The Christmas Truce

On this day I want to speak about the Christmas Truce of 1914.

Luke 2:10-14 (ESV Strong’s)

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Ever since those words were spoken, and also long before, mankind has searched for peace. At Christmas, people always speak about peace, yet according to the NY Times, in the past 3,400 years, humans have been entirely at peace for only 268 of them, or just 8 percent of recorded history. Today, as people around the world speak of peace, 828 armed conflicts are currently raging in 69 countries around the world, almost all of them driven by a religion calling itself peace!

 

So this Christmas Day, I want to remind you that real peace, forever peace, peace that passes all understanding is possible, but you will never find it in mankind’s government, or the media’s latest philosophy, or the good intentions of men. We need a Christmas Truce.

 

That first Christmas the angel promised peace on earth, not to all men, but to all men with whom God is pleased, that is those who know Him and honour Him.

 

Yet sometimes, in an ocean of conflict, madness and destruction God shines a tiny candle of peace that speaks of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. So today I want to share the story with you of one such ray of hope in the midst of a world of nan made death and destruction.

 

THE CHRISTMAS TRUCE

It’s December 1914, and the Great War has been raging for 8 months. In that time the German army swept through Belgium, and drove on towards Paris, but were repelled by a combined French army and British Expeditionary Force in the battle of Aisne. At that point in northern France and Belgium the war deteriorated into a static war, with trenches stretching from Belgium to Switzerland.

 

The men from both sides who had earlier joined up and marched to war so  confident of victory and being home by Christmas now faced a Christmas in the waterlogged, freezing trenches, gazing fearfully across no man’s land at the enemy.

 

They were shelled, machine gunned and fought not only the enemy, but also the cold and the lice and rats. They were lonely, afraid, freezing, miserable… what kind of Christmas is this? But the Christmas Truce was coming!

 

In the Ypres sector of the Western front in Belgium, British forces from the Northumberland Hussars 7th Division stood guard on the parapet overlooking no man’s land. And as the sound of guns and artillery faded away that Christmas Day, it was replaced by this sound coming from the German lines beyond the wire ….

 

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht

Alles schläft; einsam wacht

Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.

Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,

Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!

Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh

 

A few British soldiers raised their heads above the parapet, listening to a language they did not understand but a tune they did recognise, hearing an enemy they had been told were devils intent on conquering the world, sing praises to the same Saviour they worshipped.  They noticed that the Germans had set candles on the top of their trenches, and in a few makeshift Christmas trees they had fashioned from a few battered branches left after shelling.

 

And something broke in their spirit. A longing rose up in their hearts that on this of all days, they might find a moment of peace in a mad world of carnage. Both sides began to shout Christmas greeting to each other, and they stood at their posts, cold, wet and tense, wondering what would come next. In the Christmas Truce.

 

Further down the line in the French sector the experience was similar.

 

As the guns and shelling began to fall silent, as the French soldiers stood damp and miserable in their trenches, they too heard the sound of Christmas carols and hymns drifting across no man’s land from the German trenches.

 

Then one lone French voice began its refrain…

 

Douce nuit, sainte nuit !

Dans les cieux ! L’astre luit.

 

Then one by one others took up the refrain…

 

Le mystère / annoncé / s’accomplit

Cet enfant sur la paille/ endormi,

C’est l’amour infini !

C’est l’amour infini !

 

Then a German soldier quietly, fearfully, climbed to the top of the trench, waving is arms to show he had no weapon, and he called out to the French men.

 

Others join him on the top of the trench, and French soldiers climbed from their trench, and both sides began to take terrifying steps into no man’s land, calling

 

Frohe Weihnachten Franzose

And Joyeux Noël, Fritz!

The Christmas Truce had begun.

Back in Ypres, the British soldiers also cautiously made their way to the middle of the shell torn, blood soaked quagmire between the trenches. The Germans got out of their trenches, both sides fearful that the magic of this fragile moment would be shattered by the sound of a bullet or shell. They met met in the middle. They began to speak to each other, although they could not understand properly. But with hand gestures and impromptu presents of cigarettes and chocolate and alcohol, they laughed and sang hymns together.

 

As some soldiers buried the many dead, others talked quietly and smoked, and then one produced a football, and they started to play. Reports suggest that the Germans beat the British 3-2.

 

All along the line, men swapped stories, showed photographs of their families, and shared cigarettes and Christmas cheer. The men, as the Generals later described it, “fraternised with the enemy”.

 

But for a moment or two in the midst of horror, death and war, a ray of hope and peace shone through as together enemies celebrated the birth of the Saviour in the Christmas Truce.

 

And the British soldiers, having heard their enemy sing glory to God in the highest, began to lift their voices and sing too…

 

Silent night, holy night,

All is calm, all is bright

‘Round yon virgin Mother and Child

Holy Infant so tender and mild

Sleep in heavenly peace

Sleep in heavenly peace.

 

The following year this scene would not be repeated. The generals did not want the soldiers seeing each other as human beings, with families and children and a sense of humour. They issued orders against such friendliness, and tried to demonise the enemy.

 

But for that first year of war, peace reigned for a few moments.  Then, as that most extraordinary day drew to a close, the men reluctantly returned to their trenches, and the mud, and the lice and the wet and the war.

 

In the midst of the hatred of the Great War, the significance of that tiny baby born in Bethlehem, of that wonderful gift so freely given by God to win back the souls of men and women, was truly felt in that Christmas Truce.

 

Those men experienced peace for a day, and this Christmas 105 years later Jesus is offering you true, inner peace, a peace that lasts not only for a day but for eternity. That little baby was God Almighty, come to earth, humbling Himself and opening the door for you to experience peace with God, with each other and peace in every area of your life.

 

And that’s His gift to you this Christmas. Our world is a mess, standards and behaviour in our society are falling apart, your family might be tense or self destructing, but today God is offering you the peace that passes all understanding.

 

Remember the verse we started with, where the angel says,

 

“Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

 

That’s the formula for peace. It starts with giving glory to God in the highest. You may have ignored Him, neglected Him, even been angry at Him all year, or even years, but on this day of all days, maybe you need to start giving Him the glory and honour He deserves.

 

Then the next step towards that peace the angels promised is to become one of those, with whom He is well pleased.

 

And what would please Him most is you for to accept Jesus right now as your Lord and Saviour. Your sin has you destined for hell, but Jesus came as a baby that first Christmas, He grew into a man, and then chose to lay His life down for you, to die in your place and give you the peace you’ve dreamed of.

 

I don’t want you to leave this place without the peace God offers you. It’s time for the Christmas Truce again!

 

The Bible says,

 

John 3:16-17 (ESV Strong’s)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

 

He loves you so much, so what’s stopping you opening your heart and receiving His Christmas gift to you this morning?

 

It’s time to trust in Jesus.

 

Jesus loves me

 

Silent night, holy night!

All is calm, all is bright.

Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child.

Holy infant so tender and mild,

Sleep in heavenly peace,

Sleep in heavenly peace

 

Silent night, holy night!

Shepherds quake at the sight.

Glories stream from heaven afar

Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia,

Christ the Savior is born!

Christ the Savior is born

 

Silent night, holy night!

Son of God love’s pure light.

Radiant beams from Thy holy face

With dawn of redeeming grace,

Jesus Lord, at Thy birth

Jesus Lord, at Thy birth

About Darin

Pastor Darin Browne is the Senior Pastor of Coast Church in Woombye, Queensland. He is an international speaker and worship leader and has toured all over the world, produced 8 albums and authored several books.