And man, at war with man, hears not
The love song which they bring:
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.
Tonight when I sleep, it will be in relative peace. I may have burdens weighing on my mind, and certainly danger exists even in safe places, but I’m more likely to dream of candy canes and St. Nick than of violence and fearsome things. I won’t lay in my bed, worried that my house will be targeted by bombing, or that a militia will enter my neighborhood. I live in a place of peace.
Without close friends and family living in war torn nations, it takes anime for me to reflect on that dichotomy of a holiday whose common slogans involve peace and the daily life of people who live without it. Super Dimensional Fortress Macross addresses this idea in episode 35, “Romanesque.” In it, Quamzin and his soldiers attack the unsuspecting residents of Onogi City, many of whom are out doing their Christmas shopping. The fiery attack is juxtaposed against the White Christmas each member of the famous love triangle is enjoying (or suffering through, depending on which character).
The age of the series—it’s almost as old as me—and the current centennial commemoration of WWI reminds me of that conflict 100 years ago, and especially of what it was like during the first Christmas of the war in 1914. The famed truce held between enemies on the front lines has drifted in the realm of myth, but these accounts are rooted in fact. Over 100 years later, it seems unimaginable now that a spontaneous truce would be held for the Christmas holiday, especially during an era of modern war. For those unaware, WWI was the first total war, one in which technology had surpassed the old way of waging conflict, resulting in unimaginable death and destruction. Yet in this atmosphere, peace reigned, if even for just a day or two.
Not that people didn’t want peace. The United States, not yet a combatant in the war, released a resolution through its Senate calling for a 21-day truce in “the spirit of Christmas.” It was ignored by the combatant nations, who would continue to fight for four more years. After all, as author Stanley Weintraub opined, “Peace is harder to make than war.”
And yet, on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (and into Boxing Day and beyond in some areas), a spontaneous peace, usually first offered by the German soldiers, broke out. It often started with German soldiers putting candles on “Christmas trees” and singing songs. Soldiers might begin calling greetings back and forth or even share songs before a soldier or two would take the initiative to cross No Man’s Land, under quite obvious danger, to meet the enemy. All accounts were different, but it was common for soldiers to shake hands and become friendly, even sharing gifts of cigarettes and other goods. In some cases, they even played a most friendly game of football.
In the midst of the most violent conflict the world had scene, one whose impact is still felt in Europe (and which set the stage for the horrifying events of WWII), peace had come.
The events in Macross happen at an important time, in the penultimate chapter of the series. In an episode that could have been similar to other Christmas ones, where the holiday plays a background part amidst the more important storyline (and it does surely advance the romantic angst of the series), Macross chooses to say something significant. After the battle, residents emerge from a church and begin singing “Silent Night,” even as fires burn and lives are presumably lost. The song here is important: “Silent Night,” a carol of Austrian origin and treasured by the German soldiers in WWI, many of whom sang “Stille Nacht” during the truce, reflects a peaceful scene, although the birth of Christ will also usher in violence and pain at the hands of man.
The refrain of “joy and peace” sometimes has little meaning for those of us living in places where war doesn’t affect us daily, where violence doesn’t creep outside our door. I’m reminded frequently of war’s horrors through news stories or social media posts, then go about my regular life as if it isn’t occurring. Growing up in a deeply conservative household, I admit I even have a heart that’s sometimes bent on war, not as a last option, but a best option.
This holiday, I want my heart to change, to see with eyes more like Christ for whom peace is a primary reason for his coming. Although he certainly stated that his coming would bring conflict (Matthew 10:34-36), his coming also gives us to a chance to stop our enmity with God, to secure peace for our hearts—and a peaceful heart shares love to others, shows grace, and values lives, kindness, and nonviolence. A Christ-filled heart it not a heart at war; it’s a heart at peace.
I certainly don’t have the ability to stop war, and I understand the necessity of it at times (I also come from a family of veterans). But my hope is that for those of us that don’t necessarily value peace remember that it’s a prime value of God, and that we’ll stop mixing our opinions, culture, selfishness, posturing, pride, and whatever else with what we value most, if our faith is what we value most, and remember what a Bavarian soldier said on Christmas Eve more than 100 years ago: “No more war! It’s what God wants!”
Super Dimensional Fortress Macross can be streamed on Amazon Prime.
For a good reading about the WWI Christmas Truce, from which some of the information in this article comes, read “Silent Night” by Stanely Weintraub.