Written for Christmas Day of 1818 in a small village nestled in the Austrian Alps, the beautiful carol, "Silent Night," inspired one of the most amazing stories of World War I. Here is that inspiring--and true--story.
It was Christmas Eve, 1914, during the early months of the war. When the Germans had left their country earlier in the year, they expected to be home by Christmas to celebrate their victory. The young men, however, were not home by Christmas and the war dragged on for four more years. Europe, and the entire world, would never be the same again.
By December of 1914, trench warfare along the 200 mile front was proving to be a difficult and deadly form of battle. The trenches were filled with mud, vermin and death. The Christmas of 1914 was particularly cold, freezing the slush and water of the trenches in which the men hunkered down.
But, on December 24, along the trenches of the western front, British and Scottish soldiers heard a startling sound--the sound of singing. And it was a song they instantly recognized, even if they did not understand the words. The song was Silent Night,, or as the Germans sang it, Stille nacht, heilige nacht.
Shocked by this strange yet welcome sound, one by one the English and the "Scots" began singing back to the Germans, their version of this beautiful melody, Soon, voices on both sides filled the air with the strains of Silent Night.
As they looked across to the enemy trenches, the Allies began to spot candles raised on poles or bayonets. And even more incredibly, the English officers reported that some enemy troops were actually holding Christmas trees over their heads. Soldier from both sides, who, just hours before had been killing one another, tentatively began to emerge from their trenches and to venture into the dreaded "no man's land," bringing good cheer and gifts from their kits--and to bury their dead.
Against all odds, a spontaneous, one day truce had begun; a truce that ignored all the rules of military conduct! A killing field had been turned into a place of peace. Not everyone approved, however. Some officers tried to discourage the "fraternization." And one Austrian private billeted near Ypres, complained that in wartime "such an understanding should not be allowed." But, what would you expect from a soldier named Adolf Hitler?
As you sing Silent Night this year, think back to that terrible time at the beginning of the last century. Both sides had sung of Christ for hundreds of years, but still embarked on a war that would take the best and brightest of an entire generation. Yet, against all odds, God's peace prevailed for a brief season. Do sing this carol...a carol that sings of the peace that only Jesus Christ can bring.