One Hundred Years Ago

One hundred years ago tonight, Christmas Eve 1914, two armies faced each other along a 400-mile front.  Belgium, British, and French troops on one side. German troops on the other. Five months of fierce battle had developed into a stalemate. Both armies were dug into miles and miles of trench works separated by a few hundred yards of battle-scarred earth called no-mans-land.

On any other evening, the flare of a match would be answered by a sniper’s bullet. But this night, this Christmas Eve, for a few brief hours something changed.  Christmas and home were on the minds of both sides of no-mans-land. Up and down the line German soldiers erected small Christmas trees lit by candles. The soldiers in the opposite trenches wondered what new machine of war was coming at them.  That is until they heard the voices of the German soldiers singing Stille Nacht, Silent Night.

The Belgian, British, and French troops answered back with Christmas carols of their own. When the dawn of Christmas day rose over the conflict crude signs went up – you no shoot, we no shoot. Up and down most of the front the foot soldiers, not the generals, not the governments, not kings or Kaiser arranged a brief truce.  At first, it was to gather and bury their dead comrades which had irretrievably fallen between the trenches. Soon, as soldiers will do, barters were struck. Cigarettes for cigars, chocolates for cakes from home. In at least one place in the line an impromptu soccer game took place. To say that the generals and kings were unhappy about the soldier’s Christmas truce is an understatement. For the rest of the Great War, what we call World War I, they made sure that it never happened again.

One hundred years ago this very evening, for one brief moment, a candle’s flicker in the vastness of time, the angel’s proclamation of peace on earth and goodwill towards men triumphed. All because of Christ’s gospel, the flickering candlelight of Christmas trees, and a song.

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.’” (John 8:12, NASB95)  

Merry Christmas from

Dale Heinold
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