Christmas The Season of Peace
Christmas: The Season of Peace
Place: Seaman Baptist Church
Scripture: Matt. 2:1-18
- Story of WWI Christmas truce:
On December 7, 1914, Pope Benedict XV suggested a temporary hiatus of the war for the celebration of Christmas. Though Germany readily agreed, the other powers refused.
Even without a cessation of war for Christmas, family and friends of the soldiers wanted to make their loved ones' Christmas special. They sent packages filled with letters, warm clothing, food, cigarettes, and medications. Yet what especially made Christmas at the front seem like Christmas were the troves of small Christmas trees.
On Christmas Eve, many German soldiers put up their Christmas trees, decorated with candles, on the parapets of their trenches. Hundreds of Christmas trees lighted the German trenches. The British soldiers could see the lights but it took them a few minutes to figure out what they were from. British lookouts reported the anomalies to their superiors. Could this be a trick? British soldiers were ordered not to fire but to watch them closely. Instead of trickery, the British soldiers heard many of the Germans celebrating.
· Time and again during the course of that day, the Eve of Christmas, there were wafted towards us from the trenches opposite the sounds of singing and merry-making, and occasionally the guttural tones of a German were to be heard shouting out lustily, 'A happy Christmas to you Englishmen!' Only too glad to show that the sentiments were reciprocated, back would go the response from a thick-set Clydesider, 'Same to you, Fritz, but dinna o'er eat yourself wi' they sausages!'6
In other areas, the two sides exchanged Christmas carols.
They finished their carol and we thought that we ought to retaliate in some way, so we sang 'The first Noël', and when we finished that they all began clapping; and then they struck up another favourite of theirs, 'O Tannenbaum'. And so it went on. First the Germans would sing one of their carols and then we would sing one of ours, until when we started up 'O Come All Ye Faithful' the Germans immediately joined in singing the same hymn to the Latin words 'Adeste Fidéles'. And I thought, well, this was really a most extraordinary thing - two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war.7
One of the main reasons Christmas truces were negotiated was in order to bury the dead. Though some had died recently, there were corpses out in No Man's Land that had been there for several months. Along with the revelry that celebrated Christmas was the sad and somber job of burying their fallen comrades. On Christmas day, British and German soldiers appeared on No Man's Land and sorted through the bodies. In just a few rare instances, joint services were held for both the British and German dead.
Yet many soldiers enjoyed meeting the un-seen enemy and were surprised to discover that they were more alike than he had thought. They talked, shared pictures, exchanged items such as buttons for food stuffs. An extreme example of the fraternization was a soccer game played in the middle of No Man's Land between the Bedfordshire Regiment and the Germans. A member of the Bedfordshire Regiment produced a ball and the large group of soldiers played until the ball was deflated when it hit a barbed wire entanglement.
This strange and unofficial truce lasted for several days, much to the dismay of the commanding officers. This amazing showing of Christmas cheer was never again repeated and as World War I progressed, the story of Christmas 1914 at the front became something of a legend.
- This experience has been the most practical demonstration I have seen of 'Peace on earth and goodwill towards men.
Theme: Jesus gives us personal peace despite public turmoil
Peace during times of war
Peace during times of family unrest
Peace during times of financial uncertainty
Peace during times of personal confusion (why God is this happening to me)
Kenosis passage from Philippians 2
Significance of Herod
Significance of the wise men (not Larry, Curly, Moe)
Significance of the gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh