Saturday, December 21

My Third Favorite Christmas Story 12/21/13

WWII Photo of the Ardennes Forest
     Good morning, one and all. I hope life is treating you well. For many, this is a frantic and materialistic season.       
       Needn't be so.  In the inn, we're having a countdown for the biggest day of this month.  For this, and the next two days, stories I've written related to this season, will attempt to
counterbalance the pressures of Madison Avenue and the media, and their  efforts in convincing us that splurging is the way to happiness. 

         By ever-so-slight and not-so-slight degrees, many are distracted from the original meaning of Christmas.  It isn't about candy canes, Santas, elves, or revealing how much we care for loved ones by emptying our pockets and bank account while getting gifts.  Heavens no. 

          Neither is Christmas about warm feelings of love, Christmas trees or music, eggnog, hearth and home.  Nope, it isn't.  It's about the greatest gift mankind received. God's love for us.  Tomorrow's story and especially the story posted on Monday dip further into the meaning of this holiday.  Hope you can drop by then. 

        The following is my third favorite Christmas-related story, my re-telling of events, based on research and an account given by Fritz Vincken, the young eleven year old son mentioned in this account.  For more about his biography, you can read here

        Wishing you a terrific Christmas,  The Innkeeper

       In December 1944, the Battle of the Bulge was fought in sub-freezing weather.  The American and British troops were defeating a German force twice their number.  This engagement lasted from December 16th until January 25th, 1945.  A cook for the Nazi Army left his wife and young son in a shack in the Ardennes Forest near the German-Belgium border, seemingly distant from danger.

        The poor weather---snow, bitter cold and impenetrable fog----grounded Allied aircraft and greatly aided the German advance.  That Christmas Eve, soldiers on both sides became lost.  Many looked for a place to bed down until morning, when they would resume their search for their unit. 

       The following story happened sixty-eight years ago........

      Three American soldiers stumbled upon an occupied shack.  Light emanated from the cottage, smoke pouring from the chimney.  It offered a chance to warm their frost-bit, combat-weary bodies.  Upon its door, they knocked. 

       A mother and a young boy responded.  Using sign language, the soldiers asked to enter.  The German woman was preparing a meal, using a scrawny chicken.  She beckoned the men in, offering her simple Christmas meal.

       One soldier was wounded, shot during a fire-fight earlier that day.  The woman, using rags, stopped his bleeding.  He laid upon the living room couch.  The language barrier was broken when the men learned the lady spoke French, a language that one of the G.I.s from Louisiana knew. 

       The Americans unloaded their forty-five to sixty pound packs.  This evening provided a rare chance to stretch-out.  Spending the night in something bigger and warmer than a foxhole was a welcomed treat, especially in this weather.  The heat from the hearth, was an appreciated and unexpected early Christmas gift.  Little did these men know that soon, the room would experience warmth of another kind.

      More than an hour passed when a crisp rap upon the weather-worn door startled the little family and American visitors.  The men grabbed their weapons while the woman answered the door.  Four German soldiers were lost.  "Was shelter available?" they asked the lady.  "Yes, come in for Christmas dinner, but I have other guests," she answered. 

       One German soldier remarked, "Americana?"  She said, "Yes. This is Christmas. There'll be no killing tonight, not in my home."  She ordered the Germans to leave their weapons outside, before entering.  The American G.I.s were instructed to do the same.

       The combatants stood together, men who earlier that very day, sought to kill one another.  The little boy's heart banging loudly.  He pulled on his winter jacket to muffle the sound.  He didn't want everyone else hearing the emotional percussion, too. 

        For what seemed eternity---ten minutes---the room strained under an uncomfortable silence.  The men warily eyed each other.  Eventually, American cigarettes were offered to the Europeans.  The Germans welcomed them, provisions were scarce.  A German soldier with medical training inspected the wounded American.  Finding usable items within the home, he tended to the injured G.I. 

        Preparations for the Christmas dinner were completed.  The food was meager-----what was meant for the woman and her son was stretched to serve seven last-minute guests.  A bag of potatoes provided a hearty soup.  Before eating, the woman rose to speak. 

        She said war was wrong.  She recounted the Christmas Story, speaking of the hope it offered.  The host spoke in German to the European visitors and in French to the Americans.

        The soldiers, including the tough German sergeant, were moved.  The eyes of few of these battle-hardened men swam, as they recalled of stories told to them during Christmas, when they were little, in warmed childhood homes.  

        While gnawing at the stringy chicken, the uneasiness the men had towards each other transformed into the warmth of companions sharing a simple, but much appreciated meal. 

        After dinner, the Nazi soldiers sang Silent Night, a song of German origin.  Afterwards, two of them sang it in English, along with the guests from the United States.

        Fed and satisfied with their first home-cooked meal in months, the men slept in the cramped quarters of the tiny alpine cottage.  In the morning, a stretcher for the wounded American was crafted by the Germans.  A compass and directions were given to the Americans. The Nazi soldiers took the lady and her son back to the German lines, reuniting her with her husband.

        For one night, during a horrific battle, God's peace dwelt within nine who spent the night in the puny cabin.  Even in the worst possible situation, God dwelt among them. 

        Two thousand years ago, a young pregnant woman and her husband were not admitted to a crowded inn, in Bethlehem.  There was no room for the Christ child.  Today, this slight can be corrected.  He can be welcomed into the inn of our hearts.  You might want to invite Him, if you haven't.  You'll discover the greatest Christmas gift ever----eternal life.

        The Peace born in Bethlehem was showered upon nine persons in a middle of the Battle of the Bulge in war-torn Europe.  Experiencing God's harmony and love is available today, to hearts torn with despair or pain.

         I ask God to show me, how I can demonstrate character like the mother in this story.  Being an instrument of His peace is my desire.  The world desperately needs to know hope, freedom from fear, gratitude and tranquility.

How About You? 
How are you welcoming Christ this Christmas? 

        May you have a great and gratefuChristmas!


Carl H said...

Dear Innkeeper,

On this Saturday night, I am grateful;

1. That two of my sons were, and are seeking my advice regarding a too-small and too-young Christmas dress they bought for their Mom. I'll return to the store with them to help fine-tune their choice, and welcome the (rare-of-late) father/son time to bond.

2. For the increased communication and collaboration my wife and I are experiencing these days.

3. For the natural lifting of the spirit, softening of the heart and broadening of the mind that seems to accompany interpersonal relationships during this Sacred and Holy Season.

4. That I could release the healing of my laptop to my Higher Power. And, that my Irish Tech-genius friend will come over tomorrow afternoon to fix it.

5. For the new-to-me discovery of the beautiful A Cappella rendition of "Little Drummer Boy by Pentatonix, and their Christmas CD.

6. For my timely email this morning asking to be excused from a company sales staff dinner tonight and two hours round trip there from home.

7. Having the chance 3 or 4 times today to say my NO (to sons, to chefs)as gently as my YES, thus maintaining and honoring my own healthy boundaries, and safeguarding my own sanity. Grateful for this new-found "courage to change."

Pablo said...

Dear Carl,

Thank you, for regularly dropping by. How do you feel, that you and your wife are growing in the way you connect? Can you share a specific example where you've seen the softening of the heart and broadening of the mind? It would help me understand your comment better.

Good for you, for standing up for your values, but doing so gently. I know I feel better when I do.

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From: "Do You Know What It Means If You Are Too Busy?" For more, please click here.