Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The 1914 Christmas Truce

On September 3, 1914 Pope Benedict XV was elected by a conclave in Rome. World War I had begun a little more than a month earlier on July 28, 1914.

Then on December 7, 1914 just five months after the start of World War I, the newly elected Pope Benedict XV urged the fighting nations to declare a temporary Christmas truce, "that the guns may fall silent at least upon the night the angels sang." National leaders refused, but early on Christmas morning in several places along the front the soldiers themselves implemented Pope Benedict's truce. The men met in No Man's Land, swapped gifts, and shared pictures of home. One of the songs the French, English, and Germans sang together was Silent Night.  They all knew it well from their childhood. 

As the impact of the Christmas Truce is considered, its use to mark the end of the "long nineteenth century" seems fitting. It was seen early in the long combat, but never seen again during the war. The war continued to 1918. So many ties to the past were destroyed.  

Correspondingly we see the beginning of the twentieth century and a new age as the guns were picked up again in a world that no longer wanted to hear what angels sing. 

This song from 1989 by singer/songwriter John McCutcheon tells the amazing true story of the Christmas Truce and the lasting power of that Christmas peace on the individual lives of those who were there even 75 years later. As you listen to the words and watch the video, note the picture selected as the last one.
Advent is almost here, begin listening for the angels.

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