Who would have thought that a supermarket company’s commercial could capture one of the most poignant moments in a bloody war–World War I?
The Christmas season is behind us, but I have to mention the commercial that the Sainsbury Company produced this past Christmas, depicting the famous truce between British and German soldiers in 1914. If you haven’t seen this three and a half minute commercial yet, check out this link:
For a week leading up to the Christmas of 1914, British and German soldiers crossed No-Man’s Land to talk and play soccer and swap souvenirs. No-Man’s Land was the bloody stretch of soil separating the British trenches from the German trenches during World War I.
It was a killing ground.
Some people criticized this television spot for supposedly exploiting a terrible war for commercial reasons. Others have said the commercial is too beautiful and doesn’t portray the ugly reality of trench warfare. But these critics miss the point entirely. The entire idea behind the ceasefire–and the commercial–is to show that beauty can be found in the most unlikely places.
An estimated 100,000 German and British troops participated in the Christmas ceasefire of 1914. Captain Bruce Bairnsfather described the truce this way: “Germans placed candles on their trenches and on Christmas trees, then continued the celebration by singing Christmas carols. The British responded by singing carols of their own. The two sides continued by shouting Christmas greetings to each other. Soon thereafter, there were excursions between No-Man’s Land, where small gifts were exchanged…the artillery in the region fell silent.”
A few people actually opposed the truce at the time. Most notably, one young German corporal in the 16h Bavarian Reserve Infantry opposed the Christmas peace. His name: Adolf Hitler.
Some have questioned whether the two sides actually played football (soccer) with each other, but others have documented numerous references to games being played, using soccer balls kept in the trenches and even using cans of meat as the ball.
A cynic might say that stopping to exchange presents and shake hands before going back to killing each other is insane. But once again, it misses the truth of the moment. This remarkable truce shows that God has planted in each one of us a seed that can produce life and peace, even in the midst of death.
It’s a very Christian concept. After all, the symbol of the Christian faith is a cross–a barbaric instrument of torture, used to exterminate people in the most horrific way possible. Romans would line main thoroughfares with crosses, so travelers could see what fate lay ahead for those who rebel or rob.
By making the cross the universal symbol of Christianity and even wearing crosses as necklaces, we state an important truth: Christ conquered crucifixion, and He conquered death. Through His resurrection, He found beauty and life in the ugliest of deaths, giving all of us hope that beauty awaits us, even when we go through the greatest horrors that life can throw at us–even in a muddy trench in France in the early part of the Twentieth Century.
For my part, I am not bothered when a supermarket chain reminds us of this miracle. The commercial was tastefully done, and I applaud them. Besides, I say it again: Isn’t that the point? God’s beauty can be found in the most unlikely places–even on a cross, even in a trench, even in a supermarket commercial, and even in the human heart.
By Doug Peterson