. We now receive this offering for the work of the church within and beyond these walls.

MUSIC

THANKSGIVING

Service Leader:

For the work of this church, which is weaving a tapestry of love with our lives, we give thanks for this offering and the people who make it possible.

OFFERTORY RESPONSE (We’ll walk hand in hand)

STORY EPILOGUE – Letters to God

Letter from Franz

Dear Parents,

I do not know if I can send this letter. I can hardly bear to write it, now a week later. But I thought that it might somehow be better for you to find out from me then from someone else. And I know I couldn’t return without you having heard at all. There was a very large explosion four days ago near the line where we were stationed. Apparently the enemy dug a tunnel under our lines and planted explosives. Johannes never returned to quarters and I have spent four days looking for him. Hundreds perished. I fear he might be one of them. Perhaps my mentioning this will not bring any solace, but in this time here, as horrible as it might be, Johannes grew up. He became a man on this field. Not because he fought hard or that he was brave – though both were true. But because he acted with loyalty. And he never forgot his home, or lost his desire to return. I have promised Johannes, in these past few days, that I would return home for him. And I plan to keep that promise.

Your son,

Franz

Letter from Cameron

Dear God,

I have tried to write to Mr and Mrs Mason but I cannot find the words. It has been several weeks now. The only thing I have been able to put onto paper is the poem written by the Canadian in our company. Perhaps I should just send this.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
      In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
      In Flanders fields.

Letter from the Angel

Dear God,

In the hearts of men, in all hearts everywhere, for all time, there is both great hope and great despair. I have seen hope tested. I have seen it fail. But I have also seen it rise to heights I never could have imagined. And in such rising, so did I rise. At such times as war, it is hard to tell whether goodness and mercy exist. And in such doubt it is hard to tell if, indeed, I really exist. But I know it is possible. That in us all there is an angel that waits to rise. And will rise. Given a deep enough awareness of the love that is at stake. I pray that this awareness finds its place in the hearts of all people. For all time.

Yours in faith,

Roscoe, Angel of Mercy, First Class

HYMN – # 256 "Winter Night"

PRAYER OF AFFIRMATION

Service Leader:

In the hearts of men, in all hearts everywhere, for all time, there is great hope. I have seen it tested. I have seen it fail. But I have also seen it rise to heights I never could have imagined. And in such rising, so did I rise. At such times as war it is hard to tell whether goodness and mercy exist. And in such doubt it is hard to tell if, indeed, I any of us really exist in the way we might wish. But I know it is possible to live as we dream. That in us all there is an angel that waits to rise. And will rise. Given a deep and abiding sense of the love that is at stake. I pray that this awareness find its place in the hearts of all people. For all time. Amen

MUSICAL BENEDICTION (We Shall Overcome)

GO IN PEACE

Service Leader:

The service is ended. Go in peace.



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