Merry Christmas! This isn’t a belated Christmas wish, but a reminder that not everyone celebrates Christmas on (our) December 25th. For those on the Julian Calendar, such as our brothers and sisters in the Ukrainian Lutheran Church, today is Christmas Eve and tomorrow is Christmas. According to the Julian Calendar, today is December 24th.
While I was living in Ukraine, I had a blessed opportunity to preach at the church in Ivanivka during December, not long before Christmas. The weather was bitterly cold. Their church, which had been a theater under Communism, had been returned to service as a church. Pastor Serhiy Somin led his Bible class in a hymn and later led his congregation in worship. It was such a joy to be there with them.
Yet the Winter weather was very cold (dusha colodno), not only outside (notice the snow) but also inside the church. So after the Bible class when a church member gave me a cup of warm milk, it was gratefully received. I’ve never been so cold. I wore a sweater and wrapped a mylar “emergency” blanket under my robe but by the end of the worship service I was shivering and my feet were numb.
Yet my heart has never been so warm. Here in sub-freezing weather (inside and outside) was a sizable gathering of worshipers. Undeterred by the weather, they gathered with coats and shopkas (fir hats) to hear the good news about Jesus. They sang the hymns with their whole hearts, beautifully. I was moved by their dedication and zeal.
After the worship service, two ladies came up to me, wrapped in their coats and hats, apologizing for the “poor conditions” and invited me to their home for lunch. No apology was necessary. I felt so blessed to be there. Lunch consisted of soup – chicken broth with potatoes – and a piece of bread. By the way, Ukraine – which is the bread basket of Eastern Europe – has wonderful bread! The soup was hot and delicious (dusha smachno). I was very grateful for their hospitality.
As we approached the celebration of the birth of Christ together, we shared the love of God in Christ that gives hope and warms human hearts.
Merry Christmas to our brothers and sisters in Ukraine. God bless you.