All of heaven stood still and watched with a smile. I’m not thinking of the birth of Jesus, but . . .
of a night that happened over 100 years ago on Christmas.
The men were cold, lonely, and huddled in trenches. In between the lines lay injured and dead German, French, and British men. In the distance they heard a Christmas carol being sung. They recognized the melody, but the words were in another language. Maybe they sung along or their hearts remembered a Christmas past with their loved ones.
Then one brave soldier decided he would risk it all and climbed up out of the trench standing with his hands held high in the air in a sign of surrender. At first the men thought is was a trick, but then others began climbing out of the dirt with their hands raised too. Slowly the men walked toward each other until a hand shake was given.
Peace came to earth during Christmas along the Western Front of World War I. Instead of bullets, stabbings and hand-to-hand fighting, men who couldn’t understand each other’s words, shared pictures of their loved ones, chocolate, cigarettes, and souvenirs.
On Christmas Day they laughed, played soccer together, and shed a tear as they buried their dead. For one brief moment in the war, peace came to earth because one man risked his life and bravely stepped into no man’s land. It was called the Christmas Truce of 1914 and it happened in several locations along the front. It happened in fewer spots the Christmas of 1915 and not at all by 1916 as the loss of life and bitterness on both sides mounted.
peace is possible
The Christmas truce of 1914 really came because of a gift of peace given by God hundreds of years earlier. These soldiers were remembering a baby in a manger sent from heaven and the families they loved.
And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
But the bells are ringing (peace on earth)
Like a choir singing (peace on earth)
Does anybody hear them? (peace on earth)
Peace on earth, good will to men
*Click on song title to listen to it.
When I think of peace, I think of perfection. Everything as it should be. No more name calling, countries fighting, prejudice, or unrest. We are calm and our heart’s are full of love and joy. But God brought us peace in the midst of the mess, pain, loneliness, and fear. Perhaps the peace starts inside us, when we accept ourselves as we are, loved by God, not perfect, but forgiven. And it also begins with accepting others without criticism, but listening and trying to understand them.
Peace doesn’t have to mean perfect.
Peace also comes by accepting life just as it is, with all it’s imperfections. It comes by rejoicing in what we do have, not what we don’t. Peace comes when we remember God.
May you know the true peace God offers this Christmas despite the weariness you feel, the people you’d rather not be with, or the cooking, shopping, and serving that never seems to end. Instead of wishing it were different, allow the peace of God to enter your trench and pull you out to enjoy the smallest moments of joy.
Jesus brought us peace with God and sometimes we catch glimpses of this peace among men. The Christmas Truce of 1914 was made into a movie called Joyeux Noel and would make a great family movie to watch over the holidays. Click on the title or picture to rent or buy it.