“Gledelig jul og et godt nytt ar!”
No, my fingers are not on the wrong spot on the keyboard, nor am I typing “in tongues”! (Well, maybe the latter, but no miracle required.) I’ve just wished you “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year” in Norwegian.
I do not know Norwegian. That bit of Norwegian lingo was the last line in a Christmas letter we received years ago from friends serving a church in Decorah, Iowa. They were of Norwegian descent, probably a long descent genealogically but not a very long one chronologically. They were Norwegian to the bone! And Decorah, they wrote, is “the home of all things Norwegian—Vesterheim Museum, the annual Nordic Fest,” not to mention even “a McDonald’s with authentic Norse decor”!
Barbara Mandrell used to sing, “I was country when country wasn’t cool!” Our friends, John Victor and Hazel Halvorson, were Norwegian long before Garrison Keillor and his mythical Minnesota town of Lake Wobegon peopled with good Norwegians made being Norwegian “cool.” When they wrote, the Halvorsons had two children living in Norway and grandchildren for whom English was their second language; Norwegian was their first!
In their letter, the Halvorsons wrote that their church in Decorah had given them a very special Christmas present—two plane tickets to Norway where they were able to spend a wonderful Christmas with family there!
Let me share one short but meaningful paragraph from their letter. They (probably Hazel, a longtime English teacher) wrote, “We look forward to worshiping in a Norwegian church this Christmas. Although the language and some of the traditions will be different, the message of joy and hope and peace will be the same.”
That letter warmed my heart, and still does. Though this dear couple has been gone on a far longer journey for years now, I remember them with deep fondness and gratitude. I’m honored to count John Victor, a fine professor of Old Testament and committed Lutheran pastor, as a mentor who has genuinely blessed my life and ministry. It was great to hear so many years ago that their church in Iowa loved and appreciated them. They were easy to love.
But then and now, when I read that sweet letter, what I most treasure is the truth they expressed: When people anywhere in this world share a real love for the Savior, barriers of language and tradition don’t really matter much. Their Lord, and the joy and hope and peace that He gives, is the same. That’s reason enough to rejoice in any season!
So, may I share with you and yours a wonderful Christmas wish passed to me and mine by some dear Norwegians whose letter and whose faith bless me still: “Gledelig jul og!”
You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!
Copyright 2012 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.