Joyeux Noël and the Death of War

Since I wasn’t able to attend a memorial service this year, I decided to observe Remembrance Day by watching a couple of movies that bear witness to the sacrifice and suffering of those who fought on behalf of their countries. One of these movies was Joyeux Noël. This film joyeux_noelwas particularly good at portraying the hardship and anguish of soldiers in the trenches of World War I. In this story, three generals — German, French, and Scottish — along with their units, are brought together by the celebration of Christmas.

In the dreary dark of Christmas Eve, a German officer who before the war had been a vocalist in Berlin, sang “Stille Nacht” (Silent Night). Close by in their own trenches, the French and the Scots listened to the hopeful song of the German singer. The Scots joined in with their bagpipes, and soon, all the soldiers left their trenches to meet one another in peace on the battle field.

There they shared stories of home and tears for loss they had already incurred thus far in battle. Many even exchanged addresses with the intent of taking up friendship again once the mess of war had ended. At the high point of this meeting, the Scottish priest led the who assembly in the Christmas midnight mas. Participating together, they were no longer enemies, but fellow men who were all here by the same unfortunate circumstances, forced into combat by the will of their homelands. This was a really striking picture of peace that can come by love in Christ — even in the midst of war.

During the mas, the artillery fire booming in the distance reminded all that though they might forget war in the moment, the war had certainly not forgotten them. At this, they exchanged greetings of “Merry Christmas” and “good luck,” and returned to their trenches.

One of the most memorable scenes is one in which the German singer-now-soldier confronts his general, asking if they must go on to kill again now that they had truly come to know those they had regarded enemies. He said, “To die tomorrow is even more absurd than to die yesterday.” How foolish it would seem, having now experienced the peace of Christmas Eve, to die by the hands that offered friendship only the night before?

This war was to be the War to End All Wars. But really, going to war can’t truly cause the end of war. The only thing capable of ending war, as was so grandly demonstrated in Joyeux Noël, is the peace that comes through love in Christ. Let love be the foreign policy that guides nations in their dealings with one another. Let love be the ‘war’ that is fought, and it really will be the War to end all others.

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