The peace of Christ, on display during Advent, can cause soldiers to lay down their weapons – literally.
2The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
3You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before You
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
when dividing the plunder.
4For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
You have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.
5Every warrior’s boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.
6For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on His shoulders.
And He will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7Of the greatness of His government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.
God with us brings peace. This thought literally jumps off of the page to me as I read this passage.
At Christmas, it’s easy to lean into a thought like this as a romantic ideal – a warm fuzzy feeling that we sing carols about as we sip hot cocoa. But as our daily experiences and news headlines show us, peace (and “light” and “justice” and “righteousness”) is anything but easy. We cannot drift into it. It is part of a description in this passage of an alternative way of life. A life that requires intention and risk.
Let me share one famous example…
In December of 1914, a unique event occurred that you may find hard to believe. On Christmas Eve, at the height of WWI on the Western front, the weather took a turn for the worse and began to freeze the slush and water in the trenches where the soldiers were.
British sentries soon began to report that there appeared to be small lights, raised on poles or bayonets, in the German trenches. Although these lanterns clearly illuminated the German troops, the British held their fire. British officers also began reporting that they saw, through binoculars, that some enemy troops were holding small pine boughs over their heads with lighted candles in their branches. The Germans, who celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, were extending holiday greetings to their enemies.
A few German soldiers began to sing Silent Night in German. The British immediately recognized the melody and began singing it back to them. The harmony of the carol was soon heard along the entire line.
And then, one by one, soldiers on both sides laid down their weapons and ventured into no man’s land – too many of them to prevent their superior officers from objecting. Peace had broken out spontaneously, against all orders and the rules of military combat.
For the next 24 hours, officers and men from both sides tentatively met in no man’s land. They did their best to communicate with one another. They buried each other’s dead. They shook hands and exchanged whatever they could as gifts.
The only shots fired were heard when two partridges took flight and soldiers tried to shoot them to add to their Christmas dinner rations. There were reliable reports that an informal soccer match took place between the Germans and the British. It was even reported that a German barber offered his services to British troops.
The truce ended just as it had begun – by mutual agreement. A captain on the British side fired three shots into the air at 8:30 am on December 26 and then climbed onto his parapet. A German officer soon appeared on his parapet. They bowed, saluted, and climbed back into their trenches. A few moments later, the Germans fired two shots into the air and the ceasefire was ended.
In the most complex of situations, with the most terrible things imaginable a real possibility – people chose an alternative way. And it came through Christ. Here is a real life example of what “God with Us” means. God with us brings peace.
If it can happen to entire armies – surely it can happen to us.