By Christmas Day 1914, five months after the outbreak of the Great War, trenches filled with British, Canadian, French, and German troops faced each other on a deadly European battlefront.
On that sacred occasion, a remarkable event occurred. For a brief time, the thunder of gunfire and exploding artillery was interrupted by the sound of men singing Christmas carols to one another from the cover of their opposing positions. In an unofficial ceasefire, soldiers on both sides of the conflict began climbing out of their trenches and sharing gestures of peace and goodwill.
It began with German soldiers approaching the Allied lines across no man’s land, calling out “Merry Christmas” or “Joyeux Noël” in the native tongues of the enemy troops.
At first, the Allied soldiers feared a deception, but seeing the Germans were not armed they too emerged from cover and shook hands with their foe.
Historians have reported that the men exchanged small gifts like cigarettes and puddings and sang carols together. Some Germans displayed Christmas trees around their trenches, and there was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing forces playing a friendly game of soccer. A 2005 French film, “Joyeux Noël,” available on YouTube, provides a moving rendition of the event.
As far as we know, the Christmas truce never reoccurred. Between World War I and the conclusion of World War II, humanity experienced a brutal 30 years of remarkably un-Christian military conflict and violent revolution.
After the Great War there was a deadly pandemic followed by political upheavals, dictatorships, induced famines, moral depravity, economic depression, renewed global warfare, genocide, and horrific new weapons of mass destruction.
By the time relative peace was restored throughout the spring and summer of 1945, millions of common men and women had sacrificed their homes, their livelihoods, and their lives.
After the celebration of Allied victory in Europe and the Pacific, many Christians, Jews, Moslems, and other traditional people of faith looked forward to rebuilding well-ordered lives in liberty under God.
Tragically, the peace and goodwill they looked forward to did not endure.
On March 5, 1946, less than a year after the end of World War II, former British prime minister Sir Winston Churchill spoke at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. Churchill delivered “The Sinews of Peace,” a missive heard round the world that became known in history as the “Iron Curtain Speech.”
Churchill said: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in many cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow.”
The Marxist, anti-Christian, “Soviet influence” referred to by Churchill did not remain behind a distant iron curtain. Although it disrupted traditional cultures in other parts of the world, Marxism is predominantly a Western heresy.
Deep Psychological Trenches
Over the last 75 years, the spectre of communism and all of its ideological variants has corrupted the culture of the free world itself. In the West, opposing political forces have dug in behind an Ariadne maze of psychological gutters. New fortifications have been constructed to protect ideological positions dividing citizens within the borders of their own nations.
Today’s trenches are more than temporary redoubts separating opposing military forces. Deep philosophical entrenchments, commonly described as “left” and “right,” have become almost impossible to breach.
Trenches on the left are protected by powerful new weapons of influence. Their defenders include hundreds of thousands of socialist academics, radicalized schoolteachers, journalists, artists, entertainers, progressive politicians, and partisan activists who are determined to capture the hearts and minds of ordinary citizens. They are constantly ready to go “over the top” in pursuit of permanent victory. Their numbers have swelled with the passing of one radical decade after another. In the summer of 2020, they launched a violent offensive in American cities, and in the fall elections took over all the branches of federal legislative and executive power.
Over several decades of cultural conflict, conservative forces have found themselves in reluctant retreat. In English-speaking nations, the “right” celebrated political victories in the eras of Thatcher, Reagan, Harper, and Trump, but a woke, post-modern, cultural juggernaut has been grinding down resistance.
Thinning ranks of practising Christians and Jews, patriots, populists, workers, farmers, rank-and-file military and independent business owners are besieged by a managerial welfare state that favours “takers” over “makers.” Western Marxism has shown itself to be hideously effective at disrupting inherited ways of life and dissolving traditional loyalties.
So far, open civil wars have been avoided, but Western nations remain internally divided over the meaning of fundamental principles related to liberty, democracy, and religion.
Opposing sides are separated by a “no man’s land” of daily life that is increasingly hazardous and difficult to navigate. Civility is dead and we have become strangers on a permanent ideological battlefield.
The Spirit of Christmas
It is interesting to note that the initiative for a Christmas truce in 1914 came from rank-and-file soldiers. Historians have reported that future attempts at Holy Day ceasefires were discouraged by threats of disciplinary action from militant leaders.
Nevertheless, that brief but poignant gesture in 1914 continues to serve as heart-warming proof that beneath the brutal clash of opposing sides, an enduring humanity remains alive among the children of God.
Christmas, the celebration of faith, love, forgiveness and hope over resentment, contempt, revenge, and fear, brought battlefield enemies together for a brief taste of the peace they all longed for. As people of faith, reluctant antagonists put their trust in God and His providential care.
If even the Great War could not destroy the spirit of Christmas, perhaps we too have reason for hope.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.