BUON NATALE from Italia! Firenze is beautiful today...we took a stroll around the streets before video-chatting with my parents online during brunch and gift time! Last night we enjoyed a children's pageant and Christmas Eve service at a church in town followed by a small dinner and Christmas movie with friends. The bells around the city were so loud and beautiful around the midnight hour, signaling the start of midnight masses and also the dawn of Natale! It's much different having Christmas away from our families...but technology is helping out quite a bit! Thanks to Skype for calls to friends and Chris' family, and video iChat for sharing with my family, who sat their computer camera in the living room so we could see the tree, and also eat brunch with them around the table. We also opened gifts together as everyone put their new item up to the camera to share across the ocean.
I dedicate the rest of my post to a lovely story from the Christmas of 1914 during WWI. This excerpt is from Jim Wallis at Sojourners:
With the ongoing conflicts raging during each passing year, this story remains tragically relevant.
Silent Night, by Stanley Weintraub, is the story of Christmas Eve, 1914, on the World War I battlefield in Flanders. As the German, British, and French troops facing each other were settling in for the night, a young German soldier began to sing "Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht." Others joined in. When they had finished, the British and French responded with other Christmas carols.
Eventually, the men from both sides left their trenches and met in the middle. They shook hands, exchanged gifts, and shared pictures of their families. Informal soccer games began in what had been "no-man's-land." And a joint service was held to bury the dead of both sides.
The generals, of course, were not pleased with these events. Men who have come to know each other's names and seen each other's families are much less likely to want to kill each other. War seems to require a nameless, faceless enemy.
So, following that magical night the men on both sides spent a few days simply firing aimlessly into the sky. Then the war was back in earnest and continued for three more bloody years. Yet the story of that Christmas Eve lingered - a night when the angels really did sing of peace on earth.
Folksinger John McCutcheon wrote a song about that night in Belgium, titled "Christmas in the Trenches," from the viewpoint of a young British solder.