St. Helena Star
Friday, December 25, 2009
Senator John McCain spent five-and-a-half years as a prisoner of war in Hanoi during the Vietnam War. He and many other POWs endured terrible suffering during this time but there came a day, McCain remembers clearly, when they were able to rise above the abuse and isolation.
It was Christmas Eve, 1971. A few days earlier McCain had been given a Bible for just a few moments. He furiously copied down as many verses of the Christmas story as he could before the guard took the book away.
On this special night the prisoners had decided to have their own Christmas service. They began with the Lord’s Prayer and they sang Christmas carols. McCain read a portion of Luke’s gospel in between each hymn.
The prisoners started with, “O Come all Ye Faithful, Joyful and Triumphant.” They sang barely above a whisper, their eyes glancing anxiously to see if the guards would come and stop them. As the service progressed their voices grew stronger and bolder until they filled the cell with “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear.”
Some of the men were too sick to stand, but others propped them up on a platform and placed blankets around their trembling shoulders. All wanted to join in the songs that now seemed to make them feel joyful and triumphant.
When they came to “Silent Night,” tears rolled down their unshaven faces. John McCain later wrote, “Suddenly we were 2,000 years and a half-world away in a village called Bethlehem. And neither war, nor torture, nor imprisonment had dimmed the hope born on that silent night so long before. We had forgotten our wounds, our hunger and our pain. We raised prayers of thanks for the Christ child, for our families and homes. There was an absolutely exquisite feeling that our burdens had been lifted.”
Today, as we open our hearts to the Christ child, He will give us His peace too. He will lift our burdens. The problems of life will fade into insignificance in the light of His glorious love. The Christ, who was born in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago, longs to be reborn in our hearts today. Just as He turned a North Vietnamese prison into a place of love, He longs to fill your heart and home with love today.
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