It has been amazing to watch Vienna be transformed over the last few weeks to celebrate Christmas. The city goes all out, with Christmas trees and lights on every corner and store front! And there are at least 10 - 15 Christmas markets scattered throughout the city selling delicious food and handmade crafts.
On the one hand, it's amazing. I love how beautiful the city looks right now, I'm enjoying visiting the many Christmas markets, and I appreciate all of the history and tradition tied to how Austrians celebrate. Nate and I have had fun taking walks in the city at night and looking at the lights. And we've already visited at least 6 different Christmas markets, some multiple times, buying gifts for family and friends.
But on the other hand, some of this saddens me. Like in the United States, for many people here celebrating Christmas is about family, tradition, presents, food and special times. But it is not about Christ and the reason He was born on this earth. For many Austrians, going to Christmas mass is a tradition that brings them into a Catholic church for probably only the second time this year (Easter is typically the first). So as I walk around and look at the decorations, I am reminded to pray for a nation who may celebrate Christmas and call themselves "Christian", but don't live their lives transformed by the gospel of grace. Although it's a "transformed" city physically this Christmas, it is still in need of real transformation.
Here are some photos from how the city has been transformed: