The story of Clair Cline and his violin
by Rebecca Parkinson (revised, originally published in 2010)
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To encourage us to consider what ‘hope’ means, and to understand that for Christians, Christmas is a time of hope.
Preparation and materials
Have available an image of Clair Cline and the means to display it. An example is available at: https://tinyurl.com/y8oa845k
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 students what they hope for in the future. Possible answers could include a good job, lots of money, fame and 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 that they would buy all the things they had always hoped for: a big house, a posh car and loads of clothes; others said that 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 and many have lost their fortune, suffered family breakdowns and even got into heavy debt despite winning vast amounts of money. Of course, many others have invested wisely, helped charities and enjoyed life. However, there is a common saying that ‘money cannot buy happiness’.
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 and afraid.
We ourselves may not experience such bitter tragedies. 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.
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. They might 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 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 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.
This Christmastime, 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 onto that hope and try to do our bit this Christmas to bring peace and hope to others.
Time for reflection
Optional: play the YouTube video ‘Barbi Franklin plays Silent Night on Violin’.
Do you know anyone who seems to have little hope at the moment? Let’s pause for a moment and see if you can think of a way to bring hope to that person this Christmas.
Pause to allow time for thought.
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)’ (Come and Praise, 147)
Alternatively, use the YouTube video ‘Barbi Franklin plays Silent Night on Violin’.