"It was during the dark winter of 1864. At Petersburg, Virginia, the Confederate army of Robert E. Lee faced the Union divisions of General Ulysses S. Grant.
The war was now three and a half years old and the glorious charge had long since given way to the muck and mud of trench warfare.
Late one evening one of Lee's generals, Major General George Pickett, received word that his wife had given birth to a beautiful baby boy. Up and down the line the Southerners began building huge bonfires in celebration of the event.
These fires did not go unnoticed in the Northern camps and soon a nervous Grant sent out a reconnaissance patrol to see what was going on. The scouts returned with the message that Pickett had had a son and these were celebratory fires.
It so happened that Grant and Pickett had been contemporaries at West Point and knew one another well, so to honor the occasion Grant, too, ordered that bonfires should be built.
What a peculiar night it was. For miles on both sides of the battle lines fires burned. No shots fired. No yelling back and forth. No war fought. Only light, celebrating the birth of a child. But it didn't last forever. Soon the fires burned down and once again the darkness took over. The darkness of the night and the darkness of war.
The good news of Christmas is that in the midst of a great darkness there came a light, and the darkness was not able to overcome the light.
It was not just a temporary flicker. It was an eternal flame. We need to remember that.
There are times, in the events of the world and in the events of our own personal lives, that we feel that the light of the world will be snuffed out. But the Christmas story affirms that whatever happens, the light still shines, because Christ is the light."
So live in the light of Christ-mas. Make a choice to let the light of Christ rule your heart, and to let it shine out around you.
Some gifts you can give this Christmas are beyond monetary value: Mend a quarrel, dismiss suspicion, tell someone, "I love you." Give something away--anonymously.
Forgive someone who has treated you wrong. Turn away wrath with a soft answer. Apologize if you were wrong. Be especially kind to someone with whom you work.
Give as God gave to you in Christ, without obligation, or announcement, or reservation, or hypocrisy.
And let the message ring out this day, not that we are surrounded by darkness, but that the light came into the darkness and the light cannot be destroyed.
For Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be for all generations. For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a saviour who is Christ the Lord.