Joyeux Noël / Merry Christmas
Earlier today we watched the movie Joyeux Noël. (Hey, I’m on leave, so I’m entitled to watch some movies 😉
Joyeux Noël is based on an historical event which happened on 24 December 1914 when the French, the English and the Germans, who were at war with each other and were fighting from trenches during the First World War agreed to a cease-fire on Christmas eve. I’ve heard of this remarkable event before and have even used it as an illustration in a sermon. When I heard that an excellent movie had been made about this, I tried my best to find a copy of the movie, but failed. And then last night I read that the movie was going to be screened on a French cable TV channel and I recorded it to watch it today. Ok, this wasn’t quite as easy as it sounds, because the dialogue was partially in English (which I understand 100%), partially in German (which I understand about 10%) and mostly in French (which I understand about 1%) – and to top it all, the movie made use of subscripts – all in French! (I was able to locate an English copy today which I have now ordered to fill in all the little pieces where we had to guess what was going on.)
On 24 December 1914, as the soldiers were lying in the bitter cold in their filthy trenches, the Germans started singing Christmas carols (in the movie the English soldiers start singing, but apparently this isn’t correct.) Then the soldiers from the other countries also started singing along from their trenches. Eventually they all got out of their trenches and met each other on no-man’s land where they sang together. Then the English chaplain served mass to all the soldiers. On Christmas day they maintained the cease-fire and even arranged a soccer game between the opposing countries. This went on throughout the day after which they all returned to their own trenches and the war proceeded! But those soldiers could never be the same again.
Many of the soldiers were court-martialed because of subordination. The priest who had served the communion was also disciplined by his church for serving the mass to the enemy. What amazed me was that the church as well as the army leaders were unable to recognise the miracle which had taken place on that day – that the message which the angels had given to the shepherds, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men, wasn’t just a dream or a pie in the sky. On Christmas eve in 1914, God proved that Jesus really was the Prince of Peace.
The movie left me with a feeling of hope. Many of the things going wrong in the world (and probably in the church as well) are caused by leaders who are more interested in their own positions and more concerned to promote their own causes than in doing that which will be to the benefit of the people or the world. But at some point people will start seeing the senselessness of things that are wrong and they will attempt to change it. Then we will also be able to experience the promise of peace that God gave us.
But the movie also created an extreme sense of sadness realising that during wars, very often, brothers are fighting brothers (in Christ) – mostly without even realising it.
I think that this will be one of the movies that I will be viewing more than once to really experience the impact of this story. If you are interested in getting a copy yourself, you can find an English copy here.