Monday, December 24, 2012
"Silent Night" And The Miracle Truce
There is both joy and sadness at Christmas...always. Often there is loneliness. But it seems the spirit of the season never fails to lighten humanity's heart as the soul turns outward, seeking human warmth and love and hope that is so prevalent at Christmas time. It is in this season that miracles happen.
....Ypres, Belgium. December, 1914. It is Christmas week in the World War I trenches. Earlier in the month the weather has not been kind to either the Germans or the Western allies, British and French. The seemingly unending rain has left the men of both armies soaked and sodden, cold in their muddy trenches.
And then a week before Christmas the rains cease. The men on both sides in their trenches look up to the sky and gaze upon a million stars. A sight of the heavens reminds them how small they are in a huge universe. The soldiers are made mute by the beauty of the heavens. The night becomes quiet as man ponders his own place in this magnificent world. The silence cries out to be filled once again with something other than the roar of gunfire.
From some far corner of the battlefield a single tentative voice is heard...a song emerges from the lips of a soldier longing for peace and hope and "home". A song known to all, sung in almost a whisper is heard...a song learned in some modest chapel long ago. "Silent Night, Holy Night...All Is Calm...All Is Bright"...
Soon other voices join in...in both the German and English versions. Before long a thousand voices are singing of Mother and Child...
As the song concludes the two armies of the night begin joshing with each other, exchanging pleasantries. No one knows who was first to rise from a muddy trench, to approach his enemy and offer the gift of a cigarette, a piece of candy received from home. Soon both sides have emerged from the muck and mud, ignore the color of their uniform, and stand upright again as simply "men".
Informal agreements begin to emerge. Someone proposes that each refrain from shooting one another...to afford time to clean themselves up, to exercise, to heal themselves. And thus, an honorable truce emerges along the opposing trenches in Ypres, Belgium for Christmas week.
A soccer match is held. The Brits receive their plum pudding from home and the Germans receive little tins of pipe tobacco. Each side shares their meager gifts with each other.
Christmas day arrives. The truce at Ypres has held...without a single gesture from a politician or diplomat. The Germans and the Brits celebrate with a soccer match. The match is won by a score of 3 to 2 and the winner does not matter, for on this day, everyone wins.
At midnight, as Christmas day expires, the soldiers return to their trenches, the senior leader raises his nation's flag and fires a single shot into the air, signaling that the truce is over.
The killing can begin again. But, for a time, for far too brief a time, a modest Christmas hymn, written a hundred years before, brought peace and good will to the hearts of men who would not know peace again for years.
"Silent Night, Holy Night..All Is Calm..All Is Bright".
I wish all of you peace and love in this, the most marvelous of seasons!