January 03, 2007

Christmas in Pennsylvania Dutch Country: Part II

Christmas eve was a treat that I wish every person on our planet might experience just once. Samuel and Ruth are not members of the Moravian church, but Samuel had made advanced arrangements for the entire family to attend the candlelight, “Love Feast” Service at the Moravian Church in Lititz, Pennsylvania. It is a marvelous Christmas Story extravaganza. The minister/pastor gave a brief sermon about God’s gift of love to all of mankind through the birth of Jesus Christ. The service included the music of Franz Joseph Haydn presented by orchestra, chorus and organ, as well as the sharing of Moravian sugar cake, and prayer.* The historic Moravian church building was filled with the palpable Holy presence of God’s love for ALL of mankind.

Christmas day began with gift opening of course, and I marveled that the major gifts were all technology based. Not that there weren’t the usual shirts, sweater, and wallet presents. However, Amy and Terrance, Sam Junior’s children, both received iPods and new cell-phones. Sam and Ruth got a plasma-screen television from Santa for their bedroom. Nichole, Sam Junior’s wife, got a card from Santa that guaranteed a year of DSL Internet to replace her slowpoke landline service. Stephen gave Adam satellite radio for his car. Adam gave Stephen a new digital camera, and I know Adam and Stephen had some input into Santa’s delivery of my new digital 10-mega-pixel camera. So far, the first decade of the 21st Century seems to be all about personal and/or digital electronic devices.

Mid afternoon found the family sitting down to Ruth’s marathon Christmas dinner that included roast turkey, duck, and ham. Not satisfied with one item in any course of the meal, she made rutabagas, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, and a French cut string bean casserole with fried onion topping. She served homemade rolls, multi-grain bread, and egg bread steaming from the oven with molded butter in the shape of snowflakes, presented on ice in cut crystal. The dessert menu included homemade apple pie, pumpkin pie, bread pudding with a butterscotch sauce, and bourbon balls (her own confectioners’ masterpiece). There was, however, no shoofly pie, thank goodness!

At the end of my Christmas visit to Orchard Hill Farm, I felt as though my family had finally managed to put aside differences, to replace the false teachings of evangelical Christianity with the actual gift of tolerance and love that Jesus Christ meant for us to take from his teaching. I hope each family member took that lesson of reconciliation away from the Pennsylvania Dutch Country in order to pass it on to friends and acquaintances in our various communities. If only other families could do the same, we might manage to pass that lesson on to our members of Congress, the Senate, and even the President in Washington D.C., and thence to the rest of the world.

I’m such a Romantic old fool!

*Franz Joseph Haydn was composing at the time the Moravian Church was brought to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and his music has been used historically in Moravian Church services.

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