three things on Christmas Eve

We interrupt your regularly scheduled program. (Once again, I am postponing finishing up my “seeing” post.) As our church moved into the last part of our Advent preparing and waiting this weekend, we heard about the idea of disruptions through the story of Mary, whose life would be turned upside down by a mysterious pregnancy and a new identity. The theme was carried further by the stories of my friends Ryan and Amanda Phillips, who once again amaze me through their devotion to the poor of northern India as they stand in resistance to the poverty of spirit that robs women and children of their dignity and too often, their very lives. The point was that God’s coming into our lives often drastically changes our course and shatters our dreams – even the ones we are sure are good – so that God’s dreams might be birthed in us.

So I am sharing three stories – two are beautifully disruptive, one is disturbing but good cause for reflection. (I’ll let you decide which are which!)

The first is a stunning book, The Trouble With The Alphabet. This is not your typical coffee table book. It combines beautiful art done by one of our church members, Caryn West, with compelling stories of struggle and practical means of getting involved for the sake of children around the globe (also researched and compiled by Caryn.) She has labored for the last three years for this project. It stirs dreams for the world that stretch us far beyond our small imaginations! Let this be part of your Advent Conspiracy.



Secondly, there is a story from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from Iran. You can read the full article here (click). In it he challenges the West this Christmas by saying without a trace of irony: “If Christ were on earth today, undoubtedly He would hoist the banner of justice and love for humanity to oppose warmongers, occupiers, terrorists and bullies the world over.” Well, yes. I have often used words like that myself. But what Ahmadinejad doesn’t get is that while Jesus does indeed stand against the oppressors of this world, He also redeems them as freely as He redeems the oppressed. And that fact shows that God is an equal opportunity offender – reminding us that our small hearts love His grace and forgiveness, but we remain sure that there are those who don’t “deserve” it. May our hearts be truly open to the dream of forgiveness and reconciliation for all.



The third is the tear-jerking story of  Christmas in the Trenches retold by Jim Wallis at his  blog. It is the true story of enemy soldiers during WWI who drop their weapons and fellowship together on Christmas Eve. It’s like they were awoken from a terrible spell for a short while. He quotes a song written about this story:

“The next they sang was “Stille Nacht,” “Tis ‘Silent Night’,” says I.

And in two tongues one song filled up that sky

“There’s someone coming towards us!” the front line sentry cried

All sights were fixed on one lone figure coming from their side

His truce flag, like a Christmas star, shone on that plain so bright

As he bravely strode unarmed into the night.

Soon one by one on either side walked into No Man’s land

With neither gun nor bayonet we met there hand to hand

We shared some secret brandy and we wished each other well

And in a flare-lit soccer game we gave ‘em hell.

We traded chocolates, cigarettes, and photographs from home

These sons and fathers far away from families of their own

Young Sanders played his squeeze box and they had a violin

This curious and unlikely band of men.

Soon daylight stole upon us and France was France once more

With sad farewells we each began to settle back to war

But the question haunted every heart that lived that wondrous night

“Whose family have I fixed within my sights?”

‘Twas Christmas in the trenches, where the frost so bitter hung

The frozen fields of France were warmed as songs of peace were sung

For the walls they’d kept between us to exact the work of war

Had been crumbled and were gone for evermore.”


Whose family have we fixed within our sights? Not for destruction of course, but salvation and gathering and oneness? May we dare to dream wild dreams of healing and unity and love that are big enough for all of us. As we head into an uncertain future in 2009, let this be part of our prayer for the whole of the human family.

Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.
Merry Christmas!

EDIT: One more awesome article! (I didn’t want to change my title, LOL.) But check this out, love is winning! I think this is both beautiful and miraculous! (sent to me by my sweet friend Lindy)
Rick Warren and Melissa Etheridge



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Showing 4 comments
  • Jeff Greathouse

    thanks for the post …

    on rick and melissa, it is a great article on how we really need to listen to one another and not to have pre-conceived notions due to soundbytes

  • LeeAnn

    “Maybe if they get to know us, they wont fear us.” Melissa Ethridge

    I think her statement is very true. Once one puts a face to a name (in this case, homosexuality), it changes how the title is perceived. Not does this apply to homosexuals, but also to the Buddhist & Muslim neighbors that live next door to me.

    If I am to live & love as Jesus commands, I must open myself to all people, not just those who are straight, Christian, & republican like me.

    • ellenharoutunian

      Well said, friend.

  • Jennifer

    Ellen, have you seen Joyeux Noel? It’s about this true story of the Christmas Eve truce during WWI. A beautiful film. I think you will like it.

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