I don’t know about you, but I have been in some pretty dark and dank places before. My youth group—as a prank—once threw me down into an underground cellar on a Native American reservation. And by the way—there were tarantulas lurking about. I have also been holed up in a bunker during war games when I served in the military, but I cannot even fathom how depressing it must have been in 1914 to be wedged in a muddy and frigid trench in Belgium during World War I.
Not only were the physical conditions horrific for both the German and the French/English soldiers, but the emotional torment must have been unbearable. Each day you woke up to explosions and the sounds of whizzing bullets as they flew overhead. You missed your family terribly, and you lost friends on a daily basis to the nightmare that is combat.
And perhaps even worse, there seemed to be no end in sight. No hope of a victory, or surrender, or peace or even a truce for that matter…just the daily dose of hell on earth.
Until there was a silent night.
It started on December 24th, 1914. A hundred years ago, on a nearly forgotten battlefield that stretched over 500 miles with hundreds of thousand of men, a miracle occurred.
It began with the German soldiers coming out of their trenches with Christmas trees under a banner of truce and—yes—singing! Even though the allies continued to fire at them, they persisted unwaveringly in sharing the beautiful song that overflowed from their hearts:
Stille nacht, heilige nacht,
Alles schläft; einsam wacht.
This world famous Christmas carol, written by German-born Franz Gruber, became the instrument of God’s peace in a war torn situation. The allies stopped firing and listened to the chorus of Silent Night, then “fired” back with a loud chorus of The First Noel. The Germans applauded, and then the ceasefire that began with a few voices, became goodwill towards men across a 500 mile stretch! Soldiers shook hands, exchanged gifts, and shared photos of families back home. Someone brought out a soccer ball, and they played the most memorable “world cup” in the history books (and I’d wager Germany won)!
Some men—who hours before were shooting each other—now exchanged addresses and promised to correspond after the war.
This true and amazing event is called the “Christmas Truce,” and on its 100 year anniversary, I propose that we honor this anniversary by repeating this historic event in the battlefields of our own lives. Obviously, the majority of us are not hunkered down in a trench in the worst war the world has ever seen, but we all at one time or another have retreated into our emotional bunkers and taken shots (or received them) from our “enemies.” They aren’t trying to kill us, but they may be attempting to assassinate our character or reputation.
But if we could take our minds off the offenses and hurts that we have experienced and focus on the birth of Jesus Christ, suddenly our perspective can change as radically as it did for those soldiers in the trenches. That’s why the Bible gives us this great truth:
He is the embodiment of our peace, sent once and for all to take down the great barrier of hatred and hostility that has divided us so that we can be one (Ephesians 2:14, The Voice).
The Prince of Peace, who came to earth 2000 years ago, makes it possible for us to be at true peace with even the most bitter of enemies. Peace may be defined as the absence of war, but TRUE peace is defined by the Person of Jesus Christ—which is why the verse points out that “He is the embodiment of our peace.” It is not enough to simply end hostilities and stop firing at each other; we must leave the safety of our bunkers and extend the hand of friendship to our enemies in the name of Jesus.
That’s what Jesus did for us, right? The Bible says that “while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son” (Romans 5:10), and in order for Him to die, He had to leave the safety of heaven and take human form in the enemy’s territory.
So as you reflect on that silent night so long ago, remember the Christmas Truce, and honor your Commanding Officer by extending forgiveness and sharing the gospel for the sake of THE Cause. Because like the old saying goes:
Know Jesus, Know Peace
No Jesus, No Peace!
Flashpoint: Ignite Into Action
Christmas is the perfect season to put an end to our anger and bitterness, and call a permanent truce for Jesus’ sake. Think about what that silent night meant for the soldiers, maybe it should mean the same for us?
Accelerant: Fuel for THE Cause
Pray: Father, we rejoice that you sent Your Son and He is our peace. Help us break down the walls that separate us from others, and please give us opportunity to share Jesus’ message of peace with others this Christmas.
Read: John 14:27. “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”
Get: Lifted. Perhaps you or someone you care about struggles to forgive others for the deep wounds that have been inflicted. For anyone who’s ever struggled with the tough stuff of life, Katie Payne’s story of overcoming past wounds will encourage you or your friends to embrace a different future—the future God wants for each of us.
Discussion Guide for Leaders
Want to share this with your students? Copy and paste the following text message: “‘A hundred years ago, on a nearly forgotten battlefield that stretched over 500 miles with hundreds of thousand men, a miracle occurred.’ Read more in this week’s devo: http://hubs.ly/y0nQQz0.”
Big Idea: The Christmas Truce from World War I is a great illustration of how we should forgive others.
Key Scripture: Ephesians 2:14
- What did the soldiers call a truce on Christmas Eve?
- In what ways do you feel like you are at war right now?
- How does this story help you appreciate Christmas?
- How can you apply this Soul Fuel to THE Cause?