Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Reading; "Oh Holy Night: The Peace of 1914"

We had the time of our lives on Christmas Day. The Germans left their trenches and walked without their rifles half-way across the field to where we were entrenched. There was not a shot fired. Some of our chaps then got out and went to meet the German soldiers. You should have seen them shaking hands with our boys and handing them smokes. Both sides walked and talked with one another as if there was nothing the matter. later on our lads helped the Germans to bury their dead and sang over the graves. It was a sigh you could never forget.
Lance Corporal George Yearsley
Oh Holy Night: The Peace of 1914  by Michael C. Snow is a truly moving account of the Christmas Eve in 1914 during World War I when German and British soldiers left their trenches and met in "no man's land" to celebrate a common day of peace and fellowship. Told through British soldiers' letters home, we see the common themes of surprise and thankfulness over this shared Christian celebration with their fellow men. This is followed by the dismaying official orders from those far from the war who declare that any similar displays of good fellowship toward enemy soldiers will be treated as treason.

The event is then contrasted in the second part of the book with a personal connection between rival nations at a higher level as we see the great affection between Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm II and Russia's Czar Nicholas II who were cousins through their grandmother, Queen Victoria. Their personal notes to each other from the year before World War I show their fondness and we follow the breakdown in relations between countries as each cousin strives to believe the best of the other behind the scenes.

Threaded through these accounts are Christmas carols, scripture of Christ's birth and teachings, psalms, reflection from saints and others including Mark Twain. The author uses all of these and his own reflections to bring the reader to consider peace, war, mercy, forgiveness, and living Christ's teachings.

The author provided me with a pdf of this book (I converted it to mobi for my Kindle). I plan on purchasing a copy as I think it is a worthy accompaniment to Dickens' A Christmas Carol in reminding us of the true meaning of Christmas in bringing Christ's light into the world.

Highest recommendation.


Monica Rafie said...

How about the movie on the same topic, titled, "Joyeux Noel", which came out in 2005? Have you seen it?

I bought a copy for my 10 yr old son, but I have not had a chance to watch it yet. It is PG-13. I would be interested in reading any comments about it, esp with young viewers in mind.

Leticia said...

I did see it about two years ago, and enjoyed it tremendously. The only caveat for young children is that a non-marital sexual relationship between two of the principle characters is shown in too much detail (brief scene towards the beginning). Just preview the film, and when your son sees it, keep the remote handy.
Other than that, it has no unecessary sex, profanity or excessive violence, and the theme is highly inspirational.
A great Christmas film.