Thursday, December 13, 2012

Day 13: Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht

It is commonly referred to as the Christmas Truce.  In December 1914, British and German troops had been locked in bloody and brutal battles along the Western Front.  The fighting waged on through the frosty landscape until December 24th.  In one of many accounts of what happened that Christmas Eve night, British solidiers began to hear German soldiers sing Stille Nacht, which we know as Silent Night, from their trenches.  The British soldiers, still in their own trenches, laid down their weapons and traded Christmas carols back and forth with their German enemies.  The German trenches began to light up as they made makeshift Christmas trees and lit the branches with candles.  Both sides started yelling Christmas greetings to one another, "Merry Christmas" and "Froehliche Weihnachten".  Then, looking at the many gift packages full of cigars, alcohol and other Christmas gifts that the British had received from family members back home, a few soldiers began to cross the no-man zone to deliver small gifts to the Germans, and in kind, the German soldiers began to do the same.

In time, against the wishes of the officers and those higher in rank, soldiers from both sides filled the no-man zone, exchanging gifts and singing Christmas carols.  Pretty soon a soccer game started between the two sides and for 24 hours (and in a few areas along the Western Front, all the way until New Years Day) the two sides went from enemies to humans, from soldiers to just people, all missing their families, all tired, hurt, and foreign, all ready for the war to be over.  On Christmas Day, many took the opportunity to trade the other side for the bodies of their dead and both sides came together to give the fallen soldiers a proper burial and to grieve with each other.  There are even accounts where as they were burying their dead, people would have their Bibles with them, reading Psalm 23, Der HERR ist mein Hirte, mir wird nichts mangeln or The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want, as each fallen soldier was buried.

Unfortunately, 1914 was the only year this happened.  In subsequent years, the military strategists planned major military maneuvers on Christmas Eve so that soldiers wouldn't have the opportunity to set down their weapons and set aside their differences and celebrate Christmas with the "enemy".

As a Christian, I read accounts like these and am in awe of the power that Jesus Christ has in bringing peace and love to a land.  Though I'm sure not all those soldiers were Christians, what a powerful image of what Christmas and Christ Himself, means to a broken world!  Numerous verses flood to my mind about how this moment in history shows the very character of Christ himself, but perhaps the most meaningful for me is Romans 3:22-24, "This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."  

Christ is the great equalizer.  We all have sinned and we are all in need of a Savior.  Not one person on earth is more evil than another in the eyes of God.  The only difference between us in His eyes is whether or not we have accepted Christ as our Savior, and even that is simply God's gift to us, not anything we've achieved by our goodness.  Just as it did for the British and German soldiers in 1914, let Christ equalize all the people in your life, the good, the bad, the annoying and yourself.  Set aside your differences, even if just for 24 hours, to show a hurting and broken world what Christ is all about and the joy and peace that comes to us from Him.

Activity:  Who is your one really difficult person in your life?  What if for 24 hours you were to set aside whatever grievance you hold against them and treat them as your incredibly screwed up person in need of a Savior?  What would that look like?  Do you think you could do it?  If possible during the Christmas season, take at least one opportunity to treat them that way and see what happens.

Prayer:  Take time today to pray about the "wars" in your life.  What things are you battling and fighting?  Be sure to include both external and internal struggles.  Lay all your battles at the foot of the Cross and just focus on Jesus for a few minutes.  Be open to anything He may speak to you about those situations in your life.

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