By DANNY MINTON
Mention December 7 and most of our minds will go back in history to Pearl Harbor. It was a time Christmas became a time of depression and sadness for our country as we entered into the Second World War. Not only would the war be with Japan, but with a foe from a previous war, Germany.
December 7, 1941, in President Roosevelt’s words, “Yesterday, December 7, 1941— a date which will live in infamy—.” Infamy is defined as “the state of being known for some bad quality or deed. December 7, 1941, fits that definition. It would be the first of four Christmas seasons filled with stress and sadness throughout many communities.
However, on December 7, there was another story as the war with Germany intruded on the Christmas season. But it wasn’t December 7, 1941. Flip the last two numbers and go back to December 7, 1914. World War I was entering its fifth month, with trenches filled with men in combat. On this date, Pope Benedict XV suggested that the war halt for a Christmas Day hiatus. The warring countries refused to call an official cease-fire. However, on Christmas Day on many battlefields, the fighting stopped.
Soldiers from both sides sang Christmas Carols from the trenches and shouted “Merry Christmas” in foreign tongues. History reports that German soldiers left the trenches on one battlefield and walked out in plain sight wishing “Merry Christmas.” Realizing they were unarmed, American and British soldiers walked out to meet them. They shook hands as if seeing an old friend and exchanged gifts of candy, cigarettes, or other items they happened to be carrying. Enemy soldiers had a soccer game on one battlefield, while others erected Christmas trees. German Lieutenant Kurt Zehmisch recalled: “How marvelously wonderful, yet how strange it was. The English officers felt the same way about it. Thus Christmas, the celebration of love, managed to bring mortal enemies together as friends for a time.”
The next day, men who had shaken hands, exchanged gifts, and wished each other a “Merry Christmas” again began shooting and killing each other. Ironically, war ceased to remember the “Prince of Peace,” only to resume the next day.
Unfortunately, this same attitude prevails today. Families and friends will, in most cases, gather together to celebrate. There’ll be gift-giving, good food, and laughter over stories new and old. For one day, everyone will seem to get along and show their love for each other.
However, on December 26, people will retreat to the trenches in too many instances, and life will resume as before. Too quickly, the good feelings and thoughts of Christmas will pass. Thinking of the birth of the “Prince of Peace” will become faded memories. Goodwill will take a back seat to our personal interests. For too many, the worries and stresses of life will push away the hope and love once given to us as an everlasting gift.
On December 26, make it a point to refuse to return to the trenches. Work on letting that spirit of peace and love continue from day to day. Love your neighbor. Do good to your enemies. Each day when you open your eyes be thankful that God and given you a new day, a chance to cease your battles and seek peace with Him and those around you.
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ