roz(Vsetín, Zlinsky Kraj, Czech Republic)- The fourth week in Advent already. Just seems like a week ago it was the third week in Advent… was. Well these four weeks leading up to the 25th have flown by and now we are on a break from school. Then back for the dog days of January and February and that snow/winter thing I keep hearing about. With New York pushing 70 degrees who knows what kind of a winter we will have.

I have been following the drama of Duck Dynasty and Phil Roberston and the fabricated war on free speech and have to laugh a little at the hysteria. Free speech being attacked? You mean the government arrested him for his less than sensitive words? Ooooooh, a television network suspended him. So it was a business that punished him not the state. OK, so the Bill of Rights is still intact, and rest of the Constitution still works. So what’s the big whoop over A&E deciding something is distasteful for their image? People say disgusting things all the time and yes, some lose their jobs over it. Speech always has consequences, some good some bad and some unintended. Take note of Martin Bashir and Alec Baldwin and most recently Steve Martin and ask yourself if a company can determine what is good or not good for their overall image. Republicans are so wrapped up in promoting free enterprise that it boggles the mind that they would dump the idea of “let it be” and try in inject themselves into policies (read regulations) of said companies. No, Virgina, this is not a liberal attack on free speech this is just about a guy who spoke his mind and the company he works for didn’t like it. Personally, I would like to kick off the air people who say really stupid things with a straight face like Sarah Palin or anyone at Fox, but they have a right to be stupid and the rest of us can tune them out. I know this really has nothing to do with Christmas per se but…it did happen during the season and it’s been on my mind.

I spent yesterday in Rožnov again this time with the Válek family. They invited me up there for the Živý Betlém a kind of Christmas pageant in Czech with traditional songs, dances surrounding the classic Christmas story. I had been told that this program has been around since the Soviet Empire fell and revolution swept over this Eastern European country. The show was actually a lot of fun and although I didn’t understand all the jokes (read any of the jokes) the shepherds told I did pick out a few words that I had written down in my little Czech vocabulary notebook which I schlepp around with me in my back pocket. It was chilly sitting outdoors for the show, but it was pretty neat-o. The three kings showed up on horses bearing their gifts for the Christ child and each sang a short song. I know that doesn’t follow anything, but I thought it was worth noting, if you’re taking notes that is. (There will be a test)

Before the show began I spent sometime at the Válek’s home where I was treated to an impromptu concert by their talented kids, Štěpán and Magdaléna. Štěpán played the dulcimer and Magdaléna played the recorder and sang. It was very sweet and I felt honored to be included. If and when I ever leave this place and country it will be things like that that I will hold in my quickly fading memories. There have been many incidents and events, some planned and some serendipitous that have surprised and entertained me along this journey so far from home.

Christmas traditions in this part of the Czech Republic have survived the Communist era intact behind the closed doors of the Czech family homes. Instead of Santa Claus, baby Jesus delivers gifts on the night of the 24th after a dinner of potato salad and sometimes carp or another kind of fish. When the fish is scaled the scales are placed either under a plate or in your pocket and produce money. (I’ve got to try that). After dinner the kids are sent away while “baby Jesus” places gifts under the tree. Then someone rings a bell and the kids return but now all of gifts are there. It sounds like a magical evening. The kids have already written a letter to the baby Jesus a few weeks ago to list what they want for Christmas and place the letter on a window sill. When they awake the letter is gone.

For my part I will be traveling to Prague for Christmas and plan to visit as many places as I can while I’m there for the three days. I have a list and I’ll see if my legs and knee can hold out for the duration.

The scripture quote for this Sunday comes from Matthew:

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,
which means “God is with us.”

It tells us about the disappointment Joseph felt when he found out his fiancé was pregnant. Joe being the good guy that he was took her into his home in spite of the fact that the child was not his. Probably a good lesson for us when it comes to big disappointments in our lives like losing a TV show when you say something someone doesn’t like. Yeah it happens. Joe just said, “Ok, this isn’t cool, but the right thing to do is to take care of my going-to-be wife and the unborn child she is carrying.” He stood up and did what was right. Good man, me thinks…

…and so it goes…