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"Blessed are the Peacemakers"

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class=MsoNormal style='margin-bottom:0cm;margin-bottom:.0001pt;line-height: normal'>May the words of my mouth and the Meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in you sight, Our Strength, our comforter and our redeemer. Amen 

7“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. 8“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5:7-9)

For a Christian – war challenges us… more

            For every religion there exists one form of the ‘golden rule’

                        ‘Do unto others no harm’

But for Christians war goes completely against our deepest understanding of the Gospel

Jesus’ teaching on the Kingdom of God… on earth as in heaven… is a vision of peace where there is no war

And as the prophet Isaiah declared, “nor again will we ever be trained for war” (Isaiah 2:4b)

And yet war continues…

As my high school history teacher taught: in the total of all recorded history, there has been less than 365 days cumulative… without war

            War is ever present in our world, throughout all time…

So how are we as Christians to understand the role it is to play… and we are to play… in this reality of life?

                                                It is our response… and our actions, in the face of it

Jesus said 7“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. 8“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5:7-9)

            Our response is to adjust to the situation and be Christian in the face of it

                        We are to face the challenge, and then ‘baptize it”

                                    Christianity… the Gospel … is about transformation

It is about facing what the world presents and finding God’s heart’s desire to transform it to the vision of ‘God’s Glory’

Even in the face of the worst thing imaginable that humanity can do to each other – war – God calls us to ‘a’ role within it

This morning we will explore this transformation in the evil that is war with a specific story

            I am indebted to for much of the content of this story


Even at the distance of a century, no war seems more terrible than World War I.

In the four years between 1914 and 1918, it killed or wounded more than 25 million people–

Peculiarly horribly, for less apparent purpose, than did any other war before or since.

Yet there were still odd moments of joy and hope in the trenches of Flanders and France,

And one of the most remarkable came during the first Christmas of the war,

A few brief hours during which men from both sides on the Western Front laid down their arms, emerged from their trenches, and shared food, carols, games and comradeship.

Their truce–the famous Christmas Truce–was unofficial and illicit.

Many officers disapproved, and headquarters on both sides took strong steps to ensure that it could never happen again.

While it lasted, though, the truce was magical,

Leading even the sober Wall Street Journal to observe:

“What appears from the winter fog and misery is a Christmas story, a fine Christmas story that is, in truth, the most faded and tattered of adjectives: …inspiring.”

            Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (Matthew 5:8)

The first signs that something strange was happening occurred on Christmas Eve. At 8:30 p.m.

An officer of the Royal Irish Rifles reported to headquarters: “Germans have illuminated their trenches with candles, are singing songs and wishing us a Happy Christmas.

Compliments are being exchanged but I am nevertheless taking all military precautions.”

Further along the line, the two sides serenaded each other with carols

The German “Silent Night” being met with a British chorus of “The First Noel“

And scouts met, cautiously, in no man’s land, the shell-blasted waste land between the trenches.

The war diary of the Scots Guards records that a certain Private Murker

“met a German Patrol and was given a glass of whisky and some cigars, and a message was sent back saying that if we didn’t fire at them, they would not fire at us.”


“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. (Matthew 5:7)

The same basic understanding seems to have sprung up spontaneously at other spots.

For another British soldier, Private Frederick Heath, the truce began late that same night when

“All down our line of trenches there came to our ears a greeting unique in war: ‘English soldier, English soldier, a merry Christmas, a merry Christmas!’”

Then–as Heath wrote in a letter home–the voices added:

‘Come out, English soldier; come out here to us.’

For some little time we were cautious, and did not even answer. Officers, fearing treachery, ordered the men to be silent.

But up and down our line one heard the men answering that Christmas greeting from the enemy.

How could we resist wishing each other a Merry Christmas, even though we might be at each other’s throats immediately afterwards?

So we kept up a running conversation with the Germans, all the while our hands ready on our rifles.

Blood and peace, enmity and fraternity—war’s most amazing paradox.

The night wore on to dawn—a night made easier by songs from the German trenches,

The pipings of piccolos and from our broad lines, laughter and Christmas carols.

Not a shot was fired.


“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. (Matthew 5:7)

Several factors combined to produce the conditions for this Christmas Truce.

By December 1914, the men in the trenches were veterans, familiar enough with the realities of combat to have lost much of the idealism that they had carried into war in August,

And most longed for an end to bloodshed.

The war, they had believed, would be over by Christmas,

Yet there they were, in Christmas week, still muddied, cold and in battle.

Then, on Christmas Eve itself, several weeks of mild but miserably soaking weather gave way to a sudden, hard frost,

Creating a dusting of ice and snow along the front that made the men on both sides feel that something spiritual was taking place.

                        8“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (Matthew 5:8)

One common factor seems to have been that Saxon troops—universally regarded as easygoing

Were the most likely to be involved, and to have made the first approaches to their British counterparts.

“We are Saxons, you are Anglo-Saxons,” one shouted across no man’s land.

“What is there for us to fight about?”

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5:9)

The most detailed estimate, made by Malcolm Brown of Britain’s Imperial War Museums, is that the truce extended along at least two-thirds of British-held trench line that scarred southern Belgium.

It was only in the British sector that troops noticed at dawn the Germans had placed small Christmas trees along parapets of their trenches.

Slowly, parties of men from both sides began to venture toward the barbed wire that separated them, until—Rifleman Oswald Tilley told his parents in a letter home

”literally hundreds of each side were out in no man’s land shaking hands.”


“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5:9)


For many across the lines the most common interest was in “football”—soccer—

Which by then had been played professionally in Britain for a quarter-century and in Germany since the 1890s.

Perhaps it was inevitable that some men on both sides would produce a ball and—freed briefly from the confines of the trenches—take pleasure in kicking it about.

What followed, though, was something more than that,

For if the story of the Christmas Truce has its jewel, it is the legend of the match played between the British and the Germans—which the Germans claimed to have won, 3-2.

The most detailed of these stories comes from the German side, and reports that the 133rd Royal Saxon Regiment played a game against Scottish troops.

The real game was far from a regulated fixture with 11 players a side and 90 minutes of play.

In the one detailed eyewitness account that survives—Lieutenant Johannes Niemann, a Saxon who served with the 133rd, recalled that on Christmas morning:

The mist was slow to clear and suddenly my orderly threw himself into my dugout to say that both the German and Scottish soldiers had come out of their trenches and were fraternizing along the front.

I grabbed my binoculars and looking cautiously over the parapet saw the incredible sight of our soldiers exchanging cigarettes, schnapps and chocolate with the enemy.

Later a Scottish soldier appeared with a football which seemed to come from nowhere and a few minutes later a real football match got underway.

The Scots marked their goal mouth with their strange caps and we did the same with ours.

 It was far from easy to play on the frozen ground, but we continued,

Keeping rigorously to the rules, despite the fact that it only lasted an hour and that we had no referee. 

A great many of the passes went wide,

But all the amateur footballers, although they must have been very tired, played with huge enthusiasm.

For Niemann, the novelty of getting to know their kilted opposition matched the novelty of playing soccer in no man’s land:

Us Germans really roared when a gust of wind revealed that the Scots wore no drawers under their kilts

And hooted and whistled every time they caught an impudent glimpse of one posterior belonging to one of “yesterday’s enemies.”

But after an hour’s play, when our Commanding Officer heard about it, he sent an order that we must put a stop to it.

A little later we drifted back to our trenches and the fraternization ended.


            8“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (Matthew 5:8)

The game that Niemann recalled was only one of many that took place up and down the Front.

Attempts were made in several spots to involve the Germans

At least three, and perhaps four, other matches apparently took place between the armies.

A sergeant in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders recorded that a game was played in his sector “between the lines and the trenches,”

And according to a letter home published by the Glasgow News on January 2, the Scots “won easily by 4-1.”

Meanwhile Lieutenant Albert Wynn of the Royal Field Artillery wrote of a match against a German team of “Prussians and Hanovers” that was played near Ypres.

That game “ended in a draw,”

But the Lancashire Fusiliers, occupying trenches close to the coast near Le Touquet and using a ration-tin “ball,”

Played their own game against the Germans, and–according to their regimental history–lost by the same score as the Scots who encountered the 133rd, 3-2.

In most places, up and down the line, it was accepted that the truce would be purely temporary.

Men returned to their trenches at dusk, in some cases summoned back by flares, but for the most part determined to preserve the peace at least until midnight.

There was more singing, and in at least one spot presents were exchanged.

George Eade, of the Rifles, had become friends with a German artilleryman who spoke good English, and as he left, this new acquaintance said to him:

“Today we have peace. Tomorrow, you fight for your country, I fight for mine. Good luck.”


“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. (Matthew 5:7)


The war was on again, and there would be no further truce until the general armistice of November 1918.

Many, perhaps close to the majority, of the thousands of men who celebrated Christmas 1914 together would not live to see the return of peace.

But for those who did survive, the truce was something that would never be forgotten.[1]

For most of us, fortunate Canadians today, we have never seen (first hand) war

            And it is my deep and ongoing prayer that none of us will ever see it

                        But for those that have – we are indebted to them

We are indebted for them facing the worst that humanity can do to each other and facing it in the hope of something better

Taking what the world presents and then ‘baptizing it’

7“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. 8“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5:7-9)

            - Amen -


[1] “Peace on the Western Front, Goodwill in No Man’s Land — The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce”, December 23, 2011 -

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