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Silent Night Silent Night
by Jack Wellman
2007-12-21 09:31:08
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Flare after flare was followed by a thundering hail of machine guns. Rapid strobes of light pierced the darkness, each light a deadly shot. Noise, confusion, and an incessant roar of mortars, make this grim scene seem hell on earth. In Europe’s theatre of World War One, there swept a deadly line in the sand, filled with blood, sweat and tears. Trenches and lines were gained and lost…relentlessly and at the expense of human lives.

One evening, something happened. Something that had never happened nor has been repeated since. It began to spread, slowly at first, but eventually along the front line, and eventually extending across hundreds of miles came a sound so beautiful. What noise this roaring silence. All guns ceased, candles came out and for the first time in many years, the night was silent.

The evening was December 24th, 1914 and it was during this total war that was World War One, a total silence. Then, in the hands of the bloodied and exhausted British, French and German soldiers, whom were all lying in cold, muddy trenches. The Germans lit hundreds of candles and placed them on make-shift Christmas trees.

When the German soldiers began to sing Christmas songs, the British and the French could not understand the words, but recognized the songs. Renditions of “Stille Nacht” (Silent Night) broke the sombre, dreary darkness. For both sides, it was surreal. The quite soft tones of "Silent Night" replaced the blasts and bellows of war. Where there once had been a roar, there was now near silence. And in a place were there had been none of late.

Both sides began singing Christmas songs and sometimes joined in unity. How incredible this moment of time. What irony. Where once life and death existed, peace and comfort reside. In fact, both sides even traded gifts, played games of soccer and allowed each side to bury their lost comrades. The funniest part might be the yelling and screaming commanders. They commanded them all to stop and continue firing. When pressed, the soldiers openly fired up in the air. The soldiers knew there was something special about this night.

Most of the front lines were graced by peace that extended even through New Years Day. Others exchanged wines, champagnes, sweets, etc. The point of this event shows that humans can and have put aside differences before, even standing up to their commander’s if necessary. We have the capacity and the means to get along on this planet. It has happened once, and at the most unlikely of places. It can happen again. On Christmas Eve, try to remember this extraordinary occurrence. And hope that the world may have its own Silent Night. And a day too, for that matter.

   
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Sand2007-12-21 11:05:44
I wonder if the various Arab factions and the Israelis are amenable to this type of spirit.


Clint2007-12-21 12:27:07
It is a wonderful story and was re-told recently on the BBC here with the additional football match that took place between the English and the Germans. It was never to happen again as the British Generals thought it would weaken morale.


Emanuel Paparella2007-12-21 15:55:24
"And his name shall be called The Prince of Peace."
(Isaiah 9:6).

Indeed Jack I'll opt for that Prince any time over Machiavelli's Prince or Nietzsche's Superman.


Sand2007-12-21 17:56:15
The Prince of Peace has had over two thousand years to work his magic and what has been the result?


Seth2007-12-22 06:28:45
Very touching article. I appreciate it's timeliness.


Seth2007-12-23 23:26:44
The Prince of Peace is more concerned with inward peace, which is where world peace will begin and end. If you are only looking outward at the physical, you will miss what's inward, the intrinsic.

His message of "Peace of earth and goodwill toward men" was not spoken for His behalf but ours.


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