In the not-so-distant past, Christmas was a season of “comfort and joy” throughout the West. Encompassed by spiritual ties that bound people together, even people of different languages and varied religious outlooks, the celebration of the babe in the manger brought university in the midst of diversity and reminded us of our heritage and our common humanity. But as the last Christmas came and went, we were reminded again that those spiritual ties, and that Western heritage, have been ruptured. As a result, historical (actual) events in our past which demonstrated our culture’s university are not even remotely possible today.
Case in the point: The Christmas Truce that took place in the trenches of World War One during the Christmas of 1914.
As Christmas Day drew near during that first year of the war, German forces crouched or sat in their trenches facing British forces doing the same in their trenches a few yards, and in some cases a few hundred yards, away. A life that was already miserable for so many of those soldiers, due to the cold that gripped them at night and the monotony that pressed upon them by day, was only going to get worse as blood, urine, feces, and disease were added to mix. Yet they fought.
With German guns facing British trenches and British guns facing German trenches, an onlooker might not be faulted for thinking the only thing these forces had in common was a desire to kill one another. But that false paradigm was shattered on one of the winter nights leading up to Christmas, as British forces heard not the sound of gunfire, but the words of “Silent Night” (“Stille Nacht”) rise from the trenches opposite them.
Thereafter, signboards in English were held up by the Germans, informing the British forces that they wanted a truce to celebrate Christmas. Nothing elaborate mind you, rather, simple messages that conveyed the Germans’ promise not to shoot if the British would promise the same. It was Christmas Eve when a German soldier emerged from his country’s trenches and began to walk toward the trenches opposite him: a brave gesture meant to solidify the start of a truce for soldiers in that that area on Christmas morning. He was met by a British soldier and then both returned to their respective trenches to wait out the night.
When Christmas morning broke, no shots were fired, no hostilities exchanged. Rather, on the land that that lay between the German and British trenches—“no man’s land”—the soldiers met and sang carols and exchanged gifts (cigarettes, sweets, etc.), and even engaged in sports (soccer). Although they were enemies on the battlefield, they shared a common denominator which greater than their aggression, and that denominator was their faith, which was intrinsic to their Western heritage.
Fast forward to this past Christmas (2011), and think of how far we’ve fallen. Over the course of decades court systems, educational curriculum, and the relentless encroachment of political correctness have all been used to rid Westerners of their faith, and as consequence, of their reason for Christmas. We have traded our faith, rich in heritage and transcendent in meaning, for a secularization which literally sucks the life not only out of the West, but out of the West’s holidays as well.
Ask yourself, if under some strange circumstance Britain and Germany were to find themselves at war, “What would happen to a soldier today, were he to lay down his gun in order to sing of the babe in the manger or the silent night on which that babe was born?” My guess is that the soldier would be reprimanded, forced to take “sensitivity training,” or maybe even worse. Moreover, I would venture to say that if the soldier tried to emerge from his trench and walk toward his enemy to celebrate Christmas, he would probably be shot dead the moment his enemy had him in their sites.
Simply put, we Westerners have lost the ties that bind. And now, in a manner completely antithetical to that witnessed in the winter of 1914, we are more apt to exchange hostilities between ourselves instead of gifts.