I should warn you that this may go long. So much to wrap up after these break days for Christmas and New Years next. First of all – I love and will miss Switzerland. Here are some things I have learned but from my own view of the world. I may not be accurate so please do your own evaluation! Switzerland has small winding roads, small showers, but the people have big smiles. This is a friendly safe-feeling country but it is expensive. I will actually appreciate grocery shopping when I return home. A bit about this country and the state church. August 1st is National Swiss day. The Swiss flag in the traditional sense represents freedom, honor, and loyalty. It also represents neutrality, democracy, and peace due to it’s neutral stance from 1815 to the present. The flag is a red square with a simple white cross which represents the Christian cross. There is no state religion but a Protestant Church and Catholic Church, as well as others. The largest is the Reformed Church with 2 million+ members and 982 congregations. Over Christmas, we English speakers (who had nowhere to go) went to a Christmas Eve service just north of where we were staying and walked south, along the lake, on Christmas morning. Both services were warm and Christmasy. Very formal with women pastors and opera singers in German. So I’m wondering, does the church council hire opera singers or do these amazing people live in that neighborhood because everyone gathered seemed to live in the neighborhood and knew each other. The other confusion was all of the grey hair. There was a lovely violin choir but no one under 40. There was a gentleman so old that he could not stand but he sang and was still a part. On Christmas day the congregation and pipe organ was smaller but only one 12-ish year old boy who came on his scooter and sat with his grandparents. The young mom who arrived with two pre-schoolers left early when her daughter began to sing at the wrong time. Other than that, is the church aging out in these small towns? Both buildings were spectacular, one hundreds of years old with a cemetery just like in the Father Brown films, and the other was built in 1950 and had lots of interesting religious art from that period – all relating to scripture. How does one qualify to lead these churches? Also there is a church tax assessed to every member and never a collection or mention of money. People “belong” to the neighborhood church. One can opt-out of the tax but then weddings and funerals need payment which would be free to members. Very odd and both Christmas trees in each church had the same decorations. Does the “church” employ a decorator or is there a standard? Both were beautiful, maybe 15 feet and the other 25 feet with red bulbs, white lights and white candle lights. The little I understood from the German is that Jesus was being appreciated and quietly acknowledged but by the end of the second service, I wanted to jump up and shout – Jesus is born! In 1517 these churches survived the Reformation which made the following point. The Catholic church had become oppressive and the church does not stand between me and God but I stand before God. Swiss people can be more reserved and this was a mature crowd. It was wonderful to be with believers and both churches welcomed us. We later saw several couples at dinner on Christmas night and they greeted us warmly. In the older building the pulpit was raised very high and had a canopy. The idea is that it elevates and represents the high value of God’s word. Last thing, and I will continue later, is that I had never heard a harpsichord in person. The woman playing it went to the back and played the pipe organ as we lit our candles to “Silent Night”. The next morning she was at the other church playing that pipe organ. They are very organized and connected which can have benefits? I will say that putting on my gloves and hat and coat while holding my candle in the dark and cold was not a good idea! An unforgettable Christmas!