Hello, dear friends! We hope you are all having a blessed and peaceful Christmas season!
We are experiencing our first holiday season here in Ljubljana, and we are enjoying so many of the uniquely Slovenian traditions.
Yesterday, we went up to the Ljubljana castle to see some lights, and were thoroughly tickled pink to see the official Saint Nicholas for the city of Ljubljana, just before he headed out for his procession through the city.
As we walked around, we noticed a life-sized carved wood nativity. It was beautifully intricate, and we stood there for a while admiring it. We had been standing for quite some time, when I noticed something, and looked at Dan, and said "But where's Jesus?"
Now, I understand that realistically and probably the reason baby Jesus is not yet in the manger, is because it is not yet actually Christmas, so he hasn't been "born". But is was odd to us, nonetheless that Jesus was not part of the nativity. As Christians, whenever we set out a nativity, the "baby Jesus" piece is the most precious one, and is not one to be left out.
But as we admire the beauty of the season here in Ljubljana, this has been what we've noticed:
There are monuments to religiosity peppered through the city - churches, nativities, stars, crosses... but, where's Jesus?
People prepare to go to midnight mass, they celebrate a saint, Saint Nicholas - who devoted his life to serving others in the name of Jesus, people slow down and spend time with their families... but, where's Jesus?
You can buy Advent wreaths in all the local grocery stores and flower shops, you can hear Christmas music playing on the radio... but, where's Jesus?
Because Slovenia is traditionally Roman Catholic, their traditions revolve around the symbols of the season, and yet the true relationship with Christ, the "reason for the season", is missing in so many of their lives.
This is not a uniquely Slovenian phenomenon. It is the same around the world, and yet our hearts are for the Slovenes. It is our deepest desire that the people of Slovenia would know the personal relationship with Jesus that gives us joy, comfort and peace during this time of year - and throughout the year.
The beauty in the lights, is that Jesus is our light. The meaning behind the stars, is the star that led the wise men to Him. The sweetness of the nativity is being reminded of Jesus' humble birth - God became man. The tradition of Saint Nicholas is special because of the idea of giving our lives in service to God and those around us. The tranquility of the Advent wreaths, is to prepare our hearts for the Lord. Christmas music (not Jingle Bells, but songs such as Away in a Manger) are public reminders of why we celebrate. We spend time with our families and loved ones, because we are thankful that God gave them to us to love - because He loved us first. All of these traditions and symbols are beautiful, and should be celebrated. But if they are celebrated without Jesus, they lose their meaning.
This Christmas season, we hope and pray that the symbols Slovenians - our friends and neighbors, see around them cause them to wonder, and search for the true meaning behind them - Jesus. And we pray that we are able to be there for them in those moments. We are so thankful that God has allowed us to be here, and for the lives that will be changed because of Him.
We pray the same for you, that you and those you love would open their hearts to God, and allow Him to give you joy and peace that surpasses all understanding.
Please continue to pray for us, we are still dealing with a situation we cannot yet freely share about, but we know that God is in control, and the local churches here, and our new friends have been a great help to us. We know that everything will work out in God's perfect timing.
Have a merry Christmas, and a blessed New Year!