This is a tough world to figure out. Depending on your worldview, people are either inherently good with the bad habit to do bad things or they are inherently evil who once in a while do something good and wonderful. Because of the belief in original sin, Christians generally adhere to the latter view.
One hundred years ago today, something wonderful happened, but was quickly swallowed up by evil. The wonder remains to this day, as a glimpse into what humans were intended to be by God, only to be corrupted by sin. It was a microcosm of our world involving the same kind of conflicted people that consume our Christian messages and books.
The glimpse into hope occurred on this day in 1914 during the First World War. During a major action near Ypres, Belgium, during a lull in the fighting, soldiers reported hearing hymns being sung from trenches on both sides. German soldiers were said to have brought Christmas trees to the Allied side in a gesture of peace.
The next day, on Christmas Eve, opportunistic German snipers shot 98 British soldiers. A German aircraft dropped a bomb on Dover, England, the first air-raid in British history. So much for peace.
As the day wore on, British troops saw Christmas trees with candles pop up on the German lines. There were carols, hymns and other songs sung. Much of the communication between the two sides was to arrange for retrieving the bodies of dead comrades.
On Christmas day, 1914, units on both sides attended church services, ate Christmas dinners and over half of the front lines experience a spontaneous truce. Some reported that soldiers on opposite sides exchanged addresses and they buried their dead in joint burial services.
Still, some snipers would kill an enemy who came into their sights. As the war plodded on, no reported “Christmas Truce” happened in 1915, 1916 or 1917. But for a brief moment one hundred years ago, there was a glimmer of something new.
This doesn’t seem like much of a Merry Christmas message, but I think it perfectly portrays the world into which we bring our message of hope.
It is a messy world. There are wonderful pockets of peace and terrible areas of evil. The points where they touch can be jarring.
But the hope remains, starting from a manger in Bethlehem and ending with the promise of God that one day the baby returns as a conquering king and reverting the world to the state in which it was originally created.
Keeping that hope in mind reminds us why we publish and makes this a Merry Christmas.
Below is a new video commercial that depicts the above events in a rather dramatic way. Enjoy!
Thanks for sharing this story. I’ve heard it before, but you added new details that make it even more special.
“It is a messy world. There are wonderful pockets of peace and terrible areas of evil. The points where they touch can be jarring.”
It is, indeed, a messy world. That is, perhaps, because it is populated with messy people. We all have sparks of righteousness and sainthood intermingled with some of the worst habits and evil thoughts one could conceive.
That is why we so needed the Savior. God understood our messiness and provided for our redemption at considerable cost to Himself.
Thank you for this message, Dan.
Christmas blessings to the Steve Laube Agency staff and to all the readers of this blog.
Judith, I accept the Christmas blessing you extended to readers of this blog, and I reciprocate that blessing back to you.
I wish you a fabulous Christmas!
It’s a wonderful story that raises a host of very complex moral, and, indeed, theological questions.
Perhaps the most import one can be asked in terms of a comparison – what if a three-day truce had occurred on the Western Front during the Christmas of 1944?
What if, for three days, German, American. British and French soldiers had put down their arms, and seen Christmas for what it is meant to be?
And what if…to continue conjecture…they had been disinclined to fight again, once the truce was over. What if the experience of the combat infantryman had given truth to “what if they gave a war, and nobody came?”
Hard to say, but this one thing is true. The gas chambers and crematoria of the Third Reich would still have been in business. It was going to take the killing of the guilty to stop the killing of the innocent.
Is it better, in pursuing the aims of a just war, to simply get it over with as soon as possible?
Or do the precious sparkling lights of humanity like “The Christmas Truce” become necessary reminders of grace in the slaughter?
Are they needed to prevent us from “becoming the evil we seek to destroy”, or is that maxim a shibboleth with slimy tentacles which would seek to unman us in the face of the devil’s work?
I sure don’t know.
As for the question of “good people who sometimes do bad things”, or “Bad people who sometimes do things that are slightly less awful”, we may be missing the point of the Fall.
We are fallen bits of the divine. There is that inherent goodness which can’t be blotted out; many preachers use the analogy of a twenty-dollar bill that you feed to your dog, and when it comes out the other end…presumably undigested…what’s it worth?
But we are capable of such horrible things. Paul said that he does what he shouldn’t, and doesn’t do what he should…and WANTS to be different, but can’t.
I winder if this was the thorn in his side, the knowledge of his inability to choose the divine over the carnal, when they were at odds?
Perhaps the Fall is a crippling, something that throws the rock-climber to the base of the cliff, unable to ascend again, save in a litter pulled up by a set of Strong Arms?
And to ascend, we merely have to be willing to get into the litter when it’s lowered to us.
Great post, Dan, and clearly, food for much thought.
Thanks Dan, for sharing this story of peace–temporary though it was–in the midst of conflict. It helps me better celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace.
Merry Christmas to all at Steve Laube Agency and to all my fellow blog readers.
Come quickly, Lord Jesus.
Wonderful, wonderful. Hope.
“It is a messy world. There are wonderful pockets of peace and terrible areas of evil. The points where they touch can be jarring.
“But the hope remains . . . ”
There is a terrific movie, Joyeaux Noel, that dramatizes this event. Well worth seeing.