Tuesday, December 22

My Third Favorite Christmas Story 12/22/15

WWII photo of the Ardennes Forest
       Good evening, one and all. I hope life is treating you well. For many, this is a frantic, mater-ialistic 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 few days, I am sharing stories I've written related to Christmas.  My  hope is

to counterbalance Madison Avenue.  We are urged to  splurge.  It is the way to family happiness.  False. 

           It is easy, being distracted from the meaning of Christmas.  It isn't about candy canes.  Nor is it about Santas or elves. How much we care for loved ones is not equated
with how much we shell out for presents.  Heavens no. 

          Christmas is not about warm feelings.   Christmas trees or music, eggnog, hearth or home certainly conjure wonderful thoughts.  But not about the true meaning of Christmas.  Nope.  It's about the greatest gift mankind received.  God's love for us. 

          The gift of his Son, celebrated on the twenty-fifth.  Tomorrow's story and the story posted Thursday dip into the meaning of this season. 

        Below is my third favorite Christmas-related story.  It's my telling of it.  It is based on research and the account given by Fritz Vincken, the young twelve year old son mentioned below.  For more about him, 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. It greatly aided the German advance.  That Christmas Eve, soldiers on both sides became lost.  Many looked for a place to bed down. In the morning they would resume their search for their unit. 

    The following story happened seventy years ago......

       The snow crunched as three American soldiers trudged through the forest.  Weighed down with their sixty pound packs and nine pound M1903 Springfield  rifles.  The exhausted men stumbled upon an occupied shack.  Light glowed from it, smoke puffing from the chimney.  

        Hope, it offered.  Perhaps a warm refuge for their frost-bit, combat-weary bodies.  Breaking the silence of the night, upon the door of the tiny house, the men knocked. 

       A mother---Elizabeth---with her twelve year old son by her side, responded.  Using sign language, the soldiers asked to enter.  Frau Vincken was preparing a meal.  A scrawny chicken was the centerpiece for that night's dinner.  She waved the men in, offering her meager Christmas meal.

       One soldier was shot through the thigh.  It happened during a fire-fight that day.  The woman, used rags to stop the bleeding.  The stabbing pain had him rocking from side-to-side as he lay upon the living room couch.  The language barrier was broken when the men learned the lady spoke French. One of the trio, from Louisiana, knew it, conversing with the woman of the house. 

       The Americans grunted in relief while unloaded their packs.  This evening provided a rare chance to stretch-out.  Spending the night in something bigger and warmer than a foxhole was welcomed.  Espe-cially in weather that had the men's teeth chattering before entering the simple abode.  The heat from the hearth, was a welcomed treat.  

       An unexpected early Christmas gift.  Little did these men know that soon, the room would experience warmth of another kind.  More than two hours passed when a crisp rap upon the weather-worn door startled the little family and the Americans.  The men grabbed their weapons while Elizabeth answered the door.  Four German soldiers were lost. 

      "Was shelter available?" they asked.  "Yes, come in for my simple Christmas dinner.  I have other guests," she replied.   One German soldier remarked, "Americana?"  Elizabeth said, "Yes.  This is Christmas Eve.  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 told to do the same.  The combat-ants stood together.  These men earlier that day, sought to kill one another.  The little boy watching the event felt his heart banging loudly.  

       Fritz pulled on his winter jacket to muffle the sound.  The lad didn't want everyone else hearing the emotional percussion. 

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

        Preparations for the Christmas dinner were completed.  The food was meager.  It  was intended for Frau Vincken and her son Fritz.  Now it was serving seven last-minute guests.  A bag of potatoes stretched the food, becoming the base for a hearty soup.  Before eating, the woman rose. 

        She declared war was wrong.  Elizabeth 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 with held-back tears.  They recalled stories told to them during Christmas, as youths, in their cozy childhood homes.  

        While gnawing upon the stringy chicken, uneasiness transformed into the warmth of companions sharing a simple, appreciated meal.  
After dinner, the Nazi soldiers sang Silent Night.  A song of Austri-an origin.  By tradition, it could not be sung before this day, Christmas Eve.   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 expertly crafted by the Germans.  A compass and directions were given to the Ameri-cans.  The Nazi soldiers took the lady and her son back to the German lines, reuniting her with her husband.

        For one night, during a violence-strewn battle, God's peace dwelt within nine who spent the night in a puny cabin.  Even in the worst possible conditions, the love of God resided among them. 


          In Bethlehem,  more than two thousand years ago, a young pregnant woman and her husband were not admitted to a crowded inn.  No room for the Christ child.  Today, this slight can be corrected.  He can be welcomed into the inn of our hearts.  You can 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 still available today.  It is available to hearts torn with despair, fear 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 celebrating this Christmas season? 

   May you have a great and gratefuChristmas!

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