How The Birth Of Christ Brought Together Foes On The Battlefield
The Christmas Truce of WW I – December 24, 1914
It is so hard to believe, that in the heat of battle, in one of the most horrific wars the face of this planet has ever seen, civility could break out, at least for a time. This happened on December 24, 1914, late in the evening when British and German forces, arrayed across from each other in foxholes on the Western Front, stopped shooting at each other and instead, sang to each other.
On December 7, 1914, Pope Benedict XV suggested a temporary hiatus of the war for the celebration of Christmas. The warring countries refused to create any official cease-fire, but on Christmas the soldiers in the trenches declared their own unofficial truce.
Over time, the British forces and the German forces began to warily climb out of their foxholes and approach one another. While at times language was difficult, there was an understanding. Gifts of food, drink and cigarettes were exchanged and singing was done. And for a brief moment, up and down the lines for hundreds of miles, the war was forgotten.
Such is the power of this season. God gave those troops an opportunity to share their faith and love with their sworn enemy and it was not lost. It shows that even during the darkest of times, God is in control. The Christmas Spirit is one that is strong and, as shown on the battlefield 103 years ago, cannot broken.
We, as Christians, know why we celebrate this time. We celebrate the birth of the One who came to us as a lowly baby. So innocent and fragile. To grow into a man who would completely change our lives. Until his coming, we were destined for eternal death. We were sinners and had no chance. But this little baby, named Jesus, was destined to sacrifice His life and die for all of us. What a wonderful gift!
As the British and German forces retreated back to their lines after the unplanned truce, we wonder, what were their thoughts after meeting their enemy and finding they were similar to themselves? What was their conversation in the foxholes about having to shoot and kill those whom they had just met and shared food and drink with?
In some areas of the Western Front, the cease of hostilities lasted until after the first of the year. In other areas, hostilities resumed later that Christmas day. But for one brief moment, civility reigned and men of different origins came together in unity to celebrate. It is a feat that has never been repeated in warfare.
To read the full account, I would direct you to The Story of the WWI Christmas Truce by Mike Dash at the Smithsonian Magazine site (just click here).