The year is 1914. The Great War is just beginning. Soldiers on both sides of the Western front hurry to dig trenches, search for advantages over the enemy, or simply take a moment of quiet in order to rest up for the next skirmish. No one knows how long the war will last. No one knows if they will survive long enough to make it back home—or what back home would look like if they did.
Christmas Day comes as it does every year, except this time is different. All of it is different. Instead of being with their families, these young men are out in the cold of the trenches. Some are full of fear, others are full of resignation, and all suffer from the impending fear of an enemy who, at most, is only a few miles away.
Any other day, the soldiers would be preparing to engage in battle, if they were not already fighting. But today is Christmas. Something feels different, something is driving them to try to reach out, to try to reconcile themselves with these enemy men they have no personal grudge against. Something is inviting them to trust.
This is the power of Christmas: foes are turned into friends, tears into laughter and singing, gunfire into carols, battlefield skirmishes into soccer matches. For one day, the soldiers can forget about the wars, forget about the ulterior motives of generals in some far-away office, and focus on the moment. For one day, Christ enters their hearts and inspires a beautiful moment in the midst of a horrible war.
The 1914 Christmas Day Truce was a unique moment in the events of the “War to End All Wars.” Even in that bleakest moment of human history, even among all the atrocities being committed around the world, Christ found a way to enter into men’s hearts and to allow His love to shine forth. The true power of Christ is fully visible in moments like these, in moments of desperation where He is needed the most. For it allowed men separated by war to reunite as brothers. He was able to deliver just what the soldiers of the Western Front needed, and they were able to discern the desires and drives within them and opt for peace, even if only for a single day. For them, Christmas was about peace, about solidarity and fraternity.
Christmas may have a different meaning to each of us. Maybe it is about the traditions, about the reunions with friends and family, or about traveling and experiencing new things. We cannot, however, forget the deepest importance of this season. It is an opportunity for Christ to enter into our hearts and for us to embrace it, as those men did over 100 yeas ago in the midst of violence.
If we let Him, Christ is willing and able to born in our hearts and to lift out the best in all of us, so that we may be beacons of light for His Coming. All it takes is trust and the willingness to be attentive to His birth. This Christmas, I hope you will embrace the infant Christ in your heart and in your life, that He may inspire you and change your heart for the best, as He did for those men in 1914.