I was reading recently about WWI and about the story of the Christmas Truce of 1914. It was a little over 4 months into the war when on December 7th, Pope Benedict XV suggested a temporary hiatus of the war in order to celebrate Christmas. Although the warring countries refused any official cease-fire, on Christmas Day the soldiers in the trenches decided to declare their own unofficial truce.
On Christmas Eve of 1914, the sound of German and British troops singing Christmas carols to each other could be heard from across enemy lines. On Christmas Day, German soldiers emerged from the trenches, crossed through no-man’s-land, (a desolate area comprised mostly of decay and rotting corpses) and approached the Allied lines while calling out “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ native tongues. Although it seems the Allied forces at first thought it to be a trick, they quickly realized the Germans were unarmed and then climbed out of their trenches to shake hands and even exchange presents with the enemy soldiers. There was also a documented case of a game of soccer taking place between soldiers on opposing sides. For that day anyway, the fighting ceased and the term enemy was replaced with fellow soldier.
I find this story fascinating. With our world seemingly at war with one another and hate distorting our vision, we could desperately use a cease-fire of our own. A day of rest, a break from the constant warring with one another.
Our world is being torn into pieces as our eyes bear witness to the devastation. And just like no-man’s land, all of the fighting and hate has left a barren wasteland where people lay injured, broken and dying. Conversations like mud puddles, stomped underfoot on our way to proving how right we are. Sharing opinions in a respectful way has become lost in the sound of gunfire as it reverberates in our chest and sends a tinging sound to our ears. Our words being the ammunition necessary to fire our weapons.
What this world needs is more people who will emerge from their trenches of self-preservation and brave the desolate walk through no-man’s land. Those who are willing to embrace the humanity in us all that lies just on the other side of the battle line.
Somewhere amidst all of the fighting we have lost sight of the fact that we’re not sworn enemies, but rather, fellow soldiers. Human and hurting. Trying our best. Fighting our own hidden battles.
And yet someone needs to go first.
So who will start the singing? Who will be willing to learn another’s native tongue in order to speak words that will convey love, peace and hope? Who will make the effort to come to another, perceptions surrendered, and be willing to embrace all of the things we still have in common?
As this year draws to a close and with the new year upon us, we have the chance to start fresh again. To determine how we are going to respond to those around us, to set the tone for how we are going to handle disagreements. We can draw up our own truce. One that will set the tone for the year ahead. A declaration to fight for those around us instead of against. One where we are intentional in connecting with others over all the things we still have in common. One where love is emphasized instead of minimized.
We don’t have to wait for someone else to declare an official cease-fire. We have the power to initiate our own. Let’s make the decision to put down our weapons and pick up the hand of the person next to us. Let’s choose love over hate. Perhaps those first few shaky steps out of our trenches will inspire the person next to us to do the same. Then maybe we’ll be able to experience the depth of the beauty that exists in our shared humanity and we can exchange the greatest gift of all – love.