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!