Thursday, December 10, 2020

Advent Film Series Reflection | "Joyeux Noel"

"Ave Maria" sung by Anna Sorensen (Diane Kruger via Natalie Dessay) in "Joyeux Noël"

"... Hail, Hail, the Lord. The Lord is with thee. ...
Hail Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, pray, pray for us; pray, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death ... " 

+ "Ave Maria" melody composed by Franz Schubert in 1825 A.D.

Above are lyrics from the classic Roman Catholic French Christmas song, "Ave Maria," which are sung in the Academy-Award-nominated (Best Foreign Language Film, 2006) "Joyeux Noel."

The potency is that this song is sung in the midst of a field where enemy armies of the French, German, and Scottish have been battling in World War I. Is the Lord with them here now at the potential hour of death?

These Top Advent + Christmas Films posts have been a joy to write this year. Here are links to the first two:

Advent Film Series Reflection: "A Quiet Place"
Advent Film Series Reflection: "Arrival"

"Joyeux Noel" complements the previous films in that it is also a film that invites us to consider how we receive the message of Advent that surprises, shocks, and stirs us to either hold back in fear or step forward in faith, even on a battlefield where any moment could be the one of our death.

Advent begins in the dark ... but while Advent does begin in the dark, it also reveals God is coming in surprising and powerful ways to meet us in our darkness, confront evil, and reveal more than we could hope or imagine ... Advent | The Coming Day Before, Now, and Again

For this post, I will focus on a glimpse of one scene and the profound choice of soldiers laying down their arms for a moment's peace in the midst of a brutal war.

Christmas Truce of World War I Scene Joyeux Noel on YouTube

" ... I don't think anyone would criticize us for laying down our rifles on Christmas Eve. ... "

I don't have to write many words for this reflection. Simply look at the image below. The cross of Christ alight during a dark night as a Scottish minister silently listens to a German singer serenade a group of enemy soldiers from France, Great Britain, and Germany on a battlefield together on Christmas Eve during World War I.

The beauty and the power of this scene alone captures Advent in so many ways. The soldiers stopping. The spouse singing. The stirring stillness. The "Silent Night, Holy Night."

In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us His ways and that we may walk in His paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more (Isaiah 2:2-4).

If you know our world and the hearts of humanity, you will know that this ceasefire didn't last in World War I. There were consequences for choosing peace, for bending a knee to Jesus as the Lord to bring together people from other tribes, tongues, and nations instead of clinging to flags and colors. And there are still consequences today for those who seek first His Kingdom, and His justice, righteousness, and peace for the love of enemies and for the life of the world.

During Advent, "Joyeux Noel" reminds us again that a small, seemingly insignificant moment like this one during World War I is worth remembering. And as a spark of hope in the darkness, it has not lost its potency nor been lost in human history. In fact, moments like these shine and break through the dark fog of memory all the brighter to create curiosity and invitation. 

Is our world simply going to go through an exhaustive process of wars and rumors of wars? Is human progress worth the wait or do we need something else to break into our bickering battle for pride and power? Can reincarnation fix us or do we need to put our hope in the Incarnation who alone claims to make all things new? 

And if we put our hope in Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us, what will our lives look like on the battlefield of life?

This is the sign of Christian warfare during Advent: we do not inflict suffering on others, but bear suffering for the sake of the other, as our Lord suffered for our sins on the cross. It has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for HIs sake (Philippians 1:29). ... Every selfish impulse resisted, every act of kindness, every testimony of Jesus, every act of resistance to evil is part of the coming triumph of God we anticipate ... The Advent themes of conflict, darkness, militant witness, and expectant waiting for the coming of Christ in the last day deeply engage us with Jesus and His story in the Scriptures during this season when 'The end is not yet' (Mark 13:7). We live, as cannot be said too often in Advent, in the Time Between, the time of waiting and the time of hope, the time of enduring patiently and resisting the 'works of darkness' in the power of the One Who Comes (ho erchomenos — Revelation 1:8). The sign of life in the Time Between — make no mistake — is suffering. How can it be otherwise? The Christian Church is the vanguard of God's conquering future, inserted into 'this present evil age' (Galatians 1:4). 'We are not contending against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places' (Ephesians 6:12). We, Jesus' beloved Church, are the paratroopers dropped behind enemy lines. We, the Church, are the resistance fighters in the territory occupied by the Enemy. We, the Church, are the beleaguered guerrillas waging a war of liberation against ferocious odds. We are the landing troops securing a beachhead while being fired upon from massive fortifications. 'We are afflicted in every way,' Paul writes; 'while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus' sake' (2 Corinthians 4:8, 11). This giving up of ourselves, this bearing of the cross, these waves of assault upon the enemy's defenses will continue to cost us even our very lives as long as the 'last enemy' (1 Corinthians 15:26) remains unvanquished; but 'the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed' (Romans 8:18). + Fleming Rutledge, Advent: The Once and Future Coming of Jesus Christ

Lord, haste the day. Come, Lord Jesus, come. We need Christmas to stay.

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude ... from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10).

Next post: Advent Film Series Reflection | "Children of Men"

Christ is all,

Rev. Mike “Sully” Sullivan

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