War. Humans have known war. In fact, humans are the only species capable of mass destruction. From the Punic Wars to the War against Terrorism; over the years, humans have fought wars for Lord and Country.
World War One was named as the War to end all wars. Four years of hard fighting: Millions dead by blade or bullets, and mustard gas. Peace has finally come; the war to end all wars had ended. With it came eternal peace or so people thought back then. Two decades passed and World War Two erupted, which resulted in more dead. Seven years of terror.
Wars will never change. There can never be everlasting peace in this World. As we live on this earth, before returning to the gates of heaven, we will each in our respective lifetimes witness conflicts.
Wars may be a time of killing, but they will never last. Peace will always return.
I recently watched clips of the 2005 movie Joyeux Noël. Joyeux Noël is the direct French translation of “Merry Christmas”. The movie depicts the Christmas Truce of 1914 between belligerent forces on the Western Front. World War One started in July 1914 and this unofficial truce happened only 6 months after the beginning of war. Soldiers from both Allied Powers units and Central Powers units crossed “no-man’s land” to exchange gifts as per the Christmas tradition. Gifts like cigarettes and chocolate were exchanged between soldiers who on any other day would try to kill each other. This truce not only happened on one frontline but on multiple frontlines.
As the story is told, such as depicted in the movie Joyeux Noël, German Troops had decorated their trenches with Christmas decorations, some with lightings. The Germans were also singing Christmas carols, carols that were also all too familiar to the British/French troops on the opposite side. When the British/French soldiers saw the lights at the German trenches, they were suspicious at first. However as some allied soldiers joined in the singing of the carols, eventually that led to the soldiers of both sides crossing “No man’s land” to exchange gifts.
This is an amazing moment in the history of the world, and dare I say the history of Christians. Enemies, who could have all the right to be suspicious and shoot instead took a break from the fight, so as to join in the celebration of the Birth of their saviour, as one Body of Christ, a United Church regardless of denomination. On other frontlines, there might not have been a Christmas truce, and unarmed soldiers who had the intention to exchange gifts might have been shot and killed by soldiers of the opposite side. It was war after all, and the policy was to Shoot and ask questions later. It was justifiable in war.
As the war continued, with increasing dead and injured & the start of using mustard gas by the Central Powers, such truces were rare.
The Year is 2017, exactly 99 years after the end of WWI. Next year in 2018, we would celebrate the 100 years anniversary of the End of WWI. A century after WWI. There are many things to learn from conflicts, one of which is to never repeat mistakes of the past. Another lesson is that even when the world is in a dark time, when Satan has a grip on Humankind, there is still a bright light among all that darkness. Our Lord God watches over us forever and ever, be it in times of peace and happiness or in times of war and desolation.
Christmas Day is coming upon of us once again. The celebration of the Birth of our Lord Jesus, Our Father’s only begotten Son who was sent down and sacrificed for the sins of humankind, past, present and future. The Messiah who taught us not to take our enemy’s eye in revenge of your own missing eye, but to forgive and love our enemies instead and to trust in the holy brethren of all Christendom.
And this is what those soldiers did, on the week leading up to Christmas Day in 1914. They stopped fighting, most against orders of top commanders. Soldiers from both sides gathered together to celebrate Christmas. They performed last rites for soldiers killed in action, exchanged Christmas gifts, all in all to keep the battlefield bloodless on Christmas Day. Some Christian Soldiers from both British/French and German units would have a small service mass so as to celebrate the Birth of Jesus proper.
In the days after the truce, as news got to the top command structure, these soldiers might have been accused of crimes such as Treason and Fraternization with the Enemy, heavy crimes that are punishable by death. Instead, officers in charge of forces involved in the truce might have got demoted or dismissed for incompetency. Units involved in the truce might have been transferred to another frontline so as to avoid any future fraternization with the enemy, such as what happened to the German unit at the end of the movie Joyeux Noël.
Any soldier who was at the scene of the truce and lived to tell the tale has probably passed on by now. But I say truly, may God bless them and may they have a quicker journey through purgatory. For, in that week of Christmas 1914, they fulfilled Jesus’ lesson of forgiving and loving your enemy, even though it was a short period of time.
There are many moments in History, some honourable, some shameful. This event is an honourable moment that present generations and future generations must always remember and never forget. And we, as descendants of those soldiers in faith, must always remember their act of faith. We must always remember that even in a world of darkness, when Satan has his grip over the world in that darkness, there will always be a spot of light for the Lord is and evermore will be more powerful than the tricks of the deceiver. Through us, His servants, night will never last, and the moon is alit at night and the sun must and will always rise.
Joyeux Noël!! May the Lord bless us all this Christmas!