Hope at Christmas
The meaning of the word ‘hope’,
by Rebecca Parkinson
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To encourage students to consider the meaning of the word ‘hope’, and to understand that for Christians Christmas is a time of great hope.
Preparation and materials
- Picture of Clair Cline (see http://www.merkki.com/violin.htm).
- Violin version of ‘Silent night’ (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kydPyYYIEaU).
- Ask the students what they hope for in the future (a good job, lots of money, fame, a happy marriage?).
- In a survey, people were asked what they would do if they were given a million pounds. The answers were varied – many said they would buy all the things they had always hoped for: a big house, loads of clothes; others said they would go on amazing holidays.
- Many people who have won the Lottery and received huge amounts of money say that having lots of money is not all they had hoped it would be. Many of them have been unhappy.
A list of what happened to Lottery winners in the USA has recently been produced. It reveals the following consequences for some winners:
– poverty, after spending all the money on drugs;
– poverty, after excessive gambling;
– loss of friends;
– fighting among co-workers;
– debt caused by failure to manage the money properly.
- In many parts of the world today there seems to be little hope. Lives are destroyed in bitter civil wars, while millions of people are starving, homeless, lonely, afraid.
We ourselves may not experience such bitter tragedies. But even so, in small ways we often find that things we hope for don’t turn out as expected. 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 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.
- This is a true story about someone who found hope and peace in a place of despair. (Show the picture of Clair Cline (see ‘Preparation and materials’).
Clair Cline was a pilot in 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. They may well have starved if the Red Cross hadn’t provided occasional food parcels. 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 which he recognized as a song he used to play on his violin. Clair had an idea! He would make a violin!
The problem was that there was nothing to make a violin from. Clair looked round. 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 the men, including the guards, were fascinated. One of the guards managed to get hold of some strings for him. When the violin was finished, a guard gave Clair a bow! To everyone’s surprise the violin sounded beautiful.
On Christmas Eve Clair began to play ‘Silent night’ on his violin – all the men in the barracks joined in, thinking about their families at home. Then a different noise was heard, ‘Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht, alles schlaft, Einsam wacht.’ Some of the German guards were joining in 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.
- At this Christmas time, let’s remember that there is always hope. When the shepherds and wise men knelt before the baby Jesus, they were full of hope because of the difference this baby would make to the world. Let’s hold on to that hope and this Christmas try to do our bit to bring peace and keep hope. !
Time for reflection
(You may like to use the violin solo as background music during the reflection (see ‘Preparation and materials’).)
Do you know anyone who seems to have little hope at the moment?
Pause for a moment and see if you can think of a way to bring some hope to this person this Christmas.
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?
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.
‘Make me a channel of your peace’ (Come and Praise, 147). This is based on a prayer of St Francis.
Or use the violin version of ‘Silent night’ (see ‘Preparation and materials’).