'They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them'.
It is that time of year again when we take time to remember those who have given their lives and those who have been injured in the cause of freedom and justice. I'm giving the Remembrance Sunday address this year at St John the Baptist Church, Shedfield (9th November) with my colleague, Rev Juliet, doing likewise in Wickham. In my address I plan to help us remember the horrors of war as a backdrop as to why we should give thanks for the sacrifice made by our armed forces. For the horrors are real and I believe that sometimes we need to take a little time to reflect on just how awful war can be. And so, as part of my address I plan to play a sound track produced by the BBC in conjunction with the Glasgow School of Art as part of the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the First World War. The track is five minutes long and a little distressing, but I think it has been well produced and whilst it cannot get anywhere near the reality of what those who served their country during that war went through, it may give us just the slightest of glimpses of what trench warfare sounded like.
In amongst the horror of the First World War, there was one wonderful moment when the fighting paused and that was following a sudden cold snap on Christmas Eve 1914 which froze the ground and cleared the air. The following day, Christmas Day, a number of Germans got out of their trenches and started waving and singing to the British. Then small Christmas trees appeared! Shortly afterwards an informal ceasefire was agreed and thousands of men from both sides rose out of their trenches, buried their dead and began to mingle, shake hands and exchange cakes, cigarettes and whisky and even played the odd football match! It was a glorious moment when men made peace with men. Sadly the outbreak of peace was short-lived and before the end of the day, the respective sides had returned to their positions and snipers were firing shots once more.
As Christians making peace has to be what we are about. So as we rightly give thanks for the sacrifices made by men and women both in our armed forces and beyond for the cause of freedom both in the First World War and in wars and conflicts since then, I hope we will all be praying for peace for those parts of the world caught up in conflict and war today. I think particularly of Syria, Iraq and Ukraine, but other places too such as Israel and Gaza where the peace is so fragile.
Jesus said, 'Blessed are the peacemakers' and he also said 'Love your enemy'. I believe that sadly military action is necessary sometimes ? and thank God for the men and women of our armed forces who willingly sacrifice so much on our behalf - but let us never forget the cost and let us never forget the sacrifice and let us always pray for peace in our world.
With my love and best wishes, your friend and vicar,