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"Being Thankful - But to Who?"
231 sec promotional audio clip

"This is what the Lord says: "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, and ask where the good way is, and walk in it. You will find rest for your soul."
Jeremiah 6:16 NIV

"The Christmas Miracle"

wwichristmasmiracleBy Jerry Stewart   IT HAS BEEN SAID THAT PEACE IS HARDER TO MAKE THAN WAR, AND IN 1914 WHEN THE WORLD SOUGHT PEACE, INSTEAD IT FOUND ITSELF IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR. A WAR SO DEVASTATING IT CAME TO BE KNOWN AS “THE WAR TO END ALL WARS”. BUT JUST WHAT HAPPENS WHEN IN THE MIDDLE OF A WAR, THE SOLDIERS JUST QUIT FIGHTING? OF ALL THE WAR STORIES I’VE EVER READ OR HEARD, THIS CHRISTMAS STORY IS SURELY THE MOST AMAZING.

IN DECEMBER OF 1914, WORLD WAR I WAS STILL ONLY GETTING STARTED. BUT ALREADY IT HAD CLAIMED HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF KILLED, WOUNDED AND MISSING. AS CHRISTMAS APPROACHED, AN APPEAL CAME FROM POPE BENEDICT TO CEASE FIRE, BUT AS THE NEWS OF THE POPE’S PLEA FOR A CHRISTMAS TRUCE WAS RECEIVED BY BOTH SIDES, THERE RESPONSE WAS, “IMPOSSIBLE”. AS ONE NEWSPAPER PUT IT, “A FEW CAROLS, A LITTLE INCENSE AND SOME TINSEL WILL HEAL NO WOUNDS”. SO THE WAR PROCEEDED ON.

ON THE FRONT LINE, HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF SOLDIERS FROM MANY COUNTRIES HAD TAKEN THEIR POSITIONS, DUG THEIR TRENCHES AND IN BETWEEN THE TWO ARMIES LAY A NO MAN’S LAND THAT STRETCHED ACROSS ALMOST THE ENTIRE BORDER BETWEEN BELGIUM AND FRANCE. IT WAS CLEAR THERE WOULD BE NO CHRISTMAS TRUCE. INSTEAD, THERE WOULD BE ONLY DEATH AND DEVASTATION.

AS THE COLD RAIN FELL, MUDDYING AND EVEN FLOODING THE TRENCHES AND SOAKING THE SOLDIERS TO THE BONE, IT CAUSED A SORT OF RIVER IN THAT NO MAN’S LAND THAT SEPARATED THE TWO ARMIES AND THE DEAD BODIES IN THE MIDDLE BEGAN TO FLOAT TO EITHER SIDE. IT WAS A GRUESOME SCENE.

AND THEN, AS THE NIGHT FELL, THE NIGHT OF CHRISTMAS EVE, IT HAPPENED. NO ONE HAS EVER BEEN ABLE TO PINPOINT WHERE IT FIRST BEGAN, BUT THERE WAS SILENCE, PURE SILENCE. IT CAN ONLY BE IMAGINED THAT DURING THIS SILENCE, SOLDIERS ON BOTH SIDES BEGAN TO PONDER JUST WHAT THIS NIGHT WAS, THE EVE OF CHRISTMAS, THE BIRTH OF THEIR SAVIOUR, THE PRINCE OF PEACE.

THEN, THE SILENCE WAS BROKEN. NOT BY GUNFIRE OR ARTILLERY, BUT THE SOUND OF VOICES, GERMAN VOICES SINGING A SONG FAMILIAR IN ITS TUNE, BUT THE WORDS WERE FOREIGN. STILL, ALL KNEW THEY WERE SINGING, “SILENT NIGHT”. IT WAS STRANGE AND BIZAAR TO HEAR THIS SONG, THESE WORDS, HERE, BUT IT WAS COMPELLING. UP AND DOWN THE BATTLE LINES, SIGNS BEGAN TO POP UP. CRUDE SIGNS MADE ON SCRAPS OF BOARD AND PAPER, “MERRY CHRISTMAS”, “YOU NO FIGHT, WE NO FIGHT”.

AS A GROUP OF BELGIUM SOLDIERS CAUTIOUSLY POPPED THEIR HEADS OUT OF THEIR TRENCHES TO READ THE SIGNS, WHAT THEY SAW WAS UNBELIEVABLE. GERMAN SOLDIERS WERE COMING UP, OUT OF THE SAFETY OF THEIR TRENCHES, VISIBLY UNARMED, WALKING TOWARD THEIR ENEMY, IN FULL VIEW, SHOUTING “COMRADES”. THE BELGIUM SOLDIERS WERE SHOCKED AND PUZZLED, BUT MIRACULOUSLY, THEY TOO LAID DOWN THEIR WEAPONS.

ALL THAT CHRISTMAS EVE NIGHT, AS THE WORD SPREAD UP AND DOWN THE BATTLE LINE, SOLDIERS FROM BOTH SIDES PUT DOWN THEIR WEAPONS AND CAME UP OUT OF THE SAFETY OF THEIR TRENCHES AND MET TOGETHER IN THAT DEADLY NO MAN’S LAND WHERE BODIES FROM BOTH SIDES LAY DEAD. IF THERE HAD NOT BE PICTURES TAKEN, SURELY NO ONE TODAY WOULD EVEN BELIEVE. THEY WOULD SAY IT WAS JUST A DREAM.

AS DAYLIGHT CAME ON CHRISTMAS DAY, THIS AMAZING CHRISTMAS TRUCE BECAME EVEN MORE AMAZING. SOLDIERS FROM BOTH SIDES, LAYING DOWN THEIR WEAPONS AND, INSTEAD, EXCHANGING FOOD AND TRINKETS, GIVING GIFTS OF DECORATED CHRISTMAS TREES. EACH SIDE WORKING TOGETHER TO HELP BURY THE OTHERS DEAD. THEY EVEN BROKE OUT IN GAMES, SOME EVEN PLAYED THEIR OWN VERSION OF A FOOTBALL GAME. IT WAS TRULY A SIGHT YOU’D THINK YOU’D NEVER SEE ANYWHERE THIS SIDE OF HEAVEN, BUT IT WAS HAPPENING.

WHEN WORD CAME TO THOSE IN CHARGE, AT FIRST, IT WAS NOT BELIEVED, BUT WHEN THIS TRULY UNBELIEVABLE AND SPONTANEOUS TRUCE WAS CONFIRMED, GENERALS INSISTED THE MEN PICK UP THEIR GUNS AND FIRE. BUT MEN DISOBEYED ORDERS. NO ONE WAS ABOUT TO FIRE ON AN UNARMED SOLDIER BEARING GIFTS.

FOR THAT ENTIRE CHRISTMAS DAY THE DREAM CONTINUED, AND THEN IT SEEMED TO END AS QUICKLY AND AS UNEXPLAINABLY AS IT HAD BEGUN. SOME ON BOTH SIDES WHO OPPOSED THE TRUCE FOUND THAT THE RECENT DEATHS ON THE FIELD OF FRIENDS AND COMRADES WAS JUST TOO FRESH AND BITTER TO IGNORE. OTHERS WORRIED THAT THEY MAY VERY WELL BE AN EASY TARGET STANDING THERE SO CLEARLY IN THE OPEN. SOLDIERS BEGAN TO MAKE THEIR WAY BACK TO THEIR TRENCHES. HIGHER COMMANDS ON BOTH SIDES QUICKLY SENT IN NEW TROOPS, THOSE WHO HAD NOT BEEN PART OF THE MIRACULOUS TRUCE. AND AS SIMPLY AS IT HAD ALL ENDED, IT BEGAN AGAIN – THE WAR, THAT WAR, THAT WORLD WAR, THAT SUPPOSED “WAR TO END ALL WARS” WAS TO GO ON FOR FOUR MORE YEARS.

MANY WHO PARTICIPATED IN THAT CHRISTMAS TRUCE WERE KILLED IN BATTLE AND NEVER MADE IT HOME. FOR A LONG TIME THERE WASN’T REALLY MUCH SAID ABOUT THIS CHRISTMAS MIRACLE. IT WAS AN ANOMALY, AN ABSURDITY, A TRUCE DURING WAR? BUT THE REAL QUESTION IS, “WHICH IS MORE ABSURD? PEACE OR WAR?” WE ALL KNOW THE ANSWER TO THAT. BUT, UNFORTUNATELY, AS LONG AS THERE ARE THOSE IN THIS WORLD THAT MAKE WAR, THERE MUST BE THOSE WHO FIGHT TO STOP WAR. BUT COULD IT BE THAT THE MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS CAN EXTEND EVEN INTO WAR? ONE SOLDIER WHO WAS THERE THAT CHRISTMAS, 1914 WROTE THESE WORDS:

“O YE WHO READ THIS TRUTHFUL RHYME FROM FLANDERS, KNEEL AND PRAY:

GOD SPEED THE TIME WHEN EVERY DAY IS SEEN AS CHRISTMAS DAY."