Saturday, December 5, 2009

Deck the Halls in Old Twon Square!

Here it is... the giant, Christmas tree, grown in the mountains of the Czech Republic, and now towering, beautifully in Old Town Square. The tree is decked to the max with so many lights that if you get too close or stare too long you risk blindness!
Nearly all the trees that surround Old Town are decorated with lights for the holidays. The square has transformed into a magical place- inviting you to stroll along the market booths, enjoy the jolly atmosphere, and eat and drink your way through the soon-to-be-bitter cold.
The market stands are filled with typical Czech food and gifts for purchase. The vendors bargaining with potential buyers, keep warm with a small glass of Gluhwein (hot, mulled wine) in their hands. Below is a photo of a tasty Trdelnik stand- a soft pastry drizzled with a thin, buttery, caramel and then spun over coals and finally dusted with powdered sugar and served warm- MELT IN YOUR MOUTH GOODNESS!
A parent in my classroom told me that I had to try these tasty pastries, that I would enjoy the market more with one in hand and that I would probably get mad at her later for introducing me to this "little slice of heaven"- warning me that they are so irresistible you can't help but eat one every time you see a stand! Well, she was right and I think my response after the first bite was something like, "Oh great, now I am going to dream of these everyday... ". Thank goodness for willpower right!
Two nights ago, I met a friend in the Mala Strana area and as we walked back to Stareometska over the Charles Bridge, I looked over my shoulder and Prague Castle was just sitting there- beaming in light against the darkness- much like the Christmas tree pictured above. In the mundane of daily life, I so often forget where I am. The surroundings become familiar and I go about my daily routines as if I was here my whole life. I don't remember that I live in a foreign country where I cannot understand the language or where the ambiance of the city is so magical and inviting. I just live and breath and go about my life as usual.

On nights like last night, wandering around Old Town square in the darkness with the buildings of Prague a beautiful, pristine backdrop for the happenings of the holiday season, I am struck- like a tons of bricks- that I DO live in this place. I am awed and joyful that I am here in this particular moment experiencing such incredible beauty... relishing the fact that Christmas is about the birth of our Savior whom I love and know deeply. As I stood and admired the extravagant display of Christmas spirit, I was reminded that I might be the only one standing there thankful for the love of Christ because I live in a country that professes 94% to be atheist and is one of the largest prostitution rings in Europe... maybe the reason for the season this year is that I followed the call of the Lord, who led me to Prague to be reminded that as beautiful and magical as the surroundings are I am a light in the darkness too, and my purpose remains that His will be done... not my own.

"You are my hiding place, my safe refuge, my treasure, Lord you are. My friend and king, anointed one, most holy... because you're with me I will not fear."
- lyrics from I Will Exalt You by Hillsong