all is calm, all is bright

The Christmas activity has ceased at the Collegium Oecumenicum and most students are still at home, so things are very quiet here on this 3rd day of Christmas.

The past week was filled with busy preparations and celebrations. I bought gifts, made cards, and spent hours baking goodies leading up to Christmas Eve.

Christmas cookies and biscotti

We began the morning of the 24th with some of the remaining students at the COe eating breakfast together. The weather was sunny and very warm, so I went for a run along the river. Lots of people were out and about on bicycles and with dogs, enjoying the unseasonable weather. In the afternoon, there was still a spinach casserole to be made from my Aunt Janie’s recipe. I was fortunate to have been invited by one of my German friends to celebrate Weihnachten with his family here in Munich. I happily obliged and offered to bring one of our family’s Christmas Eve dishes.

Germans traditionally celebrate on the 24th, and I was warmly welcomed by this family to take part in their feasting, gift exchange and holiday rituals. The night ended with an 11 PM worship (in the church where this friend’s parents are the pastors). We sang “Stille Nacht” together, then departed to make our way back home in the pleasant night, me feeling grateful for a lovely, holy evening.

Christmas morning began not, as the last 24 have begun, with anxious waiting on the steps to my grandmother’s basement to see what Santa Claus had brought down the chimney… but with a beautiful sunrise, a quiet breakfast, a subway ride into town to attend worship in the city center where a friend was singing in mass, then more time in the kitchen preparing for our big afternoon celebration here at the COe.

Christmas morning sunrise

All the students who remained, plus a few other guests (about 15 total – representing Germany, the USA, Romania, India, Brazil, and Ecuador) were invited to share in a big afternoon meal together, hosted and organized by the Bowden family.

Everyone brought food to share, and we had quite a feast! (Unfortunately my camera died and I don’t have photos.) The meal was followed by a scripture reading, singing, lots of dessert eating, and an afternoon of game playing. I slipped away to wish my family Merry Christmas via Skype, then returned back to the party, which lasted into the early evening.

It was a blessed day. Although it didn’t feel like a “normal” Christmas, I did feel the familiar warmth and contentment – the “Christmas Spirit” – that usually accompanies this most beloved holiday. Again I am reminded of the wideness of God’s love through the gift of community.

I also recognize that for many folks, this holiday was not at all calm and bright. That first Christmas also involved pain and fear. For aching families and communities around the world, I pray.

I hope that you who are reading had a blessed Christmas and that you continue to celebrate and enjoy the next 9 days of Christmastide. What was your favorite part about this Christmas? Leave me a comment! I’d love to hear about your festivities!

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