Comtesse de Le Riviere and her mother were two of 64 women who the Nazis held as prisoners in Ludenburg, Germany. ALL the women were Jews and they were the only two Christians. Their guarded prison was a small cold stable. In those bleak surroundings, her mother announced, “We are going to have Christmas.” Of course, their plan had to be kept secret.
They collected treasures from the barn and surrounding area. A long pole, pine branches from a woodpile, a tin can was cut in the shape of the “star of Bethlehem.” Boughs were made from scrap cloth and yarn. After air raids, they would find long silvery threads to use as tinsel. They took pieces of candles from the lantern in the pig sty.
On Christmas Eve they lit the candles and the tree came alive. The non-Christian women stood in awe as her mother read the New Testament story of Christ’s birth. Then softly they sang “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht.”
Suddenly, the door swung open and the guard, Max Wagner burst in.
Max: “What is this?”
Mother: “It is Christmas Eve. We are celebrating the Holy Evening.”
Max: “You are Jews?”
Mother: “My daughter and I are Christians.”
Max: “You are no different. You have Jewish blood.”
Mother: “So did the first Christians. Christianity is a matter of faith, not race.”
Max Wagner furiously destroyed the tree and turned off the lights.
Later in the darkness, she writes:
“I stretched out my hand to my mother’s hand searching from the bunk below. ‘We had our Christmas,’ she whispered.” She concluded, “That evening we knew for a certainty that Christmas, no matter how or with what it is celebrated, is eternal.”
Whatever circumstances or with whomever you find yourself this Christmas, remember to celebrate. His name shall be called Emmanuel which means “God with us.” That is the reason to celebrate.
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