“Ninety nine years ago this Christmas, Germans and Englishmen were dug into trenches, battling each other on the front lines of World War I. In Flanders fields (located in northwestern Belgium between France and Germany) the winter winds were cold, the skies were gray, and the ground was muddy. Though it had only been 4 months since the war began, each side had suffered agonizing losses. Newly invented machine guns were proving painfully proficient at wounding and killing combatants.
As the sun rose on that chilly Christmas morning, soldiers on each side lay shivering in their trenches. They longed for the love, warmth, and comforts of home. An unusual and eerie silence fell across the battlefield. There was no cracking of gunfire or whizzing of bullets overhead. Each army was awake, but neither was fighting.
Peeking above ground the British were surprised to see Christmas trees being hoisted along the German lines. And then the strange silence of that Christmas morning was broken as the German soldiers began singing Christmas carols to each another.
To the utter amazement of the Brits, first one, and then another German soldier shouted across the enemy lines, “Happy Christmas to you Englishmen!”
Though the British command was suspicious, and the German officers were displeased, the soldiers on each side began shouting “Merry Christmas,” to one another.
The Germans sang a carol, and the Brits answered with one of their own.
“Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht, alles schlaft, einsam wacht…” the Germans sang. The words were foreign, but ah that tune was familiar.
Then it was the British who sang, “Oh Come, All ye Faithful, Joyful and triumphant…”
The contagion of Christmas so touched every soldier, they all stood and joined together to sing, “The first Noel, the angels did say… Born is the King of Israel!”
One soldier courageously shouted out, “You no shoot, we no shoot!” And against the orders of their superiors, the trenches were emptied as the battle scarred, weary worn soldiers met, embraced, and exchanged small gifts in no man’s land. They even played games of football and roasted pigs before sitting down to eat Christmas dinner together—a dinner unlike any the world had seen before.
One Scottish soldier described the scene in his journal, “What a sight—little groups of Germans and British extending almost the length of our front! …we could hear laughter…where they couldn’t talk the language they were making themselves understood by signs, and everyone seemed to be getting on nicely… Here we were laughing and chatting to men whom only a few hours before we were trying to kill!”
The Christmas Truce lasted through New Year’s Day in some places along that war weary line. And so it is to this day, wherever Christ is celebrated and wherever Jesus is crowned Lord of Lords, there you will find fighters laying down their weapons and embracing, “Peace on earth, and goodwill towards men.”
Tragically the Generals on both sides cut short what the soldiers began that Christmas day. But the Christmas Truce of 1914 will never be forgotten nor should it be!