My life and my thoughts - on faith, culture, politics, whatever comes to my mind

Sunday, December 25, 2005

A glimpse of German Christmas

I know I have not written for a really long time. I was really busy and just got internet connection at home the beginning of December. But also, I just wanted to take time during Advent to prepare for Christmas. I just thought I'll share some thoughts and some small impressions of German Christmas.

Here in Germany, Advent still plays an important role - even though its role has probably changed. Advent is meant to be a time to prepare for the coming of Christ. A transition from darkness to light. This is why Advent starts with just one lit candle and then progresses towards for lit candles and the whole Christmas tree on Christmas. Many people just see Advent as a fun time to enjoy cookies, Gl├╝hwein (warm spiced wine), Christmas markets, ice skating, ... Or as a most stressful time - buying presents, planning meals, crowded cities, ... Advent suely can be a wonderful time (enjoying all the things mentioned above), but it is also a time for awaiting and preparing ourselves for Christ. This is not always easy in between all the commotion around us! But this year, fortunately, I had at least some time to sit quietly, with lit candles and some hot tea and to read God's word.
Germans do not put up their Christmas trees the beginning of Advent, but either on the 23rd of December or the morning of Christmas Eve. We always put ours up the late afternoon of the 23rd. I have not missed this tradition once :). Of course everything moves in a set pattern: Mom decides on the position of the lights, Dad puts the ornaments into the highest part of the tree and my mom and I take care of the other ornaments. And then we add the "Lametta" (long silvery stuff hanging from the branches). I try to always avoid that part ;). Maybe I'll post a picture of our tree in a few days. We keep the tree until Epiphany. Of course, as the "children" my sister (25y) and I (29y) are not allowed to see the Christmas tree with its lights burning until Christmas Eve.
The main part of Christmas for Germans is Christmas Eve. People attend church in the late afternoon (even most who never enter a church any other day of the year) and then have either dinner first or the exchange of the gifts. We have gifts first and then a long nice family dinner. On Christmas day, there are again services at church - no matter what day of the week it is (same on the second Christmas day, 26th).

I really love Christmas. It is a wonderful time to be with family and friends. But most important to me is what happend that first Christmas in Bethlehem. God sending His son into the world, a poor little baby. A poor little baby in a manger - the hope and salvation for us!
Christmas is about the heart. It is a time to think about our hearts - how is the condition of our heart. Does our saviour have a place in our heart - THE place in our heart? Has our heart turned hard and stony? Or is soft and loving? It is a time to receive God's wonderful inexpressable gift for us: Jesus Christ. And it is a time to give gifts back to God, gifts to the little baby in the manger. What is the gift? My all. My favorite German Christmas carol sings about us standing in front of the manger, giving ourselves, giving what He has given us first to Jesus, who is our life.
So I'll close with the first verse of this song (in German). Merry Christmas to all of you!

Ich steh an deiner Krippen hier,
oh Jesu, Du mein Leben.
Ich komme, bring und schenke Dir,
was Du mir hast gegeben.
Nimm hin, es ist mein Leib und Sinn,
Herz, Seel und Mut, nimm alles hin
und lass Dir's wohl gefallen.