Friday, December 21, 2012
Today's post is a story-telling. A story of almost one hundred years ago.
A story of a world, like today, torn by war.
One of my grandfathers was an ambulance driver during WWI, and I often wonder if he was near the front lines on Christmas Eve, 1914.
If he was, he may have been a part of a miracle.
In the dark days leading up to Christmas Eve, soldiers of three different nations had been slogging through their duties in muddy trenches, six to eight feet deep. To raise one's head above the edge was to invite certain death from sniper fire. The English, French and German armies were locked in place near Flanders, and nothing seemed like it would ever, ever change.
Men dreamed of the warm firesides of home and the loving embraces of family. Morale was slipping lower. The French and English soldiers were surprised to spot tiny Christmas trees along some of the German trenches, and both sides began to shout Christmas greetings across the stretch of ground in between the armies, and to sing carols.
Then on Christmas Eve, it happened. Making pacts to lay down their weapons, soldiers began to climb from the trenches into the no-man's land between the lines. They banded together to bury their dead, and then conversed in broken phrases; the peace of Christmas surely helped them understand each other. They even exchanged their rifles for soccer balls, having impromptu games; some traded pictures to post to relatives in far off lands. One gave a medal to his one-time enemy, and the recipient responded by gifting his scarf in return.
As night fell, the men drifted back into their trenches. They knew that they would be called on to resume hostilities the very next day. As they did, a lone voice began to sing. Then another joined him, and another. Soon the night air was filled with the pensive sounds of men's voices, each singing the familiar song in their own language.
And yes, this is a true story. Some of the details may have been embellished as the men went home, grew old, and told their stories. But enough of them told the story to let us know that it truly happened. In fact, their superior officers knew that it had happened and rotated in "fresh" soldiers because these men might not be counted on to shoot and kill their companions from that Christmas Eve.
One special night, in the midst of war-torn France, men stopped and reached down inside themselves, to the best that they could be. They extended their hands in peace to one another. God's peace. May we find the strength in ourselves to follow their example.