Unstoppable Peace and the Christmas Day Truce
During the holiday season, one could say that daily miracles occur because of the giving spirit that abounds. Community members strive to reach out to those in need, strangers greet each other with smiles, family members renew relationships, and everyday life becomes a gentler version of itself. This yearly transformation that is witnessed in communities all across the country could be considered a miracle in and of itself.
During the month of December, we celebrate holidays that commemorate miraculous events that happened hundreds of years ago. Christians celebrate the gift of eternal salvation that Christ Jesus gave us, who arrived in this world, born not in a palace, but in a humble manger. Jews celebrate the triumph over Hellenism, which had all but destroyed Judaism in 165 BCE; and God showed his promise of eternal care by ensuring the flames of the menorah were lit for eight days. Indeed, this is a season where miracles occur in abundance. But, what about some of the miraculous and world-changing events that happened within the past 100-plus years?
Exactly 102 years ago, on December 24 of 1914, a miracle of global proportions occurred. It happened during The Great War and came to be known as the Christmas Truce. It was a quiet movement that started with individuals on opposing sides who chose to drop their weapons and celebrate. At the time they had been fighting for only four months, but in that short period of time around a million were killed. On a freezing December night, English soldiers sat in frozen trenches with frostbitten hands. They were so weary from war, but then something caught their eye.
“On December 24, 1914, in the middle of a freezing battlefield in France, a miracle happened. The British troops watched in amazement as candle-lit Christmas trees began to appear above the German trenches. The glowing trees soon appeared along the length of the German front.” (politicalvelcraft.org).
From dreary trenches, an otherworldly sound broke out as English soldiers heard a German baritone sing with conviction these simple words: Silent Night, Holy Night, All is calm, All is quiet. The soldiers felt as if a ray of hope had split through a nightmare as the gentle song rose over the frozen mist.
Henry Williamson, a young soldier in the London regiment immortalized this moment in his diary. Henry wrote, “they finished their carol and we thought that we ought to retaliate. So we sang The First Noël and when we finished, they all began clapping. And they struck up O Tannebaum and on it went, until we started up O Come All Ye Faithful. The Germans immediately joined in-- this was really a most extraordinary thing — two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war.” (politicalvelcraft.org).
That night, German and English soldiers made a pact not to fight on Christmas Day. Instead, they shared food, wine, and other comforts of home. That day, they happily wished one another a Merry Christmas and took the time to look into each other’s eyes to see each man’s inherent humanity. The English sang Christmas carols to the Germans and the Germans sang God Save the King to the English soldiers.
That moment peace, which was not initiated by global leaders and in a time when communications took days to happen, demonstrates that the miracle of this season, the spirit of joining together, is so strong it can even stop opposing armies. This cease-fire spontaneously spread through a 500-mile stretch of the Western Front, all without text messages or Facebook alerts. One German soldier summed up the event by saying: “It was a Christmas celebration in keeping with the command ‘Peace on Earth’ and a memory which will stay with us always.” (politicalvelcraft.org). Indeed, it was a memory that stayed with those soldiers forever and one that provides and valuable lesson and timeless lesson that is equally relevant today.
Erma Bombeck once remarked, “To receive a gift molded from love and sacrifice, selected with care and tied up with all the excitement the giver has to offer, is indeed rare. They don’t come along often, but when they do, cherish them.” That cold, awful night in the dark trenches was transformed as the sun rose on Christmas Day. Seen in the light of a new day, the opposing soldiers offered each other a gift truly molded from love and sacrifice. The palpable peace that spread through the ranks was indeed a gift so rare that they would cherish it forever.
The camaraderie that developed among these brave men who put both language and pride of country aside, calls to us through the ages and whispers a gentle lesson. There is no situation where one can find himself completely without hope and no condition that can suppress the human spirit or override the innate kindness within each of us.
Times of conflict often give birth to some of the greatest miracles of all. As Mary held her child on that silent night long ago, little did she know that she would bring into the world the child and the man who would serve as the symbol of salvation for millions of people across two thousand years. To this day, Christmas celebrations can be found in Israel in Jerusalem’s Christian quarter and Bethlehem’s Manger Square.
The month of December affords us the opportunity to slow down and reflect on all of the miracles that abound, whether they happened just over two thousand years ago or today.
All of us at Gig Harbor Living Local warmly extend a Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah to all of our readers and their families. We offer a prayer of safety and gratitude to our servicemen and servicewomen who unselfishly spend this season in defense of our country and who ensure that we remain one nation under God.