A few days ago we spoke of the ‘tomorrows’ given up by the men (and women) of the First World War so that we might celebrate our ‘today’. A today in which many people go every day onto the streets to speak against what could be called the ‘Austerity Gospel’, people who in the spirit of that same Truce daily approach politicians, neighbours, newspapers, committees, colleagues and hostile organisations, who risk arrest or use personal strength – often at a draining cost to their tiny reserve of strength. Christmas is indeed “for sharing”. Yet if my husband’s Grandfather’s welcome to German POW s on that Christmas Day of 1945 teaches us anything, it is that the man marching to the beat of the different drum whether in 1914 or 1945 is not met with loud acclaim and praise from those around him. The men of the Christmas Truce took a risk… a risk greater than our often idealised image of the Truce can convey, the very real risk of being shot by frightened men on then other side of No Man’s Land. In fact the Sainsbury’s advertisement does manage to convey admirably something which has often been glossed over in previous representations
Yes, Tesco ask people to buy food for the Food Banks and Sainsbury’s want us to support the Royal British Legion. But is there not a little bit of safety in all this?
Are they standing up for humanity and reason and being punished and yet doing it anyway? Now if Sainsbury’s had chosen to run an advertisement this Christmas saying, “FEED homeless people this Christmas…and we won’t take a penny, why is it happening, and who is causing it, and we all know who it is.” THEN I’d say that was more like right and courageous thinking. Lest we forget a hundred years ago this Christmas Day there _was_ a Truce worthy in its simplicity and grace of another great Truce longer ago still. The lessons they have to teach us…. let us remember to share…Peace, reconciliation, hope, joy in the midst of darkness, love in a war-torn land …risk…and faith.
To be truly heroic is to stand up for the things no-one else is standing up for NOW, at the present time. To feed the homeless when the penalty is imprisonment, to speak for faith when the penalty is at the very least, ridicule, to go forth and keep the peace where there is war and a greater hostility than most of us can ever know, to heal others where there is grave danger that one’s own death may be the price exacted. To keep the faith, even if the penalty is one’s neighbours’ scorn, daubed walls or stones through a window. To stand in whatever in the present time is ‘No Man’s Land’ and say: “This is murder, it must cease, I bring peace, alone and at whatever cost.” Perhaps not by giving one small thing to make a small donation and meanwhile keeping a great many more things which we would in any case have kept .