Lay Down Your Arms

by Beverly Hutchinson McNeff

As the season of gratitude and peace approaches, it is often difficult for us to believe God is present in the painful, confusing situations of life, or that anything “good” can come of a tragic circumstance. And yet, this is our guarantee, for as we read in the Course, “All things work together for good. There are no exceptions except in the ego’s judgment.” (T-4.V.1:1)

The face of God is in that person who judged me unjustly, the hand of God is working in the internal political struggle our country is going through, and the peace of God is the final outcome for that battle between those warring countries. Yes, God is present, not because He caused the problems in our lives or seeming pains and conflicts in the world. God is present because He can never be absent from our minds. God is in our minds as the reminder that there is a better way, that love is our strength, that forgiveness is the key, and that joining with my brother past the seeming circumstances of life is the way that Christ is recognized. In that recognition is salvation accomplished. “Salvation of the world depends on you who can forgive. Such is your function here.” (W-pI.186.14.5)

So, it becomes plain to us that wherever we may find ourselves is exactly where we should be, for we are there to bring salvation to the world through our forgiveness of the situation, or rather through our willingness to let the Holy Spirit’s perception be ours. This healing in thought may not always bring change in the way we think it should appear or come as quickly as we think it should happen, but “healing is always certain.” (M-6.1:1)

During this holiday season, which culminates with the celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace, let us observe the rebirth of peace and trust within our hearts. Let us trust that what we view in our lives as conflict, pain, or sorrow can give birth to peace if we are willing to look through the eyes of the Holy Spirit. “The Holy Spirit, as always, takes what you have made and translates it into a learning device. Again as always, He reinterprets what the ego uses as an argument for separation into a demonstration against it.” (T-6.V.A.2:4)

The following story by the editors of Guideposts magazine beautifully exemplifies, with a holiday theme, the idea that God is always working in our lives even in the face of what seems to be terrible conflict and pain. As you read the following true piece of history, keep in mind this thought from A Course in Miracles:

“So do the parts of God’s Son gradually join in time, and with each joining is the end of time brought near. Each miracle of joining is a mighty herald of eternity.” (T-20.V.1:5)

Christmas, 1914

The Great War was only a few months old, but already the two sides were deadlocked in the grisly new pattern of trench warfare. Both the British and Germans had learned to shovel miles-long ditches in the rocky French farmland, ditches from which men blasted at one another with machine guns and mortars. In these muddy, rat-infested trenches, British soldiers opened soggy Christmas greetings from their King while a few hundred yards away German troops read a message from the Kaiser.

Between the rows of trenches, where shivering men thought about families at home, lay a barren no-man’s-land, a zone of craters and shattered trees where anything that moved was instantly fired at. So narrow was this strip that whenever there was a lull in the roar of the guns, each side could hear the clink of cooking gear from the other.

Late on Christmas Eve, with the sleet tapering off and the temperature dropping, a British Tommy on guard with the Fifth Scottish Rifles heard a different sound drifting across no-man’s-land. In the German trenches a man was singing.

“Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht…”

It was a tune the British soldier recognized as “Silent Night, Holy Night.” The sentry began to hum along with the melody. Then, louder, he chimed in with the English words, singing an odd duet with his enemy beyond the barbed wire.

“…heilige Nacht…holy night…”

A second British soldier crawled to the sentry station and joined in. Little by little others on both sides picked up the song, blending their rough voices across the shell-pocked landscape. The Germans broke out with a second carol, “O Tannenbaum,” and the British replied with “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen.” On and on the antiphonal singing went. A British soldier with binoculars reported that the Germans had hoisted a ragged evergreen with lighted candles in the branches to the top of the sandbag barrier. As dawn of Christmas day broke, signs appeared on both sides, in two languages: “Merry Christmas.”

Pulled by a force stronger than fear, one by one the soldiers started laying down their arms, creeping beneath barbed wire and around mortar holes into no-man’s-land. At first it was just a few men, then more and more, until scores of British and German troops met together in the first light of Christmas day. The boys brought out photographs of mothers and wives, exchanged gifts of candy and cigarettes. Someone produced a soccer ball and the men played on a few yards of crater-free ground.

Then the Soldier’s truce was over.

By mid-morning Christmas day, horrified officers had summoned their men back to the trenches; firing had recommenced. Within hours the Fifth Scottish Rifles issued an order forbidding such contact: “We are here to fight, not to fraternize.”

And the soldiers obeyed. The war, as history tragically records, destroyed almost that entire generation of young men on both sides. But there was an indelible memory in the minds of those who lived to recall that first Christmas at the front. The memory of a few hours when their master had been neither King nor Kaiser, but the Prince of Peace.*

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No matter the conflict that may be raging in your life, take a moment to withdraw your loyalty from the ego’s world and allow the Prince of Peace to be born into your awareness. Even if it is only for a moment, ask the Holy Spirit to be your eyes, your tongue, your hands, your feet, so that your one purpose may be to bless the world with miracles of peace. (Lesson 353 paraphrased)

God bless you, dear friends, on your journey of peace and joining this holiday season.

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*Reprinted with permission from Guideposts Magazine. © 1988 by Guideposts Associates, Inc. Carmel, New York 10512