December first always signifies the beginning of our Christmas preparations.
A year ago we were in Laos, the most non-Christian country we have visited.
This year, it’s Romania, and we have six months of frequent church-visiting behind us.
One of the kids commented this morning, “It even feels like Christmas here.”
Singing our first carols, did not feel foreign. Reading Isaiah 7:14 was not out of place.
“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
Talking about who gave this promise and whether it was fulfilled and how signs give us information and what signs we have seen that point to God and how Immanuel means “God with us” and how we have witnessed this, and how the people living here are so much more aware of this truth than the people we were living with a year ago….all this *felt* Christmassy.
But that is not the celebration Romanians have at the forefront of their minds on the first of December. This date signifies for them National Independence Day. Actually it signifies the union of Transylvania (and a few other regions) with the Romanian Kingdom in 1918, a fact disputed by many to this day, but certainly celebrated. The actual holiday has been shifted over the years – in Communist Romania it was set to mark the 1944 overthrow of the pro-fascist government. Prior to 1918, the national holiday of Romania had been on May 10, which had a double meaning: it was the day on which Carol I set foot on Romanian soil (in 1866), and it was the day on which the prince ratified the Declaration of Independence from the Ottoman Empire eleven years later.
So we celebrated Romanian-style. With our friends we headed out of town to the mountains again. WOW. Just half an hour from Brasov is a humming tourist town, full to overflowing with upmarket hotels and restaurants, gondolas and ropes courses and not much else. We spent a very pleasant hour wandering around. (I’ve tried hard for thirteen months, three weeks and five days to avoid that sentence, but it really describes perfectly what we did today!)
We popped into a distinctive church,
we lingered in a restaurant made in the style of the people who lived in the region two thousand years ago (oh, the handmade linens attached to the ceiling – and the hand painted ceramics and wild boar, bear and wolf skins, and corn cobs and candles, and sheepskin covered treestumps to sit on – the whole place oozed character),
we listened to history from that time (fascinating stuff we had NO idea about – like only the rich wore particular hats made from sheepskin, and that they carried flags made from the head of a wolf and the body of a snake and when the wind filled them it made a loud noise),
we tripped along paths, spotted a squirrel and happened upon the exact materials for a secret project, the idea for which had just hatched as we left the apartment in the morning.
We were approached by a young couple with microphone and camera….and later this evening Rob found himself on television.
No, it wasn’t snowing – the only snow round here is our fuzzy television screen. Unfortunately for us, but thankfully for those who live here and still have a few months of real winter to survive, it is uncharacteristically warm this year. Previous years there has ALWAYS been snow in November. Ah well. At least it meant our afternoon activities were not to be too freezing. We drove to a camp-in-the-process-of-being-established, where one of the group works. While a soccer game was played on a mole-hill-infested field, we roasted mackerel and potatoes over the fire, and then feasted on that accompanied, of course, by mamaliga and spicy garlic sauce, and followed by a range of homemade cakes. In a moment of appropriate patriotism, we sang our respective national anthems (actually the Romanian one was R…E…A…L…L…Y long – we just stuck to the first verse in English and Maori!), and then prayed for each other’s countries. By the time the dishes were done the sun was setting – another glorious sunset impossible to capture in words, or even by a camera.
Returning home, I contemplated how God
infiltrated possessed every part of our day. From the beginning as we remembered how He came-to-earth in the form of a man, to the awesome creation we admired and enjoyed, to the heritage of history both here in Romania and more briefly in New Zealand (Samuel Marsden preached his first sermon on Christmas Day 1814), to the hospitality we were again shown – God’s love heaped upon us, to the prayers for our countries, spontaneously offered – there will be no peace or harmony or true freedom for either country – for any country – without the hope, solutions and love offered by the God, who made us all, and knows how best we should live. What a lot we have to celebrate.
Tags: 2008/09, food, God, history, learning, postcard: Romania, recreation, tradition, weather