Luke 2:14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!”
The Western Front ran 450 miles from France’s northern coast to Switzerland. On September 12, 1914, after the Battle of Marne, both Allied and German forces dug trenches along this real estate that began one of the bloodiest battle grounds, the “No Man’s Land” between each side’s trenches, in World War 1.
It began because of the “Miracle of Marne.” The invading German army was to execute the “Schlieffen Plan,” Hitler’s plan to sweep through Belgium and France. By defeating the French, German troops would then board trains to the Eastern Front where they would surprise and defeat Russia. Allied forces stopped them at the Marne. Both sides were dug in, the distance between them less than a football field’s length.
Within this tiny area, four major battles were fought that left 5.5 million soldiers dead. In the Battle of the Somme, 60,000 British died the first day of combat. It was described as “Hell on Earth.”
There is a famous movie “All Quiet on the Western Front,” based on the 1929 book of the same name, which follows a young German soldier from his patriotic days of enlisting to “protect the Fatherland” to how the horrors of war destroy his view of life. The author explains the book’s message: “It is about a generation of men who, though they may have escaped it’s shells, they were destroyed by the war.”
But then in December of 1914, a miracle began to unfold at the Western front. Edgar Ramon, writing for Saint Mary University Research Scholars, tells the true story in his essay ‘For a moment there was peace: The Christmas Day Truce of 1914’: “The area between these trenches was known as ‘No Man’s Land.’ Soldiers, young men sometimes as young as 15, were dying by the thousands.
The trenches, dug to help survive the attacks, marked the border as a place of almost certain death. The trenches were miserable, being infested with rats, lice, and the bodies of dead horses and men, whom they stopped burying because the count was so high and they could not reach the bodies without a high risk of being killed. These insane living conditions led to death by diseases such as dysentery, typhus, or cholera.
But then came December. A different feeling was noticeable and written about by the men in the trenches. French and British soldiers heard sentimental singing in the German trenches. Christmas trees appeared, and shortly after, singing. The Allied soldiers were baffled – they were told the Germans were ‘barbarians.’
A literal calm came on the 4th of December, when an absence of gunfire was reported in some locations. One rifleman wrote about how the Germans peacefully collected some of their wounded, and the British quickly went and collected their own. After talking, both sides decided to help in burying each other’s dead. In his letter, he described the German soldiers as ‘fine men.’ These interactions increased as Christmas approached. By December 20, both Allied and German forces were intent to celebrate Christmas.
In preparation of a gift exchange, British forces put together brass boxes containing cigarettes and pipe tobacco with a greeting card that read ‘May God protect and bring you home safe.’ The Germans provided musical entertainment, cigars, and imported beer. In a semi-official report, Major Jeffreys described the events taking place on Christmas Eve as enemies began fraternizing with each other.
‘Men who had been killing each other the previous 4 months, living in disease-riddled trenches, were singing together, playing soccer, getting drunk, throwing down their guns and smoking a cigar or two. The Brits sang ‘cheeky’ songs, eventually followed by Christmas carols, and “God save the King,” and the Germans sometimes sang too, accompanied by musical instruments. Christmas trees adorned the trenches, and a true spirit of Christmas had possessed these men, a true miracle really.’
It is important to note that this truce was informal and did not only include a single truce but several throughout the trenches. There was peace, but not only peace. In one of the most inhumane wars in history, individual men crossed the place called ‘No Man’s Land’ and shook their enemy’s hand. They complained about the damn war and wished each other a Merry Christmas.” Only on Christmas could this miracle occur. Christmas has a universal message. It proclaims the day in history of God’s intention of peace and good will toward men. That was the day in Bethlehem when Jesus Christ was born. The world has never been the same since. Even the soldiers knew it.
The Evidence of Faith’s Substance _ Article #480