Write Again … May this be a Heilige Abend

Published 5:10 pm Monday, December 23, 2013

You’ll be reading this on Christmas Eve, kind reader.  I would imagine that most of us take our own personal memory journeys around this time each year.

We all have Christmas memories from our childhood.  Would that all children, everywhere, have experiences that leave them with sweet memories, such that they remain a source of comfort all through their lives.

Then, most of us have good memories of when our children were enjoying the wonder of the season. And then also for our grandchildren. Those of us whose grandchildren live far away know we are missing, or missed, a special time. Yet, we can draw a bit of pride in knowing our own children had the motivation to seek out their own brave new worlds, and leave the comfort zone of home and things familiar. Either path is fine, staying put or taking wing.

There is no wrong in either choice.

Among my strongest memories of the season are the three Christmases I spent in Germany when I was in the Army, especially the last two.

My unit, as did many, would host a wonderful dinner and gift-giving for children from a nearby orphanage. They would be accompanied by several of the nuns. It was a happy time. An emotional time for some of the soldiers.

An inspirational and almost ethereal experience was in attending midnight Mass at St. Peter’s Church — an imposing cathedral over 500 years old — in the center of Regensburg, which is an old, very old city situated by the historic Donau (Dunube) River.

Bavaria is predominantly Catholic, and midnight Mass at St. Peter’s was beautiful. Especially powerful was the closing of the service, when the boys choir and the men’s choir sang, in echo fashion, “Stille Nacht.”

In Deutschland (Germany) Christmas Eve is called Heilige Abend — holy evening. And oh, how all the church bells peal on that cold night.

And so, friends, let me end this bit of memory peregrinations by wishing for you, and for all those whom you love, a very special merry and meaningful Christmas.

Also, please allow me to be bold enough to suggest that in your prayers tonight — this holy evening — that after you have given thanks for your blessings, you ask our Father to look kindly and with mercy upon all the children of this troubled world, and that peace might come, miraculously so, to a world so in need of an end to strife.

May I also suggest that we all pray for more concord here in our own land, where our differences, political and otherwise, might be overcome in a spirit of bipartisan partnership and principled compromise. True democracy.

And so, may the spirit of Christmas be upon and among us all, in all ways, always.