Throughout history there are extremely difficult situations that are heart-wrenching to study; however, in the middle of almost every study of the heartbreaking, you will also find true tales of compassion, heroism, perseverance, and a severe commitment to the good. Perhaps one of the most interesting accounts of this in history is what the Germans named “Weihnachtsfrieden” and the French called “Trêve de Noël”, the English term, Christmas truce. The Christmas truce provided widespread ceasefires along the Western Front of World War I. These troops, accustomed to fighting in some of the cruelest of circumstances of trench warfare, dropped their guard, walked in “no man’s land” and celebrated Christmas together. The diary entries paint the scenes of former enemies walking together, exchanging goods, and singing songs in their own languages, and seeing good in the middle of the darkest of evil.
Another example is in the middle of the cruel and dark institution known as slavery, there arose Harriet Tubman. She became a beacon of hope in desperate times leading many to freedom through the Underground Railroad. In humility she remarked, “It wasn’t me, it was the Lord! I always told Him, ‘I trust to you. I don’t know where to go or what to do, but I expect You to lead me,’ and He always did.” As she led thousands to freedom, her eyes were not on anyone but the Lord.
Once, early in the book of Acts, the church grew so fast and had so many new young Christians that some were being neglected and starving. With so many coming to Christ, the work risked stalling with the reports that perhaps Christ-followers would not care for the widows in need. Would Christianity be all talk and no action? Would this new movement come to screeching halt once the word was out that there was so much hope, so much potential, but no follow through? Instead, God raised up faithful men, the first deacons, to care and support those in the distribution of food. From that comes a man named Stephen. Full of wisdom and the Holy Spirit, he serves, he preaches, and he is killed. Suddenly, a great persecution breaks out against the church, scatters the believers, and it seems the church may be stomped out. But God – But God is faithful. Faithful to move, to act, to intervene on behalf of His glory and His people. He raises up Phillip, transforms Saul to Paul, mobilizes Barnabas, and equips young Timothy. On and on, in the face of opposition and persecution, God raises up new beacons of eternal hope to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
And here we are – a Pandemic Thanksgiving. An oxymoron, a paradox of sorts, that there would be thanksgiving in the middle of a pandemic. And here is our God, faithful and sure, raising up people to see the good, do the good, and focus on the Lord. Reminding us that “the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7). God is equipping us, He is mobilizing us, and we have the privilege to follow the same pattern of trust of Harriet Tubman, not knowing where to go or what to do, but expecting Him to lead us. And we shall find, He always did. He has already told us, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). It is on this confidence that we stand. We do not know of the pain of World War I, cannot full feel the desperation of those pursuing freedom on the Underground Railroad, but we can know the same peace – for our God does not change, His mercies are new every morning, and it is His peace we know and experience. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27). So, in the middle of a war, there was a picture of peace. In the middle of the most human cruelty, there was a way to freedom, a person leading to freedom. Today, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15). When you need help being thankful, remember this wisdom from Harriet Tubman, “And I prayed to God to make me strong and able to fight, and that’s what I’ve always prayed for ever since.” May we be found thankful, and fighting the good fight, running the race, and keeping the faith! Happy Thanksgiving! I love you all!