It was Christmas morning, but this Christmas was unlike any before. It was 1914, and thousands of soldiers were in the trenches as World War I was beginning to rage.
Yet, in the midst of the war and conflict, something beautiful emerged. Historians do not know exactly how it started. Some say it began with soldiers shouting Merry Christmas to those in trenches just a few hundred feet away. Others say that it began with one side singing Silent Night, while the other side responded by singing The First Noel, then both sides singing O Come All Ye Faithful in their own languages.
No matter how it started, there was a truce in the war, as men came together and celebrated Christmas with one another during the Christmas Truce of 1914. Gifts were exchanged, food was shared and soccer was played. Sadly, the days of peace were short-lived, as years of bloodshed followed not long after. Yet, the image of enemy soldiers coming together to celebrate Christmas is a striking one.
While we live in different times, does it not seem sometimes like our world is filled with conflict? Everywhere we turn we see hurt, pain and strife. We may not be in a physical war, but it is impossible not to notice the struggles that mark so much of life. Yet in the midst of that, Christmas is an invitation to experience something different: peace.
The message of peace rings throughout the Christmas story. The prophecies foretelling the coming of the Messiah spoke of the peace that he would bring. On the night Jesus was born, the angels appeared to the shepherds outside Bethlehem and said that because of Jesus’ arrival there would be peace on earth.
Who among us wouldn’t want some peace this year? Yet his invitation to peace is even more incredible than it appears on the surface.
When we think of peace, we often mean simply the absence of conflict. It means no more arguing or fighting. Perhaps when you think of a peaceful Christmas you think of relatives getting along and no kids fighting. As great as that may be, when Jesus speaks of peace, he means something far more.
Rather than simply the absence of conflict, in Scripture peace is the presence of wholeness, relationship and harmony. It is not just the absence of something, but the rich presence of God with us.
Not only that, but the peace that Jesus promises is permanent. Unlike the moments of peace we may experience, and the moments of peace those soldiers experienced over 100 years ago, enduring wholeness and peace is available to every one of us. Peace can mark our lives not just during Christmas, but each day throughout the year.
This Christmas season, may we not only experience this kind of peace, but may we live out this peace in our lives as well. Merry Christmas!
Michael Best is the Lead Pastor at Morgan Hill Bible Church and a member of the Interfaith Clergy Alliance. He can be reached at [email protected].