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Practice for the Year Ahead

As the wrapping paper is recycled, the candles put away, and the tree soon taken down, many of us have likely heard our annual quotient of heart-warming holiday stories. But I’m going to ask your indulgence now as I share with you one more.

The setting is the border between Germany and Belgium, and it is Christmas Eve, 1944. In a small house in the woods, a mother is preparing supper with her son. Outside two massive armies are fighting the Battle of the Bulge, but it is quiet in the cabin, until there comes a knock at the door. The mother opens the door to find three American soldiers, one wounded, all lost, looking for food and shelter in the night. It is a dangerous time to help anyone, but the woman invites them in just the same.

The little family shares their shelter with the Americans, and does their best to make them comfortable. All are about to sit down to dinner when there comes a second knock at the door. Things are even more dangerous now; the Americans train their guns at the door. Their host opens it to find four more soldiers. Just as lost, just as hungry, just as much in need of shelter as the first batch – just German this time.

There is a moment of tension, as the war pours into this little house in the woods. But the mother of the house sets the rules. Everyone is welcome; she will set four more places at the table. Anyone who wishes to stay will have to hand over their weapons, and agree that the war is over for the night.  They do. They eat. They all manage to sleep under one roof. On Christmas morning, the men all work together to make a stretcher for the wounded American, and the two groups set out again in opposite directions, to rejoin their companies.

Whether you’ve heard this one before or not, the theme is likely familiar. Enemies put aside their grievances and treat each other with kindness for one special night out of the year. And if that’s all that Christmas or any other holiday is – a time when the normal rules of life are suspended – then there’s little else to be said. But there’s another way of looking at the holidays just past: not as rare exceptions, but as practice for the days and months between them. They way we are – or try to be – on such as special night is the way we should aspire to be each day. As you begin a new year, may you be well, and may you carry the spirit of the season now passed into each new hour ahead.


In Faith,

Rev. Kelly Weisman Asprooth-Jackson

PS: I am happy to announce that this year’s Simple Gifts collection raised $2,253 for the North Shore Community Development Coalition! Thank you to all those who participated and helped to make our congregation’s holiday one driven by generosity.


First Parish Church

225 Cabot St

Beverly, MA 01915


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