And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
It’s that time of the year. Our family has had a Christmas play for almost fifty years, and this year will be no exception. With great imagination that only comes from the minds of little ones, we typically retell the story of Jesus’ birth or some Christmas miracle story connected with his birth. This year we are indulging my youngest grandson’s obsession with history.
In December 1944 during the brutal Battle of the Bulge three young American soldiers strayed from their unit and were lost several days in the Ardennes Forest. Snow was thick on the ground, and there were no markings to guide them on that Christmas Eve. One of the boys was wounded, and they desperately needed shelter. As they trudged through the woods, they came upon a small, isolated cabin. Two of the soldiers marched up to the door and knocked.
Elisabeth Vincken and her son Fritz had been forced away from their bombed-out home in the city and hidden in the little cabin by Elisabeth’s husband who would visit from time to time. Elisabeth and Fritz were expecting him to return in time for Christmas Eve and eagerly went to the door. To their surprise and awe, three American soldiers greeted them. Elisabeth knew the penalty for harboring the enemy was execution, but the boys had kindly knocked on the door and looked so young. She ushered them into the cabin, and she and Fritz helped the wounded soldier into bed, covering him with blankets. Elisabeth went back to her preparation for the Christmas Eve meal and was again interrupted with a knock at the door. Fritz ran to open the door thinking it could be other Americans.
As the door opened, Elisabeth saw, to her horror, that it was German soldiers, four of them, and they were armed. They were cold and wanted to come in. With great boldness, Elisabeth said they were welcome as long as they accepted her other guests. Furthermore, they had to put their weapons in the shed first. At first the Germans were hesitant, but the warmth and light drew them. They deposited their weapons while Elisabeth also took the weapons of the Americans.
Fear and tension were strong in the little cabin for a while, but the smell of the meal baking in the oven, the relative comfort, and Elisabeth and Fritz’s hospitality ushered in a sense of peace. One of the German soldiers, a medical student, inquired about the wounded GI and bandaged his injuries. By the time everyone sat down to eat, a miracle had occurred. Elisabeth said grace asking God to bring his peace and to end all wars. When she finished, everyone was in tears.
After eating, the soldiers lay down to sleep together and arose early in the morning to return to their own units. The Germans fashioned a stretcher for the wounded American, and one pointed on the Americans’ map to indicate the direction back to their troops. He even provided them with a compass. The Americans and the Germans shook hands—these men who had been shooting at each other only days before—and they left on different routes after having experienced the wonder of a holy, silent, peaceful night.
Prince of Peace, in you we find peace no matter what our circumstance. Move in all our hearts around the world that we may truly experience that peace of which we all dream. AMEN.
(This story was retold in 1995 on the television program “Unsolved Mysteries.” Grown- up Fritz was able to contact two of the Americans he had met that Christmas Eve who told him that his mother had saved their lives.)