Monday, December 20, 2010

"Dreaming of a Red Christmas" (by Warren McPherson)

[The following article was published in the December, 1954, edition of a denominational youth ministry magazine]

DAVE ELLIOTT is dreaming of a red Christmas just like the one he had last year. . . .
    It was in the American sector of Berlin and a group of servicemen sat talking together. Christmas was only a few days off—and that can be about the loneliest time of the year when you are a long way from home. They reminisced of how it would be in Nashville, Wichita, Dayton, and Houston. They talked of what they would do if they were "back home."
    The conversation struck a definite note of homesickness as they recalled past thrills of caroling with the "gang." Someone asked if it were possible for them to go caroling right there in Berlin. The atmosphere became electric and the conversation was alive with expectation. The question was answered in the affirmative. They could go, and they would go Christmas caroling "just like back home." It would also give the German people a demonstration of how Christmas was observed in the United States.
    When the great day arrived, Dave joined the other servicemen in a full schedule of activity. First there was a party for a group of orphans and underprivileged children from both the western and eastern sectors of Berlin. The children were especially thrilled to be the honored guests of the American soldiers. American customs were followed to the letter. There was fruit, candy, and toys for all the children, with plenty of fun and excitement.
    An added thrill of the occasion was the distribution of good, warm, used clothing which several American organizations had sent. The servicemen saw to it that each child received clothing that would fit him. Dave was carried away with excitement. He said, "I found myself in the middle of about seven or eight little boys—all trying to get fixed up at the same time. We had a wonderful time, and I'm sure that it will become an annual affair!"
    The next stop was a crippled children's home. The children could not understand the carols as they were sung in English. However, they could understand from the warmth of the singing and from the treats they received that this was part of the American way of celebrating the birth of the Saviour. Dave was solemnly reminded that he was seeing boys and girls who would be crippled the rest of their lives. "Seeing this," he recalls, "just made me more thankful that I have good health and a good homeland."
    Another stop was at an old folks home. Here, coffee and cookies were served and carols were sung. "I guess that was what really made Christmas complete for those old folks," Dave recalls. "They seemed so happy that we came. They even joined in with us." The elderly people detained them as long as they could, because the visit of these young "ambassadors of goodwill" had meant so much to them. Time was fleeting and there was one more stop on their itinerary so they hurried on their way.
    In a few moments they arrived at their destination—the joining point of American, British, and Russian sectors of Berlin. There was no mistaking the Russian sector from the others. It was characterized by dark, quiet, empty, and lonely streets. People are not allowed on the streets at night and very few lights are visible. It was like a ghost city.
    The group went as close to the boundary as the Red-Border guards would allow. Quickly they gathered and very soon the peaceful melody of "Silent Night," followed by the joyful and hopeful refrain of "Joy to the World," was wafting its way down the dark and gloomy streets of Red Berlin.  "I can't remember all the carols we sang, but we must have sung them all," says Dave.
    Among the first to stop were an elderly man and woman from the Russian sector. They paused and listened attentively to the carolers. The group sang loudly and joyfully, and the crowd of listeners seemed to grow with the volume. As the elderly couple stood listening, no doubt their memories returned to better, more peaceful and joyful days. Tears filled their eyes and without shame, they let them course down their cheeks.
    Those servicemen sang with all the enthusiasm of their souls. For twenty minutes or more they sent the message of a loving Redeemer into the sector of darkness and heartache. Here, too, within hearing of Eastern Berlin and within sight of the Communist-Borderguard, there were coffee, cookies, and carols for all.
    When the singing finally ceased, the elderly couple lingered momentarily and then once again turned their tread toward the east and disappeared into the ominous darkness of the streets of the Russian sector.
    Dave Elliott is still in Berlin.  His thoughts are again turning to Christmas—but this time to the caroling which they are planning. He feels certain there will be a much larger group of servicemen taking part and they anticipate even greater response.  Dave will be a long way from home again this year and Christmas won't be like it is back there. But he remembers the tears in the tired eyes of that elderly couple who lingered to hear the carols a year ago—and he is convinced that there could be no more blessed way of spending Christmas than by singing the good news and glad tidings on the Red Border.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday Hymn: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.

At His feet the six winged seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Alleluia
Alleluia, Lord Most High!

Words: Translated from the Greek by Gerard Moultrie
Music: Set to the tune "Picardy"

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sunday Hymn: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's height,
In ancient times did'st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Words: Translated from Latin by John Mason Neale