Blessed Are the Peacemakers
The night was Christmas Eve, 1914. World War I raged across the ravaged countryside of France.
British and German troops crouched in mileslong trenches across the scarred battlefield, from which they blasted each other with machine guns and mortars. Between the belligerents lay “no-man’s land,” a narrow strip of craters and shattered trees. Within that zone, anything that moved got shot.
During occasional lulls in fighting, shivering soldiers heard the clinking of cooking utensils in enemy trenches. Suddenly a strange new sound wafted across no-man’s land.
In a German trench, one soldier began singing "Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht" — a tune the British sentry recognized as "Silent Night, Holy Night." He fearlessly hummed along. Another Brit crawled over and joined in. Soon voices from both sides blended into a harmonious chorus — the same tune uniting two languages.
Then the Germans offered a second carol, "O Tannenbaum." British soldiers responded with "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen." Throughout the dark hours, singing continued. As dawn broke, signs appeared: “Merry Christmas!”
Amazingly, soldiers from both sides crawled beneath barbed wire into no-man’s land and ventured toward enemy brethren with arms outstretched in peace. Scores of Germans and British embraced one another, sharing candy and showing pictures of their families.
Although accounts vary regarding what transpired that night, Christmas Eve 1914 remains one of history’s most remarkable battlefield engagements. The “Soldiers’ Truce,” as it came to be known, reflected what an army of peaceful angels proclaimed on another holy night outside the little town of Bethlehem.
Peace at Bethlehem
Angels from the realms of glory brought joy to the world while shepherds watched their flocks by night. Announcing God’s unspeakable gift of an infant Savior, the angels sang: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14, ESV).
Two millennia have passed since our Savior came to us in Bethlehem. It should be obvious to everyone everywhere this world has not achieved peace and goodwill. Things are worse than ever. Global leaders behave like schoolyard bullies. Local politicians pander to constituents and ridicule competitors. Business as usual is social brutality.
Even many churches are war zones, falling far short of God’s purpose of peace — a word better understood as shalom. Shalom goes beyond avoiding fights or even facilitating geniality. It means unselfish loving and sharing, extending equal opportunity without regard to race, gender or economic status.
Back to 1914
Let’s go back to Christmas Eve 1914 and the Soldiers Truce. Picture the miracle of bitter enemies embracing and exchanging greetings. Tragically it was over all too soon. By midmorning Christmas Day, furious officers from both sides ordered their peacemaking soldiers back into the trenches. The command came from British headquarters: “We are here to fight, not to fraternize!”
Deadly bullets resumed whizzing back and forth as soldiers obeyed orders to kill their newfound friends. Nevertheless, for a few hours the master of the battlefield was neither a dictator nor a general but heaven’s Prince of Peace.
Thank God, the day is coming when that same Lord of Glory will break through earth’s dark clouds and eradicate war, pollution, abuse, greed, hypocrisy and crimes of all kinds. God’s peace will reign unchallenged and eternal throughout the universe.
Our Own Mission of Peace
Where will you be on that day? More immediately, where will you be on Christmas Day this year? Limiting your giving to the customary courtesies among family and friends? Or will you also include enemies and other unfortunates on the battle-scarred landscape of your workplace and neighborhood — even in your local church congregation?
This holiday season, politicians cannot save us, nor can our own churches. Only Jesus can! Biblical truth is essential amid prevailing lies, but correct doctrine itself cannot dissolve our strife. On Christ the solid rock we must stand, otherwise church policies and practices are sinking sand.
Once we experience and then express Jesus as our peace, our churches become safe places for neighbors and workplace associates to find hope and healing.
As in past holiday seasons, I’m suggesting one particular group to rally around — single mothers. The heart of the Christmas story is a single mother-to-be with no man in her life to depend upon. It took an angel’s visit for Joseph to take responsibility. What will it take to convince us to care about lonely mothers among us, struggling in their own no-man’s land to teach their children to fraternize and not fight?
How about a Christmas dinner invitation from you to a single mother, with toys for the kids and a $100 Walmart or Amazon gift card for her? She will know how to spend it. And Jesus guarantees you will be even more blessed than those receiving His holiday cheer through your giving.