Holiday peace during times of crisis.
With Christmas quickly approaching, the world seems to be spinning faster. Although this is a time when families and friends come together to cherish the birth of Christ, worship God, and share their fondest memories, there are many people around the globe who are in turmoil due to ongoing conflicts. War is unforgivable, though it is often what decides between freedom and tyranny. War can be a destroyer of oppression, but it is ultimately a destroyer of livelihood. In the midst of horrific conflict, however, the spirit of Christmas and the holiday season occasionally finds its way to the front lines. Historically and currently, the peace that only the King of Kings can deliver has given soldiers in wartime a sense of good will towards each other.
The year is 1914. The largest conflict known to humanity has been raging for less than a year. Following the assassination of the Archduke of Austria-Hungary, Franz Ferdinand, at the hands of a Serbian assassin, Gavrilo Princip, Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia. What followed was a chain-reaction of nations declaring war. Two sides were soon formed: The Allied Powers and the Central Powers. The Allies consisted primarily of Britain, France, and Russia, with the Central Powers consisting primarily of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire. The United States would ultimately help deliver a major Allied victory for the war, though they would not enter the conflict until 1917.
World War I introduced new technology to the battlefield, the likes of which nations had never seen before. Airplanes dominated the sky. Mustard gas wreaked havoc in the trenches. Machine guns made crossing No Man’s Land (between the trenches) next to impossible. In 1916, at the Battle of the Somme, the world was introduced to the might of the tank, which was surely a devastating sight for any soldier on the opposing side.
Just before Christmas, 1914, in the midst of the largest conflict known to man at the time, the spirit of Christmas brought about a sense of peace to the battlefield. With British and French soldiers on one side and German soldiers on the other, both sides began to venture into No Man’s Land. Upon greeting the other side, both factions began a series of celebratory events. These included carol-singing, soccer games, and prisoner exchange. Both sides also presented gifts to one another. The peace was not established among every inch of the battlefield, however, as there were instances in which the truce was present just long enough for both sides to collect and bury their deceased. The Christmas Truce of 1914 has been renowned for generations, and a commemorative marker now exists in remembrance. The soldiers in that unforgettable week are testimony to the fact that, although the world was in the midst of one of its greatest conflicts, the Christmas spirit and the hearts of good men were strong enough to bring about a joyous time of good will and fellowship.
Recently, the world has been watching as North and South Korea have made various strides toward peace. Donald Trump has made it clear that one of his presidential goals is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and earlier in 2018, he made history upon meeting Kim Jong-un at a summit in Singapore. Beginning in 1950, fighting in the Korean War lasted until 1953, when an armistice was passed. There was no official end to the war, and tension between the two nations has been raging for over 60 years.
In late November of 2018, both sides, in a truly historic moment, crossed the line to shake hands and speak with one another. This echoes the Christmas Truce of 1914. Although the tension is not completely over, and the two armies still have things to work out, we may see a true reunification of the Korean people in our lifetime, and it may be sooner than we think. How wonderful it would be to see the two Koreas reunited for a better tomorrow, and form a government that is truly of, by, and for the people!
The spirit of the Christmas season has worked wondrous miracles around the world, and it has done so in some of the world’s most horrific conflicts. The Christmas Truce of 1914 displayed to the world that, even in the middle of a great war, troops from differing armies can unite and spread good will toward one another. The recent Korean truce, despite not being centered around Christmas, nonetheless occurred during the holiday season, and is sure to make history, as the two Koreas are now looking towards a brighter future. This does not mean that the tension is completely finished. That was the case in 1914, and it is the case with Korea today. It does, however, show that peace and good will toward men can occasionally break the chains of war and remind us that we were put on this earth by God to love one another. From the University Conservative, I hope each and every one of you have a Merry Christmas, and I hope you all find fulfillment in God’s will for your life.