“For this day the ancient slavery is ended, the devil confounded, the demons take to flight, the power of death is broken, paradise is unlocked, the curse is taken away, sin is removed from us, error driven out, and the truth has been brought back.”
” It is impossible to conceive how different things would have turned out if that birth had not happened whenever, wherever, however it did … for millions of people who have lived since, the birth of Jesus made possible not just a new way of understanding life but a new way of living it. It is a truth that, for twenty centuries, there have been untold numbers of men and women who, in untold numbers of ways, have been so grasped by the child who was born, so caught up in the message he taught and the life he lived, that they have found themselves profoundly changed by their relationship with him.”
The hymns of Advent prepare us for the coming of Christ, just as the words of the sermon do. This hymn is another favorite of mine — it reminds us to rejoice. This is a message we need to hear at a time when we become easily distracted by the glitz and glitter of a commercialized Christmas. This counterfeit joy drains our energy and leaves us with nothing when the season ends. Enjoy the true joy of knowing Christ and the redemption He brings.
This information was included in a recent church bulletin, and I found it informative and interesting, so I decided to share it with our readers.
Advent specifically focuses on Christ’s “coming,” but Christ’s coming manifests itself among us in three ways — past, present, and future.
The readings which highlight Christ’s coming in the past focus on the Old Testament prophecies of his incarnation at Bethlehem. The readings, which highlight Christ’s coming in the future, focus on his “second coming” on the Last Day at the end of time. The readings that highlight Christ’s coming in the present focus on his ministry among us through Word and Sacrament today.
The traditional use of Advent candles (sometimes held in a wreath) originated in Eastern Germany prior to the Reformation. As this tradition came down to us by the beginning of this century, it involved three purple candles and one pink candle.
The purple candles matched the purple paraments on the altar (purple for the royalty of the coming King). The pink candle was the third candle to be lit on Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent. “Gaudete” means “Rejoice” in Latin which is taken from Philippians 4:4. (“Rejoice!…The Lord is near.”). Hence a pink candle was used to signify rejoicing. Some include a white “Christ candle” in the middle to be lit during the 12 days of Christmas (Dec. 25-Jan. 5).
Earlier this month I posted about a sermon on John the Baptist. ( A Man with a Message). Here’s the hymn that went with it. It was written by Charles Coffin, a French writer and teacher. Coffin was born in 1676 at Buzaney, France. He composed most of his poems and hymns in Latin.
A recent sermon at our church was based on this gospel reading:
“As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written,
‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’
Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no on greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Matthew 11:2-11
John the Baptist was the last prophet, and it had been 400 years since a prophet (probably Malachi) had spoken to Israel. No wonder people were lining up to hear him! He was a man with a message, and that message was simple: Repent! The kingdom of God is at hand! It wasn’t a gospel message, because it wasn’t good news. It was a warning, a call to change before it was too late.
John came to prepare the way for Jesus, and a new covenant. He probably didn’t understand what that meant. Like others of that time and place, he might have been expecting Jesus to defeat the Romans, to turn Israel into a world power. We just don’t know. What we do know is that John couldn’t keep quiet. He was the sort of person who would obey God and speak the truth, no matter what it cost. In the end, it cost him his life, but he continued to be faithful to his call.
What a good example to contemplate during Advent. We know much more about the truth than John did. We have the New Testament, and the church to instruct us. He saw a glimpse of what was coming, but we have the full story.
Have you told this story to anyone recently? If not, why not? The best time to do it is now.
“I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” 1 Corinthians 6:2
Are you singing Christmas carols at church this month? If you’re a liturgical Lutheran, probably not. The reason — it’s not Christmas yet! We’re in the season of Advent, and we’re preparing our hearts for Jesus by remembering the promises of the prophets who foretold the birth of the Messiah. We’re anticipating the great joy of His birth, but it’s not here yet. As a consequence, the songs we use are Advent hymns. Here’s a familiar one from a recent service at our church. It’s called (appropriately) “Prepare the Way, O Zion” and was written by Mikael Franzen (1771-1847).
My husband and I were traveling recently, and on Sundays we visited different churches. Two of them were Presbyterian and I noticed that something was missing — the Advent wreath. This is a beloved tradition in most Lutheran churches. Its origins are unclear, but one source I found says the Advent wreath first appeared in Germany in 1839. A Lutheran minister working at a mission for children created a wreath out of the wheel of a cart. He placed twenty small red candles and four large white candles inside the ring. The red candles were lit on weekdays, and the four white candles were lit on Sundays. I don’t know if this is true, but it makes a nice story!
Nowadays, the wreath has only four candles with a larger candle in the center. On the first Sunday in Advent, the acolyte lights one, the next Sunday two, and so on. On Christmas Eve, all 4 candles plus the larger Christ candle in the center are lit. Three of the candles are either purple or blue, and one is pink. Each has a meaning and is a step along the way of the Advent journey. For more information about this see Advent – Part 2 – The Wreath.
Of course, the Advent wreath would be considered adiaphora — something that is not essential. But for me, it’s an important part of the season. It’s a visual representation of this time of waiting. As we wait, the darkness lessens and we anticipate the coming of Christ, the light of the world. At our church during the lighting of the candles, we sing a verse of the Advent hymn, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”
If your church doesn’t have this tradition, don’t be dismayed! You could still purchase or craft your own wreath for use during a family devotional time. It’s a great teaching tool for both children and adults, and serves to remind us of the true reason for celebration.
Last month most Americans celebrated Thanksgiving. Hopefully in addition to the turkey and pumpkin pie, that celebration included some expressions of gratitude to God for the many ways He has blessed us. It’s easy to give thanks once a year, when that special day comes around. But what about every day? Especially every day during this hectic and busy season of Christmas? Do you make time to be grateful, or is thankfulness being crowded out by shopping, baking, decorating and entertaining?
A Christian friend recently sent me this prayer request:
“At this time of year, many of us find ourselves engaged in The Christmas Rush. There are days when being grateful is lost. I read an article recently that describes the healing we experience when we focus on gratitude rather than frustrations. This is Advent, the time when we anticipate the coming of the greatest blessing of all—the birth of our Savior. Let us pray we will keep this in mind and share the story of this most precious gift freely.”
Thanksgiving Day may be over, but the need to give thanks continues. Take some time every day to be grateful. Make a list of your blessings. Say a prayer of thanks. Write thank you notes to people you appreciate. Reflect on the true, permanent gift of Christmas (our salvation) and find a way to pass it on. It will be time well spent.
The animals of the forest are invited to a very special party — a birthday party for Jesus! Little Bunny tries to decide what sort of gift to bring. Would Jesus like the same things he does? Maybe he would want a toy, some candy or a game? No, he is told by Hedgehog. None of these are the right kind of present for Jesus. Little Bunny is confused.
As the party begins, he sees that the other animals have brought packages with labels like this:
Soon he decides on his own special gift — love. He understands that this is the greatest anyone can receive at Christmas. It is the reason Jesus was born.
This book is charmingly illustrated and will help parents of young children reinforce the true meaning of the Christmas season.