The Christmas Truce of 1914 is fairly well-known; my brother once wrote about it here:
“The First World War broke out in August of 1914. Many rushed to war almost gleefully, confident in victory for their particular side. Many thought the war would be over by Christmas. But when Christmas came the war was still young. It would last another four years and claim the lives of some 8 million soldiers before it was through.
In the midst of this bloodshed, though, a remarkable thing happened. In many places along the Western Front, particularly where the British and the Germans faced each other, unofficial Christmas truces were made in 1914. And here, for a brief few hours, the killing ceased.
Instead of firing bullets at each other, the mortal enemies sang Christmas carols to one another on Christmas Eve. German soldiers even decorated their trenches with candles and with Christmas Trees—tannebaum, they called them. On Christmas morning, soldiers from both sides met in no man’s land and exchanged what gifts they had: buttons and medals, candy and tobacco and liquor. Soldiers who had once been barbers gave free haircuts. One German soldier who had been a juggler in happier times gave a performance in no man’s land.
The goodwill between enemies was only temporary. In a matter of days they were back to the grim business of trying to blow one another apart. But for a few brief hours, the influence of the Prince of Peace had been felt.”
Moments like these where the Kingdom of God breaks into the twisted and fallen world in which we live don’t seem to come often enough. But they are made possible by the fact that 2000 years ago, the Word became Flesh and the Son of God came to earth. The baby Jesus grew to be a man, lived a perfect life, and then died on our behalf, and for Christians, that is a source of great hope.
A lot of times we don’t understand the concept of biblical hope very well, because in everyday usage, the word hope means something very different than what it means in the Bible. We use hope as a synonym for wish, as in “I hope I win the lottery”, or “I hope our economy gets better soon”—both of these are things that people wish would happen, but they don’t actually expect either of them to happen.
Biblical hope is something different though—it is a confident expectation of something that will happen because it has been promised by God. And the entrance of Jesus into the world and his subsequent death and resurrection are a source of great hope for Christians because they make possible a Day of Peace—a day when there will be no more suffering, no more disease, no more school shootings, and no more war. For those who have made peace with God, it is a day to look forward to—an everlasting day which will find the faithful in the presence of the Heavenly Father. That’s the hope—the confident expectation— that Christians have.
And in the meantime, as we wait for that day to come, Christians have a lot to do to keep busy:
–We gather together to remind one another of that hope and to pledge our devotion to the cause of Christ…
–We work to instill the values of the heavenly Kingdom into our earthly surroundings, so that our friends and neighbors can taste the peace of God for themselves…
–And we celebrate the small down payments on the promise of peace that God has given us…such as the few blessed hours when the armies of the world ceased their strife and remembered the Baby of Bethlehem.
Merry Christmas to you and your family this holiday season! Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good will toward men!