A War Interrupted

The following story is copied from history.com:

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Did you know??

On December 7, 1914, Pope Benedict XV suggested a temporary hiatus of the war for the celebration of Christmas. The warring countries refused to create any official cease-fire, but on Christmas the soldiers in the trenches declared their own unofficial truce.      

Starting on Christmas Eve, many German and British troops sang Christmas carols to each other across the lines, and at certain points the Allied soldiers even heard brass bands joining the Germans in their joyous singing.  At the first light of dawn on Christmas Day, some German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the Allied lines across no-man’s-land, calling out “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ native tongues. At first, the Allied soldiers feared it was a trick, but seeing the Germans unarmed they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the enemy soldiers. The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs. There was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a good-natured game of soccer. Some soldiers used this short-lived ceasefire for a more somber task: the retrieval of the bodies of fellow combatants who had fallen within the no-man’s land between the lines.

The so-called Christmas Truce of 1914 came only five months after the outbreak of war in Europe and was one of the last examples of the outdated notion of chivalry between enemies in warfare. It was never repeated—future attempts at holiday ceasefires were quashed by officers’ threats of disciplinary action—but it served as heartening proof, however brief, that beneath the brutal clash of weapons, the soldiers’ essential humanity endured. During World War I, the soldiers on the Western Front did not expect to celebrate on the battlefield, but even a world war could not destory the Christmas spirit.

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I copied this story with a certain question in mind, one more relevant to the world we live in today, of course.  Could something like this, quite miraculous even back then, happen today? Before you answer, keep in mind this was before the Balfour Declaration (1917), where Great Britain declared an intent to create a permanent homeland for the Jewish people. It was also before Pearl Harbor (1941), the Holocaust (1941-1945), the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (1945) and Israel officially becoming a nation (1948). And of course, it pre-dated the assassinations of John F.  Kennedy (1963), Robert Kennedy (1968) and Martin Luther King Jr. (1968). 

This amazing gesture of “love and respect for our fellow man” eclipsing national, political or religious differences, while only lasting a few brief moments in time, also occurred nearly a century before the attacks on Oklahoma City (1995), New York and Washington D.C. (2001) and the more current atrocities in Europe, Syria and the Middle East.  And yes, there are plenty of other examples (too many to count, in fact) of a basic lack of love and respect for the dignity of human life in countries, cities, neighborhoods and families all over the globe (which is still spinning, alright, but maybe also spinning out of control on a more personal and moral level).

So back to the question at hand, could something like this really happen today? Afterall, it is an example of mortal enemies, temporarily and mutually setting aside their differences to observe a religious holiday and obey a commandment from the God of that religion to “love one another”.  Could you envision ISIS fighters and soldiers who profess Christian or Jewish beliefs (or at least are fighting to protect those who do) laying down their weapons for a brief time of “embracing one another as members of the family of man”? How about members of Assad’s Syrian Army taking a break to share a meal with the rebels who oppose them?  Or, bite my tongue, how about those who passionately supported Hillary Clinton, this year, getting together with those who passionately supported Donald Trump…..or members of Black Lives Matter and policeman from around the country…extending a hand of friendship and respect to each other, if only for a few hours?                                                        

So what are the chances?  Sadly, I would guess if not impossible, it is very highly unlikely.

Interestingly,  Jesus spoke about this when He was speaking to his disciples on the Mount Of Olives. They were asking Him what type of signs would indicate that His return and the end of the age were near. In verse 12, He not only pointed to this very problem of “love growing cold”, but He specifically revealed what will cause it, “Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:12 NLT)

So could that really be true? Does sin have the power to kill love?

I believe the answer is “Yes”, but only if we allow it to happen.

So what can we do to make sure that sin doesn’t win?  James, half-brother of Jesus, said it best, I believe, when he said, “Therefore submit to God (love). Resist the devil (sin) and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:7-8 NKJV)

Wouldn’t it be great if people all over the world, this Christmas, chose to honor the memory of these men on the battlefield, many years ago, who knew they could be dead by sunset, but made a decision to extend a hand of friendship to someone who might actually be the one who kills them, out of obedience to the one who died to save us all, by defeating death and sin once and for all eternity.

MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND YOURS WITH A SAFE AND MERRY CHRISTMAS 

AND A JOYOUS AND PEACE-FILLED 2017.

BOB PALUMBO

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