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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Christmas in Paris

     What joy it is has been to journey through these Advent weeks in Paris. It's always so much fun to experience the Christmas season in a new city, taking in their traditions and decorations. Paris has certainly not skimped on the decorations, it is after all, the city of lights and the Christmas lights here are nothing short of fabulous. The French Christmas markets have also been charming and delicious! Having the opportunity to sneak two Belgian markets, Brussels and Brugge, on our way to Strasbourg, the mother of all markets, evoked my childlike wonder in a big way. The windows on display throughout the city are incredible. 
When I first saw these beautiful bears in the Ralph Lauren windows on Saint Germain, my breath was taken away. Who knew a bear could be so elegant?! I even caught a glimpse of Sweden in one shop window! 
One rainy afternoon we ventured out to the La Défense Christmas market. It was lovely but a bit marred by the rain and chill. We warmed ourselves up with vin chaud and good friends. I still need to get to Notre Dame area and wander around there a bit. Thus far, Avenue Montaigne has dazzled the most with its over the top fashion houses and the stunning Hôtel Plaza Athénée. The Champs Élysées has beautiful lighting but overall, it's just a bit too commercial for my taste. 
   Last Saturday, a group of young women who have been working with our youth came around to bake cookies for our youth Christmas party. Church received a basket of foie gras and terrines and other delectable items that we shared one lunch time. Chocolates have been given as gifts. We've had some lovely dinners out. We've shared some special time with the dearest of friends who took time for a weekend in Paris. Much laughter and joy shared around our table. All in all, it's been very festive and fun.   
     At the center of it all however has been the American Church in Paris, a joy-filled festive place with worship services and a Christmas concert that truly lifted us on high. It's been great fun to be part of a big traditional church, with big and bold music, gorgeous sanctuary decorations, and a festive spirit all around The contemporary service has introduced us to some wonderful new Christmas music as well. The lighting of the Advent candles, the music of the season, a memorable Sunday with the children leading's all added up to a very meaning advent journey.
     We also shared in memorable end of semester Christmas parties with both the youth and young adults at church. These young folks have blessed our lives beyond expression and we are so happy that we've had these months to share with them.
     Now we're on the precipice of a big Sunday...4th of Advent combined with Christmas Eve, an oddity of the calendar. We will share in one traditional 4th of Advent worship service at 11.00 a.m. where I am preaching, followed in the afternoon/evening with 3 Christmas Eve services: A family service at 4.00 and two candlelight traditional services, on at 7.30, the other at 10.00. Both are preceded by a half hour prelude of magnificent music and the 10.00 pm is followed by cookies and egg nog as we anticipate the dawning of Christmas morning!
     Christmas day will start with a quiet morning, just the two of us in our cozy, remarkably undecorated apartment followed by Christmas dinner with our senior pastor's family and our intern and his wife, people who are more like family than friends here in Paris.
     I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to journey through this season at ACP and here in Paris. And while the mornings are dark here, the afternoon daylight stretches out much longer than the days in Stockholm did so I haven't felt the darkness bearing down on me as I used to. It's been unusually warm as well, which I'm thankful for given that we don't have our super warm winter clothes with us. Sure, a snowy Paris would be magical, but let's face it, it's all pretty magical, with or without snow.
     Merry Christmas! And may you have a happy New Year as well.