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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Day 3: The Secular and the Spiritual

Sweden is a beautiful place and a Swedish Christmas is lovely. Lights and wreaths and ribbons and candles adorn the city and throughout the city are various Christmas markets where you can buy everything from traditional Swedish Christmas ornaments to reindeer meat. The markets are dotted with little red stalls, often with a candle burning brightly in the open window. It's all very lovely and charming. The photo for today is of the Old Town (Gamla Stan) Christmas market. But after being here for 10 years, the newness of the Swedish style of Christmas has worn off a bit and I've noticed an important flaw in the way in which Stockholm illuminates Christmas. I can't think of one public place that I've seen a nativity. You can hardly even purchase a Christmas card with a religious theme. And while I love Christmas decorations, both secular and spiritual, when the situation is totally void of the spiritual, the secular loses its luster rather quickly. Yes, the candles are beautiful and the white lights on the trees dazzle, and I love the wreaths and the Lucias (more on this on December 13th!) and the market stalls with all of their adorable tomtar (Swedish Santas) and fine woolen goods, and odd tasting meats and beautiful table cloths. And yet, in the midst of that beauty, I long for the Christ child. Keep the Christ in Christmas is a bit too cliche for my taste, but in the end, if there is no Christ, then really, there is no Christmas. And so for me, all of the traditions, and all of the beauty and all of the dazzling splendor dims a bit when the light of Christ isn't shining brightly through it all.