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One hundred years ago today, on Christmas Eve, the World War I Christmas truce occurred. The respite in fighting happened in the unlikely setting of mud, cold rain, and senseless killing. It took place despite orders by superiors. It took place despite language barriers. If only for a few hours, sworn enemies became temporary friends.


World War I had been raging for only four months, but it was turning out to be one of the bloodiest wars in history. Soldiers on both sides were trapped in trenches, exposed to the cold and wet winter weather, covered in mud, and extremely anxious because of snipers. Machine guns had demonstrated their worth in war, bringing new meaning to the word "slaughter."


In a place where bloodshed had become commonplace, something surprising happened on the front for Christmas in 1914. The men shivering in the trenches embraced the Christmas spirit. In one of the most authentic acts of goodwill toward men, soldiers from both sides in the southern portion of the Ypres Salient temporarily put down their weapons and hatred, and met in No Man's Land.


It started when German soldiers lit candles on small Christmas trees and sang “Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht”, and British, French, Belgian and German troops serenaded each other. Soon they gathered and buried the dead, in an age-old custom. But as the power of Christmas intensified, they exchanged addresses and letters and expressed admiration for one another. Uniting across the front line—they sang carols, exchanged gifts, ate and drank, and even played games of soccer. When angry superiors ordered them to recommence shooting, many soldiers aimed harmlessly high overhead.


And so great beauty was observed in the midst of deep tragedy. Unspeakable carnage followed, making the Christmas truce stand out as one of history’s most poignant moments. In the terrible darkness of war, if only temporarily, there shone a little bit of light.


At another No Man’s Land—a bloody place of slaughter called Skull Hill, on the front line of good and evil—God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. (2 Corinthians 5:19 NLT). This was not just a truce between God and sinners; it was a divine act of love offering eternal forgiveness and peace.


Jesus was “born that man no more may die”; and He died in our place so we may be born from above. Anticipating heaven, enjoying the pleasure of His company day by day, we enjoy more than a temporary halt in hostilities—we celebrate a relationship that will never end, a relationship that changes us from the inside out, a friendship that inspires us to sing of heaven’s peace even in the midst of earth’s pandemonium.  


Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased. (Luke 2:14 NLT)


Johnny R. Almond

Christian preacher and writer

Author, Gentle Whispers from Eternity

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