I wrote of a wartime Christmas before. It was when General George Washington caught the Hessians off-guard at Trenton in 1776 with the Crossing of the Delaware.” Today, let’s fast forward to Christmas Eve 1914. The event is WWI, one of the deadliest conflicts known to the human race and the place is the Western Front. It was here that Pope Benedict XV had pleaded that a 24 hour truce be honored by all on Christmas Eve.
Think about it. Every country and religion had seen conflicts and wars but for the first time in anyone’s history they were into a “world war.” This was described as “the war to end all wars.” This war was huge and everyone knew it. The Pope, in his infinite wisdom, played the hand he was dealt and pleaded to all these countries with a mutual religion, to “knock it off – one day.” This started weeks earlier on December 7, 1914 but one Christmas Eve, it actually transpired.
At midnight, the German trenches came alive with the illumination and songs of Christmas. It was a beautiful moonlit night and all soldiers laid down their weapons and sang of Christmas. Not a shot was fired as the British trenches were alive with music also.
I think the hardest part to imagine is that both German and British soldiers walked over the barbed wire at their trenches and engaged in a soccer match on the frozen “No-man’s Land” between the trenches.
Superior officers didn’t like it and suspected both a trap and a break-down in the “war mentality” but the men felt it to be “the right thing to do.”
There was some exchange of cigars and whiskey and this allowed some time to bury their dead. Both parties claimed to have won the soccer match.
If it had been up to the troops, no more shots would have been fired,but all good things must end and the cease fire ended, as did December 26th.
We don’t know how many of those men from the trenches who participated in the cease fire ever saw another Christmas but we do know that they did witness a truly miraculous tribute to the good in all men and the power of Christmas and religion.
That war accounted for 18 million casualties but on that one occasion it was “silent night” and “peace on earth.” Even in such a time of wanton destruction we can find the best of humanity if we look for it and make the first gesture. At this “special time of the year” (aka The Most Wonderful Time of the Year) angels, possibilities, and forgiveness are available if we just seek them out.
Open your heart and let Christmas in. May the spirit of Christmas be with you today and everyday. It is right to give thanks.
Doesn’t the preceding paragraph speak volumes as to how we can all find happiness and inner peace? It’s not that complicated, is it? We don’t need a shrink to tell us how to be happy – just open your heart and mind and good things will happen.
Think about those guys in the trenches of W.W.I. They didn’t know if they would live to see another Christmas but they opened up their hearts for the one Christmas that they knew they had. They simply opened their hearts and the wonder of this most powerful religious season, filled them with hope, happiness and peace like another day of war never could have.
“Peace be unto you.”
Dudley Wooten is the owner/operator of Wooten’s Landscaping and Nursery and can be contacted at 740-820-8210.