- The Washington Times - Monday, December 25, 2006

The hundreds of worshippers gathered yesterday for Christmas services at the Washington National Cathedral were told that people yearn for peace and that faith in Christ can bridge the world’s deepest philosophical divides, even in time of war.

“We gather today in the shadow of a confusing and heartbreaking war, and in a world where children in Darfur and Mozambique face the ravages of AIDS and malaria and random killing,” the Very Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd III, dean of the cathedral, told parishioners during a nationally televised morning service. “Today God is seeking to be born in our nation and in our world, and in all of us.

“Will we allow Christ’s spirit to grow in us? Will we seek to reach beyond the trenches, facing each other in Palestine and Israel, in Iraq, in cities and neighborhoods, even in our families? Will we reach across the globe to ease the suffering in Africa?” he said. “This Child of Bethlehem seeks to pull us out of our trenches to embrace each other.”

To illustrate his message, Mr. Lloyd told the story of the unofficial truce that occurred between British and German soldiers on the western front of World War I during Christmas Eve 1914.

On parts of the front line, Germans started an impromptu cease-fire when they decorated Christmas trees with candles in their trenches, he said.

The two sides, separated by a “devastated landscape of dirt and barbed wire,” started a vocal volley of Christmas songs, Mr. Lloyd said. The Germans sang “O Tannenbaum,” and the British crooned “O Holy Night.”

Then they climbed out of the cold “rat-infested” trenches to exchange cigarettes, holiday greetings and even play a game of soccer, he said.

“There, along those lines, those soldiers discovered a connection, a belonging across the deepest divides imaginable,” Mr. Lloyd said.

Though the truce gradually faded, the soldiers “experienced the power of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem, and when they did, they followed it enough to risk connecting with those other members of the human family they had so feared. A light had shined into the darkness, and there, for a day, people received it,” he said.

That day exemplifies how faith in Christ — and people’s desire to connect with each other — can overcome overwhelming obstacles, Mr. Lloyd said.

“May His spirit not rest until we, all of us, know that we are one,” he said.

Men, women and bright-eyed children took in the hourlong service, which included some insight from a few youngsters.

When the Rev. Canon Carol L. Wade asked a small group of children where in the world are there people in need, they whispered Iraq, the Darfur region of Sudan, Mozambique and — by far the biggest crowd pleaser — Hawaii.

Asked what they would give to help the poor and less fortunate, the children said a cow, clothes, shoes, seeds, money and “gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

Glenn Lewis, 61, was visiting the District from Reno, Nev., to visit his daughter and said Mr. Lloyd’s message was applicable to the war in Iraq.

“If we really understood the people we were fighting, maybe we could have a better outcome,” Mr. Lewis said.

His wife, Sylvia, 65, was impressed by the service.

“That was absolutely beautiful,” she said. “The music, the words, just the fact that everyone was paying attention, it made you feel like it was definitely Christmas.”

The Lewises were among the thousand or so who attended the Christmas Day service — highlighted by processions, Eucharistic services and choirs singing traditional carols such as “O Come, All Ye Faithful ” and “Joy to the World.”

The cathedral, with its 10-story-high vaulted ceiling and grand bell tower, is the sixth-largest in the world and welcomes about 700,000 visitors a year, according to officials.

Its construction, which began in 1907, was completed in 1990.

Tom Ward, a 60-year-old who has recorded the Christmas service for the last 15 years, said worship at the National Cathedral is hard to skip.

“It is always inspiring,” he said. “There is just something about it.”



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