Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Weihnachten - Consecrated Night

We love the German word for Christmas.  It is Weihnachten, which literally means consecrated night.  For us, this Christmas season was a time of consecration. We spent our Christmas weekend so differently than years past, but we loved each minute of it.  We felt that we were able to ponder much more on the condescension of our Savior, which in Greek means when He came and conformed willingly with the humble.  We are grateful for his birth, his life and his atoning sacrifice.

The photo below shows where we spent the early part of Christmas Eve, downtown in Frankfurt, listening to the Pealing of the Bells.  All the Churches ring their bells at 5:00 pm on Christmas Eve for 30 minutes.  Traditionally, many congregate to the center of the city where there are several churches.  The crowds were large, but not overwhelming.    Just the day before there was a Christmas Market at this location.  It was all taken down to make room for this special event.  We were grateful to participate in this once in a lifetime opportunity.

Downtown Frankfurt at the Pealing of the Bells
Listen to this 30 second video of the Pealing of the Bells to get a small feeling of what we were able to experience for 30 minutes.

Sister Rueckert in the middle of the crowds

A little better view of the many people enjoying the Bells

View of the big Christmas tree in this beautiful setting

As we left it was now totally dark

We came home from the Pealing of the Bells in time to participate in a very fun progressive dinner with several other missionary couples.  We went from apartment to apartment in our building for appetizers, soup, salad, dessert and finishing with some fun games.  We love the senior missionaries.  We are all away from home and missing our families, but we enjoy the love and service that we share.

Delicious appetizers to get started

Playing a little Christmas charades
After the dinner and games, we returned to our apartment and finally settled down to enjoy one of our special Christmas traditions, The Forgotten Carols.  Usually we attend in person, but this year we were able to watch the DVD of one of the past years.  The message is so powerful and it truly brings the Spirit of Christmas into our hearts.  We watched as our German Christmas Pyramid turned by the power of it's flames.

 We finally finished our glorious Christmas Eve and Santa finished his work.

Presents delivered and stockings filled

Fireplace going with soothing Christmas music

On Christmas morning we were awakened by our youngest son, who called us before he went to bed on Christmas Eve.  After that we were able to exchange our presents before going to worship in our Sacrament meeting.  We didn't need much but were able to get a few new neck ties for Elder Rueckert and shoes for Sister Rueckert.  We love having Christmas on Sunday, it helps us keep our focus on what is important.

Soon after coming home from Church we began joining with our family for their Christmas mornings.  We began with our children in Pennsylvania at our 1:30 pm (their 7:30 am).

We then continued the preparation of our German Christmas meal.  We had Roasted Goose, which is common in Germany.  It included our homemade cranberry sauce with mashed potatoes, gravy and vegetables.

The roast goose breast, seasoned and ready to eat

A meal fit for a missionary couple in Germany
We then had a break until those in Utah got home from Church. We enjoyed our own study and meditation time.  It gave us the opportunity to ponder more on our Savior.

 We had times scheduled with our Utah family each half hour from 6:00 pm until 10:00 pm our time and fit a few more in between.   By the time we were through we had visited with 11 of our children and their families, with one more visit made on the following day.  We wish we could have heard from all of them, but we are thankful for the opportunity to see so many and participate in their Christmas joy.  Most waited until they got on-line with us to open the presents that we had sent to them, which made it really fun for us.

Opening presents with us watching

Seeing this wonderful family for the first time since we started our mission.  Our two year old grandson was very willing to talk with us.

Sister Rueckert shared a German Christmas story (in German) with most of our grandkids.  Over 20 of them listened patiently before they opened their presents.
In Germany the 26th of December is always an official holiday, the 2nd day of Christmas.  We took advantage of this day at home to go to the office and organize our family history documents.  This was my greatest gift, to have so many names available to prepare for temple work.  This effort really will help me to be organized.  Thank you Sister Rueckert for all of your help and support in this work of love!
The Book of Rückerts, data from 17 different familienbuchs 

After going to the office, we were able to make a Christmas visit to our home teaching family, which had not been possible in the weeks before, due to different schedule conflicts.  We love them and enjoyed our visit.  We then returned home to make a Christmas video call with another of our children.

As we worked in the office today, we were almost alone.  We did have a nice video conference with our full time Self-reliance missionary couples throughout Europe. This is truly a holiday time for Germans, so we don't expect much work to occur until next year.  We plan on leaving tomorrow to visit the temple in Freiberg, Germany.   We think this is a good way to finish our year.