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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Advent Journey Day 13

Yesterday, December 13, was Lucia Day in Sweden.  It is a day filled with music and candlelight, girls dressed in white gowns with red sashes and boys also in white gowns but carrying stars while sporting white cone shaped hats as Sweden celebrates an old custom that originates in Sicily with a young girl who, guided only by candles on her head, brought food to Christians hiding in the catacombs.  The Swedes liked the custom because on December 13th in this northern land, it's quite dark and so illumination via candlelight is not only beautiful but quite essential!  The festival has no Christian roots per se, but many churches in the US of Scandinavian heritage, as well as churches all over Sweden have adopted the custom and used the enduring light of Christ as a connected motif.
Immanuel's is beautiful.  Set against the backdrop of the majestic sanctuary in the darkness of morning, the audience waits patiently for the candle clad children to appear.  This year the organ and flugelhorn began the morning with a beautiful rendition of O Come O Come Emmanuel.  Then the sweet, pure voices of children from the Aldoph Fredrik's music school delighted our senses and the wonder of Lucia was once again on its way.  Then Lucia arrives to a traditional song that all Swedes learn from a very young age.  The first verse is translated in this way:
Night walks with a heavy step
Round yard and hearth,
As the sun departs from earth,
Shadows are brooding.
There in our dark house,
Walking with lit candles,
Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!
Unfortunately this year for some reason, the combination of heat from the candles, a lack of oxygen for the kids, and the early morning caused several children to faint!  I've never seen this before but no fewer than 4 hit the floor.  No one was injured in the process but I did feel bad for the kids.  I was also concerned that someone's clothes would catch fire since all of the children carry live flames. (Hence the reason for buckets of water to be dispersed throughout the sanctuary!) The Lucia also had to have her candles put out as the ventilation system was blowing too much air on the candles and wax was flying everywhere.  Such are the perils of an early morning show with kids and candles!  It was a delightful morning, filled with beauty.  We finished the morning with a little "fika" in my home.  3 ladies from church and 2 friends who are staying with us from the US joined me in my living room for cinnamon coffee bread, homemade toffee, and of course, coffee!  The traditional Lucia day pastry are Lussekatter, saffron laced, figure 8 shaped buns with raisins on the ends.  I do not like them so I do not serve them!
The windows that are dressed up for Christmas this year in the big NK department store include a display of dogs celebrating Lucia!  Too cute.  Tanner would make a sweet star boy but he would probably want eat his hat!

As I mentioned, while the Lucia festival does not have Christian roots, it is truly an easy connection to the beauty, warmth and light of Christ coming near to us, every day, but in especially obvious and wonderful ways at Christmas.  The days continue to grow darker, but the light of Christ grows stronger and more obvious.  Lucia reminds us to bring light of Christ to the dark places we encounter as well.