In 1914, the world erupted in war. Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, was assassinated. Ferdinand’s assassination was just the first domino to fall in what would eventually become known as The Great War. More than 70 million military personnel would face off in what would become one of the bloodiest wars in human history. It is estimated that more than 16 million people were killed as a result of the fighting.
The Great War raged for four years. Known by the widespread use of trench-based warfare, long stretches of fighting would take place with little to no movement. Opposing armies would face one another in fortified trenches. In between the trenches was an area called the “no-man’s land.” This area was littered with barbed wire, improvised land mines, and the corpses of fallen comrades. Any movement into the no man’s land would mean certain death.
It was Christmas, 1914. The war was only a few months old by then. The trenches had become a miserable home to those men stationed there. In an attempt to bring some degree of humanity to a less-than-humane situation, soldiers decorated their fortifications – some even lighting Christmas trees. The miracle of that Christmas came when British and German troops crossed into the no-man’s land, initiating the Christmas Truce of 1914. For 24-hours, as many as 100,000 opposing soldiers exchanged gifts, shared food and drink, joined together in burial services for their fallen colleagues – some even joining together for soccer games in between the coils of barbed wire. While the truce only lasted for a day, the powerful reminder of the Christmas Truce endures even to this day.
As Christians, we long for the reign of the Prince of Peace. We look forward to the day envisioned by the prophet Isaiah when the swords of war will be beaten into the plowshares of peace and when the wolf will dwell with the lamb. Still we must wait. Since Jesus’ first Advent, our world has seen more than enough conflict. Even in our own time, the earth is littered with international conflict, civil war, genocide, and terror. At the same time, the Gospel is making its way into some of the darkest places in our world. Surely you are aware of the plight of Iranian pastor Saeed Abedini. An American citizen, Abedini has been in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison since September of last year. His crime? Sharing the Gospel. Bringing light into darkness. Sharing the Prince of Peace in a land riddled with violence and oppression.
There is no denying the fact that our world is broken. As the people of God, we must never forget that the answer to our ills is not a government program. The answer to our ills is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There was no act of Parliament that led to the Christmas Truce of 1914. It was something much greater than any government. What the world saw on 12/25/1914 was a shadow of a government in the works. Isaiah saw it too. He looked forward to it in Isaiah 9:6-7…
For a child will be born for us,
a son will be given to us,
and the government will be on His shoulders.
He will be named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
The dominion will be vast,
and its prosperity will never end.
He will reign on the throne of David
and over his kingdom,
to establish and sustain it
with justice and righteousness from now on and forever.
Still we wait, and together we pray, “Amen! Come Lord Jesus!”