Pause for Thought: A Hope-Filled Christmas
The story of Clair Cline and his violin
by Rebecca Parkinson
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To explore what ‘hope’ means and consider how, for Christians, Christmas is a time of hope.
Preparation and materials
- Have available an image of Clair Cline and the means to display it during the assembly. An example is available at: https://tinyurl.com/y8oa845k
- Optional: have available the YouTube video ‘Barbi Franklin plays “Silent night” on violin’ and the means to show it during the assembly. It is 1.02 minutes long and is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kydPyYYIEaU
- Further information about Clair Cline is available at: http://www.merkki.com/violin.htm
- Ask the children what they hope for at Christmas.
Listen to a range of responses.
- Ask the children what they hope for in the future. Possible answers could include a good job, happiness, lots of money, fame, a happy marriage and so on.
- A while ago, there was a survey that asked people what they would do if they were given a million pounds. The answers were varied. Many said that they would buy all the things that they had always hoped for: a big house, a top-of-the-range car and loads of clothes; others said that they would go on holidays to far-flung places.
- As Christmas approaches, we may hope for a particular present and then be disappointed. In the future, we may find that we don’t actually like the job that we had wanted to do for years.
- Christians believe that Christmas is all about hope. It celebrates the fact that God sent his son into the world to bring about peace. It is a time for differences to be forgotten and for people to live together in peace and with kindness.
- One particular person who found hope and peace in a place of despair was a man called Clair Cline.
Show the image of Clair Cline.
- Clair Cline was an American pilot during the Second World War. One day, when he was flying over Germany, he was shot down, captured and taken to a prisoner-of-war camp. The men lived in wooden barracks and slept on rough bunks, on sacks filled with straw. It was a dismal place and Clair felt very down and lonely.
The prisoners had nothing to do all day long and one of the worst problems was boredom. One day, Clair prayed to God, ‘Lord, please help me to find something constructive to do!’
Suddenly, he heard someone whistling a tune that he recognized as a song he used to play on his violin. Clair had an idea: he would make a violin. However, there was nothing to make a violin from. Clair looked around. He looked at the bunk beds. They had wooden slats across them. Perfect! He began to remove them.
Over the next few months, Clair traded his Red Cross rations with the guards to get a penknife and other necessary things. He and his friends collected dried glue from the backs of their chairs and melted it down to produce glue that would hold the violin together. Slowly, the violin took shape.
All of the men, including the guards, were fascinated. One of the guards got hold of some strings for him. Another guard accepted more of Clair’s Red Cross rations in exchange for a bow. When Clair finally played his violin for the first time, to everyone’s surprise, it sounded beautiful.
On Christmas Eve, Clair began to play ‘Silent night’ on his violin. All of the men in the barracks joined in, thinking about their families at home. Then, a different sound was heard: ‘Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht / Alles schläft; einsam wacht . . .’ Some of the German guards were joining in with the singing.
In May the following year, the war ended. Clair took his violin with him and it was kept at his home. There, it became a reminder to his children that even in the saddest times, there is always hope.
Time for reflection
Remind the children that there is always hope; Christmas is a wonderful time to remember this. When the shepherds and wise men knelt before the baby Jesus, they were full of hope because of the difference that this baby would make to the world. Let’s hold on to that hope and try to do our bit this Christmas to bring peace and hope to others.
Optional: play the YouTube video ‘Barbi Franklin plays “Silent night” on violin’.
Ask the children, ‘Do you know anyone who seems to have little hope at the moment?’
Listen to a range of responses.
Encourage the children to think of some ways in which they could bring hope to someone this Christmas.
Ask the following questions.
- Are you at peace with those around you?
- Are there problems and fall-outs that need sorting out?
- Why not use this season of Christmas to put things right?
Pause to allow time for thought.
Thank you that Christmas is a time of hope.
Thank you that you sent Jesus at Christmas
To give us the hope that the world can be a better place.
Please help us to play our part
In bringing hope and peace to the world.
‘The prayer of St Francis (Make me a channel of your peace)’, available at: https://youtu.be/ihhvm6eLWZI (2.51 minutes long)
Alternatively, use the YouTube video ‘Barbi Franklin plays “Silent night” on violin’, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kydPyYYIEaU (1.02 minutes long)