‘Come out, English soldier; come out here to us.’ For some little time we were cautious, and did not even answer. Officers, fearing treachery, ordered the men to be silent. But up and down our line one heard the men answering that Christmas greeting from the enemy. How could we resist wishing each other a Merry Christmas, even though we might be at each other’s throats immediately afterwards? So we kept up a running conversation with the Germans, all the while our hands ready on our rifles. Blood and peace, enmity and fraternity—war’s most amazing paradox. The night wore on to dawn—a night made easier by songs from the German trenches, the pipings of piccolos and from our broad lines laughter and Christmas carols. Not a shot was fired.
The Christmas Truce of 1914.
World War 1 had been raging across the European continent. Along the front in the British held sector, which was in Belgium, German and British soldiers were in the trenches across from each other. After many mild but miserable wet days a hard freeze settled across the front lines. Snow and frigid but clear skies prevailed. Shouts of Merry Christmas across no man’s land rang out. Pretty soon men began to climb out of the trenches to meet in no man’s land and swap chocolate, smokes and rations. From somewhere a soccer ball was produced in many spots. Games broke out. Singing, laughing were everywhere.
Leaders however were starting to fire off messages the gist of them was “Get back to fighting, that’s an order” Many times after this the fighting resumed in hours; but in a few rare cases, fighting didn’t resume until New Year’s Day.
The power of Christmas. Across national borders, battle lines, the one unifying thing for these men was the celebration of Jesus’s birth. A common belief of the birth of the Messiah. During this short time we saw how humanity could be. It was a brief glance, but an important one. Enemies: at once friends and not fighting. Imagine if the French- held sector had done the same.
Truly at this small anomaly in a brutal war, this most brief moment of brotherly love they lived the ideals of Jesus. Love one another. Be kind, even towards your enemies. If it hadn’t been for commanders bent on fighting might this whole section of the front might have been different. We’ll never know. All we have now is what history tells us what happened.
Matthew 5:43-48New International Version (NIV)
Love for Enemies
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Merry Christmas and Blessings,