#0092 …German soldiers emerged from their trenches, calling out “Merry Christmas” in English.

Link relevant to today’s posting…

Scripture relevant to today’s posting…

32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.

Acts 4:32 (NIV)

Today’s posting is part XI of an excerpt from the book I am currently working on. This article looks at the difference between an hierarchy-based community and a community which is NOT hierarchy-based; this type of community would utilize concepts and principals of egalitarianism. I’ve been talking about this because, although Jesus’s message was filled with elements of the egalitarian principal, the Church continues to operate within the well-worn hierarchical structure, embracing and pushing its principles. Today we look at the dramatic effects a strong egalitarian influence by the Holy Ghost has upon 100,000 soldiers on the battle field at the beginning of WWI. In this account we see also how the re-establishment of the military hierarchical regime is used to quell the efforts of the Holy Ghost and set the world up for the unfolding of an horrific chain of events. Today’s post concludes this series.

(Continued from Sunday 5-15-16)

With respect to our discussion of egalitarian social dynamics this spontaneous outbreak of peace in the midst of a war is worth taking a deeper look at. The pronounced spiritual significance of this event becomes crystal clear as we put it in context with everything that followed it. Taken as an isolated event, in the annals of history it’s merely a blip on the radar—little more than a curiosity that came and went—with relatively few people noticing that it happened at all. In the religious annals it didn’t even register as a blip; but in the annals of heaven it carries much significance. It a very real way it is every bit as significant as Pentecost itself which the scriptures themselves rightly identify as the premier event heralding the arrival of the Holy Ghost on the earth. Pentecost, as we’ve already pointed out, was a big production incident—what with the rushing wind, the cloven tongues and the rest—but this Christmas Truce Event was much more in character with the way the Holy Ghost prefers to work. It came in in the still and calm of the night. It was Christmas Eve along the western front in early days of World War I. And in much the same way the Holy Ghost was invoked on Pentecost by Jesus’s apostles pining for Him in His absence; the soldiers out on that battlefield were also pining for Jesus and the warmth of the feelings peace from bygone Christmases they each had enjoyed. Experiences they had shared only in the form of reminiscences…until that night.

Exactly a century ago, the men in the trenches heard something unusual: singing

On a crisp, clear morning 100 years ago, thousands of British, Belgian and French soldiers put down their rifles, stepped out of their trenches and spent Christmas mingling with their German enemies along the Western front. In the hundred years since, the event has been seen as a kind of miracle, a rare moment of peace just a few months into a war that would eventually claim over 15 million lives. But what actually happened on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day of 1914 — and did they really play soccer on the battlefield?

Pope Benedict XV, who took office that September, had originally called for a Christmas truce, an idea that was officially rejected. Yet it seems the sheer misery of daily life in the cold, wet, dull trenches was enough to motivate troops to initiate the truce on their own — which means that it’s hard to pin down exactly what happened. A huge range of differing oral accounts, diary entries and letters home from those who took part make it virtually impossible to speak of a “typical” Christmas truce as it took place across the Western front. To this day historians continue to disagree over the specifics: no one knows where it began or how it spread, or if, by some curious festive magic, it broke out simultaneously across the trenches. Nevertheless, some two-thirds of troops — about 100,000 people — are believed to have participated in the legendary truce.

Most accounts suggest the truce began with carol singing from the trenches on Christmas Eve, “a beautiful moonlit night, frost on the ground, white almost everywhere”, as Pvt. Albert Moren of the Second Queens Regiment recalled, in a document later rounded up by the New York Times. Graham Williams of the Fifth London Rifle Brigade described it in even greater detail:

“First the Germans would sing one of their carols and then we would sing one of ours, until when we started up ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’ the Germans immediately joined in singing the same hymn to the Latin words Adeste Fideles. And I thought, well, this is really a most extraordinary thing ­– two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war.”

The next morning, in some places, German soldiers emerged from their trenches, calling out “Merry Christmas” in English. Allied soldiers came out warily to greet them. In others, Germans held up signs reading “You no shoot, we no shoot.” Over the course of the day, troops exchanged gifts of cigarettes, food, buttons and hats. The Christmas truce also allowed both sides to finally bury their dead comrades, whose bodies had lain for weeks on “no man’s land,” the ground between opposing trenches.

The phenomenon took different forms across the Western front. One account mentions a British soldier having his hair cut by his pre-war German barber; another talks of a pig-roast. Several mention impromptu kick-abouts with makeshift soccer balls, although, contrary to popular legend, it seems unlikely that there were any organized matches.

Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce of 1914 by: Naina Bajekal @naina_bajekal Dec. 24, 2014

Just reading about this account you can pick up on the presence of the Holy Ghost. The more these men of opposing armies responded to God’s invitation to come out of their trenches and engage in this peaceful interlude with one another the more compelling and right the concept became for them. Two big indications that this was the Holy Ghost at work are: 1) It happened quickly—almost spontaneously and 2) the message of what to do once they came out of the trenches was the same and it was crystal clear to all who participated. In this regard, other accounts tell of soldiers feeling compelled to give gifts of food or other special treasures to guys from the other side and as they did so saw the recipients respond in kind; many shared their contact information with hopes of getting together after the fighting was over. They all seemed to be transfixed by the experience they were sharing. These sorts of engagements are evidences of the Holy Ghost at work…

 32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.

Acts 4:32 (NIV)

Was this event just a quirk or did it hold a greater and a spiritual significance? Consider the chain of events that followed once this peaceful, joyous and egalitarian situation concluded and the Holy Ghost was no longer welcomed on the battlefield…World War I continued and took 15 million lives; it was followed less than 20 years later by WWII; WWII led to the rise of communism and the formation of the Iron Curtain; this led to the cold war and the nuclear arms race; today radical terrorism groups are trying develop nuclear capabilities in order to actually use them against their enemies. Questions we might now ask are…What if that truce in 1914 had continued and why didn’t it? Might history have found another course? Let’s go back to the article.

Yet for many at the time, the story of the Christmas truce was not an example of chivalry in the depths of war, but rather a tale of subversion: when the men on the ground decided they were not fighting the same war as their superiors. With no man’s land sometimes spanning just 100 feet, enemy troops were so close that they could hear each other and even smell their cooking. The commander of the British Second Corps, General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien, believed this proximity posed “the greatest danger” to the morale of soldiers and told Divisional Commanders to explicitly prohibit any “friendly intercourse with the enemy.” In a memo issued on Dec. 5, he warned that: “troops in trenches in close proximity to the enemy slide very easily, if permitted to do so, into a ‘live and let live’ theory of life.”

Indeed, one British soldier, Murdoch M. Wood, speaking in 1930, said: “I then came to the conclusion that I have held very firmly ever since, that if we had been left to ourselves there would never have been another shot fired.” Adolf Hitler, then a Corporal of the 16th Bavarians, saw it differently: “Such a thing should not happen in wartime,” he is said to have remarked. “Have you no German sense of honor?”

Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce of 1914 by: Naina Bajekal @naina_bajekal Dec. 24, 2014

What these comments are pointing to as the fundamental cause of this truce was the erosion of hierarchy and having it supplanted by egalitarianism. From the political and military perspective of those in charge of the war, no matter which side they were on, this was a catastrophic development which had to be terminated. So focused efforts were made to restore order—hierarchical order—and as that happened, the shooting recommenced and the Holy Ghost was once more pushed aside.  

If you have a question or thought about this or other postings please feel free to send them in. As always, thanks for reading.

TBC: Sunday , May 22, 2016

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