During World War I, over 20 million human beings were killed. Man had invented the machines and weapons to kill other men on a massive scale. Bombs were dropped from airplanes for the first time. The tank was invented to help break the stalemate on the Western Front. The machine gun turned infantry charges into slaughters.
Both sides dug elaborate trenches to protect themselves from artillery and small arms fire. Going “over the top” into “no man’s land” between the trenches almost certainly meant a quick death.
In the middle that horrible carnage, as Christmas approached in 1914, something miraculous happened. Men who were killing one another with abandon stopped shooting. Unofficial ceasefires took place all along the Western Front. Throughout the week leading up to Christmas, German and British soldiers began to exchange greetings and songs between trenches.
On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, soldiers from both sides ventured into no man’s land, where they exchanged food, souvenirs, and other small gifts. They played games and sang carols. They helped one another bury their dead.
The “Christmas Truce” that came during the most violent time in modern history, will always be remembered as a symbol of peace and humanity. Sadly after Christmas, the war resumed and men began killing each other again.
What will it take to make us ashamed of our history, to stop repeating the atrocities of war? This Holy Season, pray that we stop fearing others because they are different than us. Pray for courage to listen to one another. Pray for understanding. Pray for Peace.