I wish you all had a glorious Nativity feast, hoping all good and peace for all Egyptians, security and prosperity for our beloved Egypt. As we speak about the Nativity, we always remember that message delivered from heaven to the shepherds: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” declaring itself “a peace message”. In the Nativity feast, “peace and love” manifest, which both have been purposes sought after by humanity along its journey throughout times, they have always been two dire needs and demands for every man, without being aware that he owns them in his hands! Rather they are firm-rooted in his depths, granted by the King of peace and love, some people may wonder: Could really peace be settled amidst our world, which has become as a terrifying forest, an arid wilderness?! Many keep silent, hesitant to answer such question! However, let me recount to you a page of the humane history which goes back to one of the gloomiest eras of humankind! Let’s see what Nativity could do to our lives, once we notice it.
In the winter of 1914, amidst the First World War atrocities, on Bulgarian lands and on the Nativity feast eve, British soldiers were astonished to see Christmas tree enlightened with candles at the enemy’s trenches. The Germans had placed candles over their trenches and on Christmas trees. The always-closed trenches got opened, with the German soldiers coming out of them slowly, crying with feeble English accent: “Merry Christmas”!
They said then: Do not shoot and we will not shoot! Few British soldiers showed up alertly to salute them, followed by others. Bit by bit, the two parties met on the land separating between the two fronts; fire shots went silent and war was stopped at the glorious Nativity feast.
All soldiers came out of their trenches, saluting one another for Christmas, chatting friendly and chanting hymns like: “O Holy Night” and “God save the king”. Moreover, some soldiers of the two sides began to hold a football match, which ended with the Germans scoring 3 against 2 goals. Such truce had allowed both sides to bury the recently killed soldiers, they prayed together as well. There were scarce moments of peace.
Lance Cooper, one of the soldiers, wrote a letter: “… What I am saying now is incredible, but it is true. On Christmas Eve, there was no firing. The German soldiers acted much friendly towards us, that they came to our trenches offering cigarettes and chocolates, and of course we offered them things in return. After the clock passed one on Christmas morning, I was on a guarding mission when a German soldier wished me a happy morning and a cheerful Christmas. The biggest surprise like which I had never seen in my life was: when daytime came, I saw all of them sitting on the tops of their trenches, waving their hands, and singing for us…”!! Another soldier called Be Kodar wrote: “We were in the trenches on the eve of Nativity feast, spending a more pleasing day than we had ever expected. There was a truce to bury our dead. So we held prayers over them at the graves headed by our leader and the German leader … I think I will never forget that Christmas I spent in the trenches. After the burial, we were talking to the Germans and getting souvenirs from them. Who can imagine that we were shaking hands with the enemy?! I think it is hard to believe, but it is the truth…”
It was a strange wonderful night, each soldier saw his enemy as a worth-living man. Those moments were written by history in the honorable humanity record, which is striving towards life, rejecting death dullness. This is the genuine humanity people bear in their hearts, before some people lost it due to thoughts instilled in them, or due to circumstances they passed through.
In Christmas, we receive the King of Peace and Love, so we shall remember that we all belong to one humane family. Merry Christmas to all of us, may we all remember the meanings of love and peace, even towards our enemies, and… Stories about beautiful Egypt never end!
The General Bishop
Head of the Coptic Orthodox Cultural Center8 January 2020