It is all too easy to become cynical about human nature and have our view of the world coloured by all the bad news we hear. If that is you, can I encourage you to read a book entitled “Where was God when that happened?” by Christopher Ash. It shows us how there can be hope even in a dark world. Even in the midst of the horrors of war there are glimpses of this hope. One such event is the Christmas Day Truce of 1914, recorded in detail on the website 1914-1918.net,
24 December 1914 – “The weather changes to a hard frost. This makes trench conditions a little more bearable. 98 soldiers die on this day. Many are victims of sniper fire. During the afternoon and early evening, British infantry are astonished to see many Christmas trees with candles and paper lanterns, on enemy parapets. There is much singing of carols, hymns and popular songs, and a gradual exchange of communication and even meetings in some areas. Many of these meetings are to arrange collection of bodies. In other places, firing continues. The night brings a clear, still air with a hard frost.
25 December 1914 – Units behind the lines attend church services and have in most cases arranged Christmas dinners which are taken in barns and shattered buildings. In the front lines, the fraternization of Christmas Eve is continued throughout the day; not all units know about it, and it is not universal but is widespread over at least half of the British front. Many bodies that have been lying out in no man’s land are buried, some in joint burials. Many men record the strange and wonderful events; many men exchange tokens or addresses with German soldiers, many of whom speak English. 81 British soldiers die on this day; a few die in areas that are otherwise peaceful and with fraternization going on, victims of alert snipers. In other areas, there is considerable activity: 2nd Grenadier Guards suffer losses in a day of heavy fighting. As night fell, things grew quiet as men fell back to their trenches to take whatever Christmas meal that had been provided for them.”
On that Christmas Day, even in war, the men found Christmas an inspiration toward peace. But of course, it was a very shaky peace, and it did not last, nor was it repeated. But at Christmas we celebrate the peace that God has brought to his world in the person of his Son Jesus Christ, which is offered to all who will receive it. And this peace with God does not last for a day or even just for a life time. As one might reason, peace with God has an eternal nature because God is eternal, a peace beginning in this life and extending forever on into the glories of heaven, the new creation. Such peace we should desire for ourselves and for others. So we warmly welcome you all to our Christmas services, where we will hear and celebrate “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests” Luke 2:14. May I encourage you to attend our Christmas services as outlined and to know this deep peace that Jesus Christ offers to anyone who will trust in his death that brings freedom, as we will remember today.
With much love in Christ, John Parker