Jesus, Mary, and Joseph

Steven Wendel on December 12, 2017

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The pungent smells of mulling spices, frankincense, roasting meats, and trdelnik have returned to Bohemia as the Advent markets and their many charms and delights have signaled the inauguration of another Christmas season.  If it weren’t enough to alert us to the fact, the various concerts, school plays, and performances in which our children are participating have managed to fill our first weeks of advent with either enjoyment or endurance, or maybe both.  

24174694_10210715038255290_1390446743487366555_n Our friends Radek and Zuzka

Last Sunday we stood in the icy evening consuming rye bread spread with lard and topped with fried lard and onions while sipping fruity tea, desperately trying to stay warm as we watched all of our elementary aged children sing Czech carols and wave sparklers as the village Christmas tree was lit.  On St. Mikulas day, all of the children endured their visit from St. Mikulas, the angel, and the devil with minimal traumatization.  Our children must be well-adapted as they observed that the devil wasn’t quite scary enough this year, though one girl from Erica’s class was stuffed into the devil’s burlap sack and carried away to ‘hell’ in a rare fulfillment of his yearly threats.  Several evenings onward we were so proud as Adelaide recited the opening lines of welcome to the school’s big Christmas performance program.  Elisha sang an entire song solo in front of the hundreds of parents and families  gathered, and then performed again for the Christmas guitar orchestra at the philharmonic house.  

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We had a great final English lesson before the Christmas break as well.  We were able to share the story of Christ’s birth with all of the children and parents gathered.  It is so sadly intriguing to perceive how little anyone knows about the biblical account of Christ’s birth, despite the hundreds of Catholic statues, monuments, and cathedrals bejeweling nearly every historic space throughout Bohemia.  From baby Jesus delivering the gifts on Christmas eve, to the 3 kings collecting charitable gifts on January 6, these traditional Czech Christmas characters amount to no more than fairytales in the typical mind.  Completely severed from their biblical moorings, even the many public nativities seem to harken only to such mythos as Santa and his reindeer.  While uttering “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph” is the favorite Czech expletive, even among children(to our often cringing ears), no parent or child could identify the names of Jesus’ mother and earthly father in the nativity scene we created for the lesson. Nor did they know of the wise men and their gifts!  What a pleasure it was to share with them the reason for the birth of God’s son and invite them to know Him personally.