December 25, 2004

Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht

The last time I'd sung all the verses of "Silent Night" in German was in college, when I toted my guitar across campus to my German professor's house. She'd invited her advanced students -- I was masquerading as one -- for hot chocolate and Christmas Stollen, and I hoped a reasonable rendition of "Stille Nacht" might net me an extra point or two on my semester grade.

Fast forward to Christmas Eve, years later, to Wurzburg, Germany's 950-year-old St. Kilian Cathedral. Mike, Adam, Dana and I stood in the great stone church, our breath hanging in the chill air. Yellow candlelight, soft strains of "Stille Nacht," and the fellowship of the hundreds gathered within St. Kilian's soaring Romanesque walls warmed us.

The service ended, and we spilled into the snow-dusted street and fell in with families heading down Domstrasse to the old bridge that crosses the Main. Across the river, the Festung Marienberg crowned a vineyard-studded hill. The nude vines reached upward; thin, dark hands clasped in prayer. The fortress was lit with golden floodlights, and it floated above Wurzburg like a Christmas star.

This Christmas, we pray for peace, our prayers more urgent than in recent past years. We pray for and we thank our troops in Iraq and their families. Whatever our feelings about this war, know that, to a man, we support you. Your courage and conviction, and your sense of duty and loyalty fill us with pride. God bless, and come home soon.