On Christmas Eve of 1914, British troops, entrenched along the front lines of World War I, heard singing in enemy German camps.
The song they heard was “Silent Night, Holy Night.”
In a rare moment of unity between warring parties, the British joined the Germans in song from their own trenches beginning the famous “Christmas Truce of 1914.”
Christmas morning, soldiers from both nations shook hands in “no man’s land” between the two trenches.
Men who had been shooting at each other for months suddenly began exchanging gifts and playing soccer.
Each side saw the humanity of their enemies and the common ground they shared.
Unfortunately, the war did not end during the holiday. The next day new friends picked up their guns and resumed the bloody conflict.
Christmas is a special time. We don’t fight at Christmas; we love. We don’t take during Christmas; we give. We do not put up our defenses at Christmas; we open ourselves up.
During Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Christ.
We celebrate the greatest gift God ever gave to us, and we celebrate the beginning of the course that led compassionately to the cross.
As the angels sang to the shepherds in Bethlehem “peace on earth” and “good will toward men,” we will also find peace and good will in the birth of Christ.
Throughout the years, Americans have always found reasons to disagree.
The Federalists and Democratic Republicans battled over the role of government when our nation first began.
Democrats and Republicans battle over the role of government in our nation today.
Ideologies have pushed entire sections of the country apart. Elections display just how divided our nation is politically.
Many become consumed with the victory of their candidate; they equate happiness with the success of one person.
On social media, neighbors throw insults at each other. In the streets, we see protests, riots and violence.
Somewhere along the way we have forgotten that we are all Americans; we are all on the same side.
We have differences, but we also have our common ground. We may think differently, but we share the same burdens.
We all have fears. We all have dreams. We wake up each morning in the greatest experiment of free government the world has ever known. We wake up to our loved ones, to our blessings and to our hardships.
As the soldiers of the Christmas truce shared misery and fear, Americans share much with each other. We just have to look around.
This Christmas is a time we can heal divisions. We can stop fighting, and we can start loving. We can stop taking, and we can start giving. We can let down our defenses, and we can open up to those who disagree with us.
Together we are stronger. Unity is not easy to achieve, but it is a worthy cause in which to strive.
We can find a way to shake hands in our own “no man’s land,” but we must first reach out to those with whom we have disagreed.
We may never agree, but we can disagree in love.
We can find hope and achieve unity through the Gospel story.
Whatever the future of our country holds, we can treat each other with kindness and civility.
Unlike the “Christmas Truce of 1914,” Americans do not have to resume hostilities when the holidays end.
We can stand for our principles, but we can do so with respect and love.