Its Christmas Eve again and I just borrowed a book from the public library about the most famous Christmas Eve ever . . . since the original one two thousand years ago. In 1914, on Christmas Eve, a truce was called between the English, French and German soldiers at certain parts of the Western Front. They stopped shooting each other, exchanged cigarettes, wine and sausages, played football, sang songs, and took photos with each other. Heres a few quotes and images that stuck out to me in the book "Meeting in No Man's Land: Christmas 1914 and Fraternization in the Great War", Faro, Brown, Cazals and Mueller.
"I was standing on the firestep, gazing out towards the German line and thinking what a very different sort of Christmas Eve this was from any I had experienced in the past . . .
There had been no shooting from either side since the sniper's shot that morning, which had killed a very popular young soldier in our company named Bassingham. But this was not at all unusual.
Then suddenly, lights began to appear along the German parapet, which were evidently Christmas trees, adorned with lighted candles, which burnt steadily in the still frosty air! Other sentries had, of course, seen the same thing, and quickly awoke those on duty, asleep in the shelters, to "come and see this thing, which had come to pass". Then our opponents began to sing "Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht". This was actually the first time I heard this carol, which was not then so popular in this country as it has since become. They finished their carol and we thought that we ought to retaliate in some way, so we sang "The First Nowell". And when we finished, they all began clapping; and then they struck up another favourite of theirs "O Tannenbaum". And so it went on. First the Germans would sing one of their carols and then we would sing one of ours, until we started up "O Come All Ye Faithful" the Germans immediately joined in singing the same hymn to the Latin words "Adeste Fidelis". And I thought, well, this is really a most extraordinary thing - two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war." Rifleman Graham Williams, page 29
"Thus, amid the bitter realities of trench warfare, with all its squalor, a Christmas song had worked a miracle and had thrown a bridge from man to man." German Crown Prince Wilhelm
"There has been a certain friendliness between our men and the Germans in the trenches. Christmas Day was looked on mutually as a peace day and both sides went out freely in front of their trenches and buried the dead which were still lying out in the fire-swept zone - Germans looked very clean and smart - Put on their best clean clothes for the occasion I fancy - They conversed freely and exchanged cigarettes . .. " Lieutenant General Sir Henry Rawlinson, Dec 27th.
" . . . if we had been left to ourselves, there would never have been another shot fired. We were on the most friendly terms, and it was only the fact that we were being controlled by others that made it necessary to start shooting each other once again. " Major Murdoch Mackenzie Wood, Gordon Highlander
"The Christmas Truce of 1914 was striking because it was seen as an exceptional phenomenon. More than any other day of the year, this day was holy - but it was accorded no official recognition from either Church nor Army, and the truce was a spontaneous soldier-led movement." Page 157, comment by the authors
There are many more stories and quotes from this amazing event but what struck me most was the potential for peace and reconciliation, even in the midst of a gruesome war. The kind of deep, true peace, that can only come through focusing on the Prince of Peace, whose birth was announced with angels praising God saying, "Glory to God in the highest. Peace on earth and goodwill toward men." Luke 2: 14
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