Grace: the song I long to hear

Christmas Eve, 1914.

A few months into WWI, British and German troops scattered along the front struck a temporary truce. Daring to climb out of muddy trenches, sworn enemies met in no man’s land for a spontaneous Christmas celebration.

  • Shared cigarettes and chocolates sent from home
  • Played soccer
  • Buried their fallen friends and comrades

Across a seemingly unbridgeable gap between warring armies, men sang “Silent Night”: that night when God silently bridged the gap between us, clothed himself in human skin, and brought grace with him. For an all-too-brief time, it was a silent night on the western front.

At Nelson Mandela’s 70th birthday tribute, Jessye Norman took the stage to sing “Amazing Grace.”

The crowd, who had been listening to rock-and-roll acts throughout the day, was initially hostile.

(After all, what rock enthusiast wants to listen to a hymn, sung a cappella by some opera singer? Jessye who? Hardly their cup of tea, or can of beer, as the case may be.)

I watched the video of Jessye’s performance. By the second verse, an amazing thing happened: total silence descended on Wembley Stadium. By the final verse, some sang along, fumbling for words they haven’t sung in years. The words of passion and praise transcended the cultural divide, the racial divide, the age divide. Grace amazed them.

This past Sunday night at the Behold the Lamb concert, chatter and laughter filled the sanctuary during intermission. Then Andrew Peterson took the stage once more. “If you can hear me, sing along,” Andrew called, strumming his guitar. “When peace like a river attendeth my way . . .”

Within a few bars, I was singing. By the chorus, we all sang:

It is well with my soul . . . It is well . . . It is well with my soul.

Peace and hope joined hands and filled me with the wonder of God’s grace that gives me the ability to have peace even when sorrows roll over my heart.

War enemies. Rock-and-roll lovers. Concert attenders. Unified by a song of grace.

It might be in unlikely environments (a war zone) or startling ones (a political prisoner’s birthday concert) or expected ones (a sanctuary of churchgoers). The song might be a Christmas carol or a spiritual or a hymn. The singers could be soldiers or opera divas or rock fans who sing off-key.

It doesn’t matter.

What matters is grace.

I am . . .

  • the weary soldier longing for home . . . 
  • the rowdy fan scorning the singer . . .
  • the church member too busy talking to fully realize that intermission is over and the concert is beginning.

I’m turning the radio dial between frequencies, listening for notes of a song I can’t quite hear amidst the static, one that I long to hear again and again.

Then the song bursts forth, and unable to resist the beguiling melody of grace, I am compelled to sing along.


Couple of links you might be interested in . . .

Jessye Norman’s performance:

The Christmas truce of 1914:


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