The spirit of Christmas loses luster at times. Family pressures overtake us. Economics burden us. Unfathomable events sink us.
Even in challenging times, a Christmas moment catches us off guard, bringing a smile of a warm memory or a burst of gladness. It may not matter if one believes in Christmas or not, the seasonal spirit still slips through. No matter what our religious beliefs, we all understand a moment of peace and the spirit of it.
The Christmas Truce Story
Today, even after a decade and more of war, only a few understand the burdens of fighting, being on guard constantly, and leaving family behind. Go back in time and add in muddy trench warfare, coldness all around and little comfort nearby. This was the setting of the Western Front in World War I.
In 1914, World War I was being fought as Christmas Eve settled upon the battlefield. The divide between the opposing forces was known as No Man’s Land, the sliver of space between opposing trenches. In No Man’s Land, no one would want to venture. Enemy fire would ensue, and life would be at grim risk. Yet, this is where the Christmas truce took place.
From a short distance, candlelight twinkled in the night, and voices could be heard singing “Silent Night” and “The First Noel,” interrupting the darkness of war. As soldiers peered over the piled dirt, they saw tiny Christmas trees lining the tops of the trenches.
Peace broke out. Hands were stretched out and shook readily as a gesture of peace. Gifts were exchanged. Haircuts were given. Laughter burst out. Conversations in broken languages began. A soccer game was played. All this unfolded in a barren place known as No Man’s Land. All was done in a moment of peace and the spirit of it.
German, British, French, and Belgian… All joined together, putting their gun battles aside to capture a few minutes of peace.
Through frontline letters and a few articles, word of the Christmas truce spread sporadically and skeptically to others. Some thought it was a myth. Some worried if battle plans would be upset. The war continued for many years afterwards and, although attempted, a Christmas truce was never realized in the same way as on those days and nights in 1914.
As one German soldier said, “It was a day of peace in war. It is only a pity that it was not decisive peace.”
A Moment of Peace
While the Christmas truce is a short story of peace, it brings hope and challenge. The hope is, even in the muddy trenches of raging battles, peace can bloom. The challenge is, simply, how can we string together moments of peace?
For me, this is the ultimate tale of the Christmas truce. It is about creating the moments of peace, centered on values of a season and of humanity. It is about determining how to sustain those moments into a longer stretches of time, turning minutes into momentum within a society working together to achieve a higher purpose. This needs to be our story. This needs to be our resolved challenge.
Imagine the parents receiving the letters describing a Christmas truce between enemies, outside the trenches, and barely beyond the stench of the battles. Unbelief would be likely. Gratitude for the spiritual power of peace would be another.
We cannot afford to be dampened down below the spirit of Christmas. We must rise up over our challenging times and practice moments of peace, lending a hand, sharing a laugh, hugging a friend. We must rise up and call on our communities to embrace peace as a daily standard, not just something practiced during a holiday. We must rise up and have the conversations about how to advance our society forward rather than revel in blue/red state issues.
We have a larger purpose. It is time to recognize this fact of life.
Just as the soldiers from opposing sides stood up and out of the trenches to extend their hands and share a moment of peace, we need to do the same.
Rise up in the spirit of peace and exemplify peace even in the face of unquiet times.
Thank you for your support, comments, and interaction; all mean so much to me. In this holiday season, my wish for you is peace. Take it. Soak it in this season. May all the peace and joy of this time carry forward with you. Peace, Jon
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Moments of Peace – The Christmas Truce Story
Yes, wonderful movie (Joyeux Noel). My book on the truce, see note about pdf http://snowfar4.wix.com/1914-christmas-truce
Agree. I enjoyed the movie as well. Thanks, Michael!
Great post, Jon. The story you relate was also related in a Garth Brooks song a few years ago. Have you heard that song? May peace be with you.
Thank you, Joy! I think I know the song you are referring to. It has been awhile since I have heard it, but it fits this message well. Have a great holiday, Joy. Peace throughout the new year…. Jon
Jon- My husband and I watch the French movie Joyeaux Noel each year as part of our Christmas tradition. (Highly recommended, even though you have to read the captions if you do not speak French.) While it recreates these letters you mention in your post as a movie novel, the story is one of the most inspirational I have ever heard. Each year it restores my hope in humanity- that there IS hope for love to prevail amongst homo sapiens, though it may be only proven through much struggle. Thank you for sharing this story at this most convenient time, when we all need a reminder in the words of Henry W. Longfellow, and the well-loved hymn:
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.”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”
Yes, I purchased that movie about two years ago! It is an inspirational story, one of hope and challenge. Thanks so much, too, for the hymn addition. Great words to embrace as well. Have a great Christmas season, Geri! Jon
Three years ago we were snowed in for two days at Christmas and downloaded the movie. Wonderful.