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A Time to Pause and Reflect

by The Reverend (Wg Cdr) Alastair Bissell

Christmas Day 1914, while the Germans and Allied forces engaged in fierce fighting in the trenches, someone began to sing the carol ‘Silent Night, Holy Night’. Suddenly a silence fell over the battlefield…


oldiers on both sides put down their weapons, climbed out of the trenches, shook hands and embraced one another and

exchanged souvenirs and cigarettes. They even played a football match. Twenty four hours later they returned to the trenches, hostilities resumed and they began to kill again. Yet for that short time, a period of peace ensued, giving those soldiers on both sides an opportunity to behave as brothers and offer one another the hand of friendship.

As we embark upon this special season, we find ourselves surrounded by bright lights, Christmas trees, candles, shops displaying gifts, and of course those traditional decorations. Many will also enjoy both listening to and singing carols which reveal something of the miracle and wonder of the Christ child. Of great significance will also be those greetings of peace and goodwill exchanged between nations and individuals. It will hopefully be a time where many pause and reflect, forget their differences, work at promoting peace, and make a new beginning.

In the past few days I have returned from deployment on Op ELLAMY in Italy. It has been a most fascinating and rewarding experience. The role of Chaplaincy has been to provide spiritual and pastoral care for those personnel working in support of Air Operations in Libya. Much of the time was spent engaging with the Sections; listening

and chatting to gain an appreciation of the pressures and tensions many were facing both at work and at home.

This time spent visiting was an important part of the routine. I shared an office which was located in the main HQ building on the top floor. Co-located there were personnel working within operations, logistics, and there were medical staff and engineers. There was also a chapel.

Though relatively basic in appearance, the chapel had a few chairs laid out in a semi- circle and a small altar with a cross and bible placed on it. Though certainly not full on a

Sunday, the Chapel nonetheless was available always. And it was used on a regular basis. Especially during times when people faced heightened pressure or before difficult decisions were made. It was also used by those who wished to offer personal prayer. Amidst all the hustle and bustle of a working day the Chapel door remained open for those wishing to pause and reflect for a few precious moments.

I want to suggest that Christmas is also about taking time out to pause and reflect. It is a wonderful opportunity for many to spend time away from the daily routine of the working environment and find peace and comfort surrounded by loved ones; that however is only a part of the story.

When Christ was born two thousand years ago he came into a world which was also divided and full of conflict. God was making a point that in all the noise and confusion of ordinary life, he was coming to meet us. Not on our best behaviour, but our real behaviour.

Many of us are experiencing a great deal of uncertainty and a real fear of what lies ahead. There are clearly no easy answers, it is a case of climbing into the pit and out again. For most of us there are no short cuts. Despite such worries and concerns, it is my hope and prayer that you will also find the opportunity to take a break from those everyday proceedings and find comfort and strength in the spiritual truth surrounding the birth of the Christ child. 

Envoy Winter 2011 33

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