ADVENT REFLECTIONS

WEEK 5 – TUESDAY JANUARY 1, 2019
 
MUSIC: CHRISTMAS ORATORIO – PART VI By J.S. BACH

To listen click HERE
 
The Christmas Oratorio (BMV 248) is an oratorio by Johann Sebastian Bach intended for performance in church during the Christmas season. It was written for the Christmas season of 1734 and incorporates music from earlier compositions, including three secular cantatas written during 1733 and 1734 and a now lost church cantata, BMV 248a.  The date is confirmed in Bach’s autograph manuscript. The next performance was not until 17 December 1857.
 
The Christmas Oratorio is in six parts, each part being intended for performance on one of the major feast days of the Christmas period.  The piece is often presented as a whole or split into two equal parts. The total running time for the entire work is nearly three hours.
 
The first part (for Christmas Day) describes the Birth of Jesus, the second (for December 26) the annunciation to the shepherds, the third (for December 27) the adoration of the shepherds, the fourth (for New Year’s Day) the circumcision and naming of Jesus, the fifth (for the first Sunday after New Year) the journey of the Magi, and the sixth (for Epiphany, the adoration of the Magi.
 
SCRIPTURE
2 Corinthians 5:17-18(NIV)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:
 
POETRY
THE OLD YEAR NOW AWAY HAS FLED
(Traditional (circa.1642)


The old year now away is fled,
The new year it is entered;
Then let us now our sins down tread,
And joyfully all appear.
Let’s merry be this day,
And let us now both sport and play
Hang grief! Cast care away-
God send you a happy new year!
 
And now with new-year gifts each friend
Unto each other they do send;
God grant we may all our lives amend,
And that the truth may appear.
Now, like the snake his skin,
Cast off all evil thoughts and sin,
And so the year begins-
God send us a happy new year!
 
PRAYER
God, thank you for a new year. May everyone in our family be willing to begin anew with a clean slate. We know that you are always ready to forgive us. Help us to be willing to forgive ourselves and to forgive one another.
As we begin a new year, remind us of our truest values and our deepest desires. Help us to live in the goodness that comes from doing what you want us to do. Help us to put aside anxiety about the future and the past, so that we might live in peace with you now, one day at a time.
 
QUOTE
The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul. -G. K. Chesterton

 
BLESSED and HAPPY NEW YEAR from the Music & Arts Ministry at 3Crosses Church!!!

WEEK 5 – MONDAY DECEMBER 31  RING OUT, WILD BELLS! By Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)   Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,  The flying cloud, the frosty light:  The year is dying in the night; Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.  Ring out the old, ring in the new,  Ring, happy bells, across the snow:  The year is going, let him go; Ring out the false, ring in the true.  Ring out the grief that saps the mind  For those that here we see no more;  Ring out the feud of rich and poor, Ring in redress to all mankind.  Ring out a slowly dying cause,  And ancient forms of party strife;  Ring in the nobler modes of life, With sweeter manners, purer laws.  Ring out the want, the care, the sin,  The faithless coldness of the times;  Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes But ring the fuller minstrel in.   Ring out false pride in place and blood,  The civic slander and the spite;  Ring in the love of truth and right, Ring in the common love of good.  Ring out old shapes of foul disease;  Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;  Ring out the thousand wars of old, Ring in the thousand years of peace.  Ring in the valiant man and free,  The larger heart, the kindlier hand;  Ring out the darkness of the land, Ring in the Christ that is to be.   SCRIPTURE I PETER 1:3-4 (NIV)  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you.   PRAYER  Father, we know that we’ve made mistakes this past year, and we know that we’ve grieved Your Holy Spirit with sin that so easily entangled us. Help us to heed Paul’s call to forget what lies behind us so we can press on toward the prize You’ve set before us. Help us to live each day of the coming year with the mercy of Christ in mind so that each day can feel like Christmas. Amen   QUOTE  “Rejoice, that the immortal God is born, so that mortal man may live in eternity.“ –John Hess

WEEK 5 – MONDAY DECEMBER 31

RING OUT, WILD BELLS!
By Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)


Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

SCRIPTURE
I PETER 1:3-4 (NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you.

PRAYER
Father, we know that we’ve made mistakes this past year, and we know that we’ve grieved Your Holy Spirit with sin that so easily entangled us. Help us to heed Paul’s call to forget what lies behind us so we can press on toward the prize You’ve set before us. Help us to live each day of the coming year with the mercy of Christ in mind so that each day can feel like Christmas. Amen

QUOTE
“Rejoice, that the immortal God is born, so that mortal man may live in eternity.“ –John Hess

WEEK 5 – SUNDAY DECEMBER 30  The Christ Candle   The Christ Candle is the fifth Candle, positioned in the center of the wreath. This Advent Candle’s color is white. White is the color of the Advent representing purity and light. Christ is the sinless, spotless, pure Savior. He is the light come into a dark and dying world. Those who receive Jesus Christ as Savior are washed of their sins and made whiter than snow.   SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 1:18; Colossians 1:13-14    “’Come now, let us reason together,’ says the LORD. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.’” (Isa. 1:18)      “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Col. 1:13-14)     POETRY ANOTHER YEAR IS DAWNING Words by Frances R. Havergal   Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be In working or in waiting, another year with Thee. Another year of progress, another year of praise, Another year of proving Thy presence all the days  Another year of mercies, of faithfulness and grace, Another year of gladness in the shining of Thy Face; Another year of leaning upon Thy loving breast; Another year of trusting, of quiet, happy rest.  Another year of service, of witness for Thy love, Another year of training for holier work above. Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be On earth, or else in Heaven, another year for Thee.   PRAYER  Let your goodness, Lord, appear to us, that we, made in your image, confirm ourselves to it. In our own strength we cannot imitate your majesty, power, and wonder nor is it fitting for us to try. But your mercy reaches from the heavens through the clouds to the earth below. You have come to us as a small child, but you have brought us the greatest of all gifts, the gift of eternal love. Caress us with your tiny hands, embrace us with your tiny arms and pierce our hearts with your soft, sweet cries. --Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)    QUOTE “The only people whose souls can truly magnify the Lord are…people who acknowledge their lowly estate and are overwhelmed by the condescension of the magnificent God.” – John Piper

WEEK 5 – SUNDAY DECEMBER 30

The Christ Candle


The Christ Candle is the fifth Candle, positioned in the center of the wreath. This Advent Candle’s color is white. White is the color of the Advent representing purity and light. Christ is the sinless, spotless, pure Savior. He is the light come into a dark and dying world. Those who receive Jesus Christ as Savior are washed of their sins and made whiter than snow.

SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 1:18; Colossians 1:13-14
“’Come now, let us reason together,’ says the LORD. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.’” (Isa. 1:18)

“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Col. 1:13-14)

POETRY
ANOTHER YEAR IS DAWNING
Words by Frances R. Havergal


Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be
In working or in waiting, another year with Thee.
Another year of progress, another year of praise,
Another year of proving Thy presence all the days

Another year of mercies, of faithfulness and grace,
Another year of gladness in the shining of Thy Face;
Another year of leaning upon Thy loving breast;
Another year of trusting, of quiet, happy rest.

Another year of service, of witness for Thy love,
Another year of training for holier work above.
Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be
On earth, or else in Heaven, another year for Thee.

PRAYER
Let your goodness, Lord, appear to us, that we, made in your image, confirm ourselves to it. In our own strength we cannot imitate your majesty, power, and wonder nor is it fitting for us to try. But your mercy reaches from the heavens through the clouds to the earth below. You have come to us as a small child, but you have brought us the greatest of all gifts, the gift of eternal love. Caress us with your tiny hands, embrace us with your tiny arms and pierce our hearts with your soft, sweet cries.
--Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)

QUOTE
“The only people whose souls can truly magnify the Lord are…people who acknowledge their lowly estate and are overwhelmed by the condescension of the magnificent God.” – John Piper

The Prince of Peace
 
MESSIAH by George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
“For Unto Us A Child Is Born”
London Philharmonic Orchestra & Walter Süsskind



ISAIAH 9:5
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace
 
The Biblical concept of peace is understood as all friction between God and His creation has ceased.  Due to our sinful condition all of mankind is under the curse of the law and responsible to God for our sinful actions.  Because of God’s amazing and deep love He has removed our sins from us, ”as far as the east is from the west”, and He only sees us as His beloved children, all hostility has ended, and in its place is peace…. Peace toward God, and peace toward our fellow man.  Rest in His peace today through Christ , and know that God could not love you any more than He does right now.  All praise be to the God of Peace.
 
PRAYER
Let us all continue to pray for peace in our world.  Let's pray that hearts might be transformed, to find the path of peace together.  But, as we pray, let peace have a chance in our own hearts, in our own world, close at home. The peace-making begins with God's work in us.  This is truly Advent longing. Let there be peace on earth, 
and let it begin with me!
 
CHRISTMAS CAROL by Paul Lawrence Dunbar (1872-1906)
Ring out, ye bells!
All Nature swells
With gladness at the wondrous story-
The world was lorn,
But Christ is born
To change our sadness into glory.
 
Sing, earthlings, sing!
To-night a King
Hath come from heaven’s high throne to bless us.
The outstretched hand
O’er all the land
Is raised in pity to caress us.
 
Come at his call;
Be joyful all;
Away with mourning and with sadness!
The heavenly choir
With holy fire
Their voices raise in songs of gladness.
 
The darkness breaks
And Dawn awakes,
Her cheeks suffused with youthful blushes.
The rocks and stones
In holy tones
Are singing sweeter than the thrushes.
 
Then why should we
In silence be,
When Nature lends her voice to praises;
When heaven and earth
Proclaim the truth
Of Him for whom that lone star blazes?
 
No, be not still,
But with a will
Strike all your harps and set them ringing;
On hill and heath
Let every breath
Throw all its power into singing!
 
QUOTE
“Once in our world, a stable had something in it that was bigger than our whole world.” – C.S. Lewis

WEEK 4 – FRI DEC 28  NATIVITY POEM “AT SUNDOWN” The Christmas of 1888 John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892)   Low in the east, against a white, cold dawn, The black-lined silhouette of the woods was drawn, And on a wintry waste Of frosted streams and hillsides bare and brown, Through thin cloud-films a pallid ghost looked down, The waning moon half-faced.  In that pale sky and sere, snow-waiting earth, What sign was there of the immortal birth? What herald of the One? Lo! Swift as thought the heavenly radiance came, A rose-red splendor swept the sky like flame, Up rolled the round, bright sun!  And all was changed. From a transfigured world The moon’s ghost fled, the smoke of home-hearths curled Up to the still air unblown. In Orient warmth and brightness, did that morn O’er Nain and Nazareth, when the Christ was born, Break fairer than our own?  The morning’s promise noon and eve fulfilled In warm, soft sky and landscape hazy-filled And sunset fair as they; A sweet reminder of His holiest time, A summer-miracle in our winter clime, God gave a perfect day.  The near was blended with the old and far, And Bethlehem’s hillside and the Magi’s star Seemed here, as there and then,- Our homestead pine-tree was the Syrian palm, Our heart’s desire the angel’s midnight psalm, Peace, and good-will to men!  John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892)     ROMANS 5: 1 (NIV)  Therefore, since we have been justified through faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  “Peace is the lasting sense of serenity we all long for. Not dependent on circumstances, it keeps us calm and secure amidst the storms of life.  God is the one true source of peace, and it’s through his Son, Jesus, that we can experience all that his peace truly is. The same God who came to earth as a tiny baby is still alive and working today.  The same God who created the mountains and meadows and oceans, chose to give us everything to rescue us. His gifts of life, love and relationship provided for us a salvation beyond what we knew we needed. And a true, abiding relationship with him brings with it the comfort, refreshment, and freedom of his aiding peace.  His heart was broken over our need for him. That’s the miraculous gift of Christmas.” Gifts of Christmas – the Sights and Sounds of the Season    2 THESSALONIANS 3:16  Now may the Lord of Peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.   PRAYER  Dear Jesus, you entered our world on Christmas as the Prince of Peace. This Advent, as we strive to become the-best-version-of-ourselves, fill us with a deep and abiding peace. Help us share that peace with everyone we encounter, especially those who need it most. Amen.    QUOTE “Peace with God, peace with others, and peace in y our own heart.” – Rick Warren

WEEK 4 – FRI DEC 28

NATIVITY POEM “AT SUNDOWN”
The Christmas of 1888
John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892)


Low in the east, against a white, cold dawn,
The black-lined silhouette of the woods was drawn,
And on a wintry waste
Of frosted streams and hillsides bare and brown,
Through thin cloud-films a pallid ghost looked down,
The waning moon half-faced.

In that pale sky and sere, snow-waiting earth,
What sign was there of the immortal birth?
What herald of the One?
Lo! Swift as thought the heavenly radiance came,
A rose-red splendor swept the sky like flame,
Up rolled the round, bright sun!

And all was changed. From a transfigured world
The moon’s ghost fled, the smoke of home-hearths curled
Up to the still air unblown.
In Orient warmth and brightness, did that morn
O’er Nain and Nazareth, when the Christ was born,
Break fairer than our own?

The morning’s promise noon and eve fulfilled
In warm, soft sky and landscape hazy-filled
And sunset fair as they;
A sweet reminder of His holiest time,
A summer-miracle in our winter clime,
God gave a perfect day.

The near was blended with the old and far,
And Bethlehem’s hillside and the Magi’s star
Seemed here, as there and then,-
Our homestead pine-tree was the Syrian palm,
Our heart’s desire the angel’s midnight psalm,
Peace, and good-will to men!
John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892)


ROMANS 5: 1 (NIV)
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

“Peace is the lasting sense of serenity we all long for. Not dependent on circumstances, it keeps us calm and secure amidst the storms of life.

God is the one true source of peace, and it’s through his Son, Jesus, that we can experience all that his peace truly is. The same God who came to earth as a tiny baby is still alive and working today.

The same God who created the mountains and meadows and oceans, chose to give us everything to rescue us. His gifts of life, love and relationship provided for us a salvation beyond what we knew we needed. And a true, abiding relationship with him brings with it the comfort, refreshment, and freedom of his aiding peace.

His heart was broken over our need for him. That’s the miraculous gift of Christmas.”
Gifts of Christmas – the Sights and Sounds of the Season

2 THESSALONIANS 3:16
Now may the Lord of Peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.

PRAYER
Dear Jesus, you entered our world on Christmas as the Prince of Peace. This Advent, as we strive to become the-best-version-of-ourselves, fill us with a deep and abiding peace. Help us share that peace with everyone we encounter, especially those who need it most. Amen.

QUOTE
“Peace with God, peace with others, and peace in y our own heart.” – Rick Warren

WEEK 4 – THURSDAY DEC 27
 
CANDLELIGHT CAROL by John Rutter
The Cambridge Singers and City of London Sinfonia
To listen to the music click
HERE
 
LUKE 2:14
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
 
CANDLELIGHT CAROL
How do you capture the wind on the water?
How do you count all the stars in the sky?
How can you measure the love of a mother?
Or how can you write down a baby's first cry?

Candlelight, angel light, firelight and star-glow
Shine on his cradle till breaking of dawn
Gloria! Gloria in excelsis deo
Angels are singing; the Christ child is born

Shepherds and wise men will kneel and adore him
Seraphim round him their vigil will keep
Nations proclaim him their Lord and their Saviour
But Mary will hold him and sing him to sleep

Candlelight, angel light, firelight and star-glow
Shine on his cradle till breaking of dawn
Gloria! Gloria in excelsis deo
Angels are singing; the Christ child is born

Find him at Bethlehem laid in a manger
Christ our Redeemer asleep in the hay
Godhead incarnate and hope of salvation
A child with his mother that first Christmas Day

Candlelight, angel light, firelight and star-glow
Shine on his cradle till breaking of dawn
Gloria! Gloria in excelsis deo
Angels are singing; the Christ child is born
 
A CHRISTMAS PRAYER by Robert Louis Stevenson
Loving Father, help us to remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of the angels, the gladness of shepherds, and the worship of the wise men. 
 
Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world.
 
Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting.
Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.
 
May the Christmas morning make us happy to be thy children, and the Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus’ sake. Amen!

QUOTE
“And when the Lord Jesus has become your peace, remember, there is another thing: good will towards men. Do not try to keep Christmas without good will towards men.” – Charles Spurgeon

 WEEK 4 – WED DECEMBER 26  I HEARD THE BELLS ON CHRISTMAS DAY Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)   I heard the bells on Christmas Day  Their old, familiar carols play,  And wild and sweet  The words repeat  Of peace on earth, good-will to men!  And thought how, as the day had come,  The belfries of all Christendom  Had rolled along  The unbroken song  Of peace on earth, good-will to men!  Till ringing, singing on its way,  The world revolved from night to day,  A voice, a chime,  A chant sublime  Of peace on earth, good-will to men!  Then from each black, accursed mouth  The cannon thundered in the South,  And with the sound  The carols drowned  Of peace on earth, good-will to men!  It was as if an earthquake rent  The hearth-stones of a continent,  And made forlorn  The households born  Of peace on earth, good-will to men!  And in despair I bowed my head;  "There is no peace on earth," I said;  "For hate is strong,  And mocks the song  Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"  Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:  "God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;  The Wrong shall fail,  The Right prevail,  With peace on earth, good-will to men." Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was an American Poet and educator. He was one of the five fireside poets from New England.  As with any composition that touches the heart “I heard the Bells on Christmas Day” flowed from the experience of Longfellow—involving the tragic death of his wife Fanny and the crippling effect of his son Charles’ wounds from the Civil War.  The first Christmas after Fanny's death, Longfellow wrote, "How inexpressibly sad are all holidays." A year after the incident, he wrote, "I can make no record of these days. Better leave them wrapped in silence. Perhaps someday God will give me peace."   On Christmas Day of 1864, he heard the bells and the singing of “peace on earth” (Luke 2:14“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”) he wrote the words of the poem, "Christmas Bells."  Longfellow's Christmas bells loudly proclaimed, "God is not dead, nor doth He sleep.” The message that the Living God is a God of Peace is proclaimed in the close of the carol: "Of peace on Earth, good will to men." Longfellow needed the peace that only God can give to his children. . Although not a hymn writer, the poem that he wrote on that day was later set to music by Englishman John Calkin. The result is one of our most popular Christmas carols today.   JOHN 14:27  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”   PRAYER  Lord God, thank you for the peace you brought to the earth on the night of Jesus’ birth-may we experience that more and more as we seek your heart. Amen.    QUOTE:    “Peace was the first thing the angels sang. Peace is the mark of the sons of God. Peace is the nurse of love. Peace is the mother of unity. Peace is the rest of blessed souls. Peace is the dwelling place of eternity.” – Pope Leo the Great

WEEK 4 – WED DECEMBER 26

I HEARD THE BELLS ON CHRISTMAS DAY
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)


I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was an American Poet and educator. He was one of the five fireside poets from New England.

As with any composition that touches the heart “I heard the Bells on Christmas Day” flowed from the experience of Longfellow—involving the tragic death of his wife Fanny and the crippling effect of his son Charles’ wounds from the Civil War.

The first Christmas after Fanny's death, Longfellow wrote, "How inexpressibly sad are all holidays." A year after the incident, he wrote, "I can make no record of these days. Better leave them wrapped in silence. Perhaps someday God will give me peace."

On Christmas Day of 1864, he heard the bells and the singing of “peace on earth” (Luke 2:14“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”) he wrote the words of the poem, "Christmas Bells."

Longfellow's Christmas bells loudly proclaimed, "God is not dead, nor doth He sleep.” The message that the Living God is a God of Peace is proclaimed in the close of the carol: "Of peace on Earth, good will to men." Longfellow needed the peace that only God can give to his children.
.
Although not a hymn writer, the poem that he wrote on that day was later set to music by Englishman John Calkin. The result is one of our most popular Christmas carols today.

JOHN 14:27
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

PRAYER
Lord God, thank you for the peace you brought to the earth on the night of Jesus’ birth-may we experience that more and more as we seek your heart. Amen.

QUOTE:
“Peace was the first thing the angels sang.
Peace is the mark of the sons of God.
Peace is the nurse of love.
Peace is the mother of unity.
Peace is the rest of blessed souls.
Peace is the dwelling place of eternity.” – Pope Leo the Great

WEEK 4 – TUESDAY DEC 25    ON THE MORNING OF CHRIST’S NATIVITY By John Milton (1608-1674)  I This is the month, and this the happy morn,  Wherein the Son of Heaven’s eternal King,  Of wedded maid and Virgin Mother born,  Our great redemption from above did bring;  For so the holy sages once did sing,  That he our deadly forfeit should release,  And with his Father work us a perpetual peace.  II  That glorious Form, that Light insufferable,  And that far-beaming blaze of majesty,  Wherewith he wont at Heaven’s high council-table To sit the midst of Trinal Unity,  He laid aside, and, here with us to be,  Forsook the Courts of everlasting Day,  And chose with us a darksome house of mortal clay.  III  Say, Heavenly Muse, shall not thy sacred vein Afford a present to the Infant God?  Hast thou no verse, no hymn, or solemn strain,  To welcome him to this his new abode,  Now while the heaven, by the Sun’s team untrod,  Hath took no print of the approaching light, And all the spangled host keep watch in squadrons bright?  IV  See how from far upon the Eastern road  The star-led Wizards haste with odors sweet!  Oh run; prevent them with thy humble ode,  And lay it lowly at his blessed feet;  Have thou the honor first thy Lord to greet,  And join thy voice unto the angel quire,  From out his secret altar touched with hallowed fire.    JOHN 3:16  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.   PRAYER  Father, we reverently believe that Jesus was, is, and always will be the Everlasting Father; the first and the last, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. With a sense of awe this Christmas we worship the baby Jesus who was both fully human and fully God. Amen.   QUOTE   Who can add to Christmas? The perfect motive is that God so loved the world. The perfect gift is that He gave His only Son. The only requirement is to believe in Him. The reward of faith is that you shall have everlasting life.   ~Corrie Ten Boom     MERRY CHRISTMAS from the Music & Arts Ministry at 3Crosses Church!

WEEK 4 – TUESDAY DEC 25

ON THE MORNING OF CHRIST’S NATIVITY
By John Milton (1608-1674)

I
This is the month, and this the happy morn,
Wherein the Son of Heaven’s eternal King,
Of wedded maid and Virgin Mother born,
Our great redemption from above did bring;
For so the holy sages once did sing,
That he our deadly forfeit should release,
And with his Father work us a perpetual peace.

II
That glorious Form, that Light insufferable,
And that far-beaming blaze of majesty,
Wherewith he wont at Heaven’s high council-table
To sit the midst of Trinal Unity,
He laid aside, and, here with us to be,
Forsook the Courts of everlasting Day,
And chose with us a darksome house of mortal clay.

III
Say, Heavenly Muse, shall not thy sacred vein
Afford a present to the Infant God?
Hast thou no verse, no hymn, or solemn strain,
To welcome him to this his new abode,
Now while the heaven, by the Sun’s team untrod,
Hath took no print of the approaching light,
And all the spangled host keep watch in squadrons bright?

IV
See how from far upon the Eastern road
The star-led Wizards haste with odors sweet!
Oh run; prevent them with thy humble ode,
And lay it lowly at his blessed feet;
Have thou the honor first thy Lord to greet,
And join thy voice unto the angel quire,
From out his secret altar touched with hallowed fire.

JOHN 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

PRAYER
Father, we reverently believe that Jesus was, is, and always will be the Everlasting Father; the first and the last, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. With a sense of awe this Christmas we worship the baby Jesus who was both fully human and fully God. Amen.

QUOTE
Who can add to Christmas? The perfect motive is that God so loved the world. The perfect gift is that He gave His only Son. The only requirement is to believe in Him. The reward of faith is that you shall have everlasting life. ~Corrie Ten Boom

MERRY CHRISTMAS from the Music & Arts Ministry at 3Crosses Church!

WEEK 4 – MONDAY DEC 24
 
O HOLY NIGHT
Stephanie Madrid with Judi Thompson on piano

 
O holy night, the stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth;
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn;
 
Fall on your knees, Oh hear the angel voices!
O night divine! O night when Christ was born.
O night, O holy night, O night divine.
 
Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming;
With glowing hearts by his cradle we stand;
So led by the light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land,
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our friend;
 
He knows our need, To our weakness no stranger!
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Your King! Before him bend!
 
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is Love and His gospel is Peace;
Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother,
And in his name all oppression shall cease,
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful Chorus raise we;
Let all within us praise his Holy name!
 
Christ is the Lord, then ever! Ever praise we!
His pow’r and glory, evermore proclaim!
His pow’r and glory, evermore proclaim!
 
The story behind “O Holy Night” began in France, yet eventually made its way around the world. This seemingly simple song, inspired by a request from a clergyman, become one of the most beloved anthems of all time.
In 1847, Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure was the commissionaire of wines in a small French town. Known more for his poetry than his church attendance, it probably shocked Placide when his parish priest asked the commissionaire to pen a poem for Christmas mass. Nevertheless, the poet was honored to share his talents with the church.
 
Placide Cappeau considered the priest’s request. Using the gospel of Luke as his guide, Cappeau imagined witnessing the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Thoughts of being present on the blessed night inspired him. By the time he arrived in Paris, “Cantique de Noel” had been completed.  Moved by his own work, Cappeau decided that his “Cantique de Noel” was not just a poem, but a song in need of a master musician’s hand. Not musically inclined himself, the poet turned to one of his friends, Adolphe Charles Adams, for help. 
 
The son of a well known classical musician, Adolphe had studied in the Paris consevatoire. His talent and fame brought requests to write works for orchestras and ballets all over the world. Yet the lyrics that his friend Cappeau gave him must have challenged the composer in a fashion unlike anything he received from London, Berlin, or St. Petersburg.
 
As a man of Jewish ancestry, for Adolphe the words of “Cantique de Noel” represented a day he didn’t celebrate and a man he did not view as the son of God. Nevertheless, Adams quickly went to work, attempting to marry an original score to Cappeau’s beautiful words. Adams’ finished work pleased both poet and priest. The song was performed just three weeks later at a Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.
 
Initially, “Cantique de Noel” was wholeheartedly accepted by the church in France and the song quickly found its way into various Christmas services.  But when Placide Cappeau walked away from the church and became part of the socialist movement, and the church leaders discovered that Adolphe Adams had Jewish ancestry the church suddenly and uniformly denounced the Carol.  The reasons given by the church authorities for banning “Cantique de Noel” were: “its lack of musical taste and total absence of the spirit of religion.” Yet even as the church tried to bury the Christmas song, the French people continued to sing it. 
 
An extraordinary happening during the 1870/71 Franco-Prussian War was allegedly the reason the Catholic Church authorities received the song back into religious ceremonies.  During a lull in battle on Christmas Eve, a French soldier jumped up out of his trench, stood in full view, and sang “Cantique de Noel”.  Not one shot was fired at him. The Germans were so moved that one of their soldiers then stood up and sang one of Martin Luther’s hymns. Nobody fired a shot at him either. It resulted in the armies of both sides honoring a 24-hour Christmas truce.
 
The English words of O Holy Night were written by an American named John Sullivan Dwight who introduced the song to America.
.
SCRIPTURE
John 14:27

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid.
 
Colossians 3:15
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
 
PRAYER
Dear Lord, don't let us miss You this Christmas season. Help us to simplify our activities and traditions so we can focus our celebration on Your birth. Thank You for being the Prince of Peace, and I ask You for that supernatural peace to reign in our hearts. Thank You for the simple but life-changing message of Your love for us. Amen.
 
QUOTE
“Peace on earth will come to stay, when we live Christmas every day.” – Helen Steiner Rice

WEEK 4 – SUNDAY DECEMBER 23   The 4th Sunday of Advent symbolizes Peace with the “Angel’s Candle” or the “Candle of Love”. This candle reminds us of the message of the angels: “Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.”   SCRIPTURE   ISAIAH 9:6    For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace .    JOHN 16:33    I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”    2 THESSALONIANS 3:16   Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.    PRAYER  Dear Jesus, May the light of your love always shine in our hearts. As Christmas draws closer, we marvel at your great love for us. Let your love transform every aspect of our lives and touch everyone we encounter. Our hearts are open to you, Jesus. Amen.   POETRY I AM SO GLAD EACH CHRISTMAS EVE by Inger M. Wexelsen   I am so glad each Christmas Eve, The night of Jesus’ birth! Then like the sun the Star shone forth, The Angels sang on earth  The little Child in Bethlehem, He was a King indeed! For He came down from Heaven above To help a world in need.  He dwells again in heaven’s realm, The Son of God today; And still He loves His little ones And hears them when they pray.  I am so glad on Christmas Eve! His praises then I sing; He opens then for every child The palace of the King.  When mother trims the Christmas tree Which fills the room with light, She tells me of the wondrous Star That made the dark world bright.  And so I love each Christmas Eve And I love Jesus, too; And that He loves me every day I know so well is true.    QUOTE    “It is impossible to conceive how different things would have turned out if that birth had not happened whenever, 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.” ~   Frederick Buechner

WEEK 4 – SUNDAY DECEMBER 23

The 4th Sunday of Advent symbolizes Peace with the “Angel’s Candle” or the “Candle of Love”. This candle reminds us of the message of the angels: “Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.”

SCRIPTURE
ISAIAH 9:6
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.


JOHN 16:33
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

2 THESSALONIANS 3:16
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.

PRAYER
Dear Jesus, May the light of your love always shine in our hearts. As Christmas draws closer, we marvel at your great love for us. Let your love transform every aspect of our lives and touch everyone we encounter. Our hearts are open to you, Jesus. Amen.

POETRY
I AM SO GLAD EACH CHRISTMAS EVE
by Inger M. Wexelsen


I am so glad each Christmas Eve,
The night of Jesus’ birth!
Then like the sun the Star shone forth,
The Angels sang on earth

The little Child in Bethlehem,
He was a King indeed!
For He came down from Heaven above
To help a world in need.

He dwells again in heaven’s realm,
The Son of God today;
And still He loves His little ones
And hears them when they pray.

I am so glad on Christmas Eve!
His praises then I sing;
He opens then for every child
The palace of the King.

When mother trims the Christmas tree
Which fills the room with light,
She tells me of the wondrous Star
That made the dark world bright.

And so I love each Christmas Eve
And I love Jesus, too;
And that He loves me every day
I know so well is true.

QUOTE
“It is impossible to conceive how different things would have turned out if that birth had not happened whenever, 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.” ~
Frederick Buechner

WEEK 3 – SATURDAY DECEMBER 22

GESU BAMBINO 
Pianist: Judi Thompson

When blossoms flower e'er 'mid the snows upon a winter night,
Was born the child, the Christmas rose, the king of love and light.
The angels sang, the shepherds sang, the grateful earth rejoiced;
And at his blessed birth the stars their exultation voiced.

O come let us adore him
O come let us adore him
O come let us adore him
Christ the lord.

Again the heart with rapture glows to greet the holy night,
That gave the world it's Christmas rose, its king of love and light
Let ev'ry voice acclaim his name, the grateful chorus swell
From paradise to earth he came that we with him might dwell.

Gesu Bambino is an Italian Christmas carol composed by Pietro Yon in 1917.  It was translated to English by Frederick H. Martens.  It is interesting to note that the song derives its melody from the 17th century traditional Irish carol “I saw three ships”, though the carol is a simpler version of the tune.  The lyrics of the chorus are also the same as the lyrics in the chorus of “O Come All Ye Faithful”.

PSALM 77:11 
I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes I will remember your miracles of long ago.

WHAT SWEETER MUSIC CAN WE BRING by Robert Herrick

What sweeter music can we bring
Than a carol for to sing
The birth of this our heavenly king
Awake the voice! Awake the string
Dark and dull night fly hence away,
And give the honor of this day
That sees December turned to May.

If we may ask the reason, say
The why and wherefore all things here
Seem like the Springtime of the year
Why does the chilling Winter’s morn
Smile like a field beset with corn
We see him come and know him ours,
Who with his sunshine and his showers
Turns all the patient ground to flowers. 

The Darling of the world is come
And fit it is we find a room
To welcome Him, the nobler part
Of all this house here is the heart
Which we will give Him and bequeath
This holly and this ivy wreath
To do Him honour who’s our King
And Lord of all this revelling.

PRAYER
Father God, we rejoice in the season of your Son’s birth! By your grace may we always remember how dearly you paid for our salvation. Through Jesus we pray, Amen.

QUOTE
“To get full value of joy, we must have somebody to divide it with.” – Mark Twain

WEEK 3 – FRIDAY DECEMBER 21  ANGEL’S PROCLAMATION LUKE 2:13-15  Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”  The angels certainly made a profound proclamation in declaring that there was now,"peace on earth", but the real key is the last part of that verse...."to those on whom His favor rests". We should ask the question...who does God's favor rest upon? It rests upon those who have believed God's message about His Son Jesus, and have entrusted their salvation to Him. This brings eternal peace to our souls and imparts to us the desire to live at peace with others. This is an amazing gift that our Father has given us.... let’s share it with others. – Pastor Kevin Ledbetter   Excerpt: FROM HEAVEN ABOVE Written by Martin Luther for his family’s Christmas devotions and first published in 1535. This English text is a translation by Roland Bainton.    AN ANGEL  From heaven high I come to earth. I bring you tidings of great mirth. This mirth is such a wondrous thing That I must tell you all and sing.  A little child for you this morn Has from a chosen maid been born, A little child so tender, sweet That you should skip upon your feet.  He is the Christ, our God indeed, Who saves you all in every need. He will himself your Savior be. From all wrong doing make you free.  He brings you every one to bliss. The heavenly Father sees to this. You shall be here with us on high. Here shall you live and never die.  Look now, you children, at the sign, A manger cradle far from fine. A tiny baby you will see. Uphold of the world is he.  ALL To God who sent his only Son, Be glory, laud and honor done. Let all the choir of heaven rejoice, The new ring in with heart and voice.   HARK THE HERALD ANGELS SING – Charles Wesley  Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King; Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!” Joyful, all ye nations rise, Join the triumph of the skies; With th’angelic host proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem!”    QUOTE “The very purpose of Christ’s coming into the world was that He might offer up His life as a sacrifice for the sins of men. He came to die. This is the heart of Christmas”. - Billy Graham

WEEK 3 – FRIDAY DECEMBER 21

ANGEL’S PROCLAMATION
LUKE 2:13-15

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

The angels certainly made a profound proclamation in declaring that there was now,"peace on earth", but the real key is the last part of that verse...."to those on whom His favor rests". We should ask the question...who does God's favor rest upon? It rests upon those who have believed God's message about His Son Jesus, and have entrusted their salvation to Him. This brings eternal peace to our souls and imparts to us the desire to live at peace with others. This is an amazing gift that our Father has given us.... let’s share it with others. – Pastor Kevin Ledbetter

Excerpt: FROM HEAVEN ABOVE
Written by Martin Luther for his family’s Christmas devotions and first published in 1535. This English text is a translation by Roland Bainton.


AN ANGEL
From heaven high I come to earth.
I bring you tidings of great mirth.
This mirth is such a wondrous thing
That I must tell you all and sing.

A little child for you this morn
Has from a chosen maid been born,
A little child so tender, sweet
That you should skip upon your feet.

He is the Christ, our God indeed,
Who saves you all in every need.
He will himself your Savior be.
From all wrong doing make you free.

He brings you every one to bliss.
The heavenly Father sees to this.
You shall be here with us on high.
Here shall you live and never die.

Look now, you children, at the sign,
A manger cradle far from fine.
A tiny baby you will see.
Uphold of the world is he.

ALL
To God who sent his only Son,
Be glory, laud and honor done.
Let all the choir of heaven rejoice,
The new ring in with heart and voice.

HARK THE HERALD ANGELS SING – Charles Wesley
Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

QUOTE
“The very purpose of Christ’s coming into the world was that He might offer up His life as a sacrifice for the sins of men. He came to die. This is the heart of Christmas”. - Billy Graham

WEEK 3 – THURSDAY DECEMBER 20

Silent Night

IT CAME UPON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR and SILENT NIGHT
Performed by Marianne & Marsha Beeler

MATTHEW 1:23
“The Virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means God with us”).

STORY BEHIND SILENT NIGHT

A CLASSIC NATIVITY compiled by James Stuart Bell

If the church organ had not broken down and if the organist had not been able to strum a few cords on a guitar in an emergency, the loveliest Christmas carol of them all might never have been written. 

Twenty-six-year-old Father Joseph Mohr, assistant priest at the newly erected Church of St. Nicholas in Oberndorf, in the Austrian Alps, was far from happy when his organist friend, Franz Gruber, told him that the pipe organ could not be used for the special Christmas Eve Mass scheduled for December 24, 1818. Although he trained the choir and played the organ at Arnsdorf as well as at Oberndorf, thirty-one-year old Gruber had neither the talent nor the time to repair broken connections, restore shattered pipes, or replace worn-out bellows. While Father Mohr was not desperate, he was a bit peeved at the prospect of a Midnight Mass without the traditional organ music.

To relieve his tension, he bundled himself up in his warmest winter clothes and went visiting among his humble people. Shortly after arriving at the home of one of his faithful families, a new baby was born to the poor laborer and his wife.  The pastor compared that event with the birth of Christ Child centuries earlier, and, upon arriving home a few hours later, conquered his fatigue and weariness long enough to pen four simple stanzas describing the wonder and the majesty of the first Christmas. His initial stanza contained these beautiful lines:

Silent night, Holy night!
All is calm, All is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child,
Holy Infant, so tender and mild;
Sleep in heavenly peace!
Sleep in heavenly peace!

When Gruber burst into the room a few moments later with the news that the organ was hopelessly beyond repair, Father Mohr handed him the slip of paper on which he had written the new stanzas. While the choir-master read them, the priest picked up a guitar in an adjoining room, and handed it to him, saying “If we can’t have the organ, at least we can have a new song. Try your hand at this.”  Gruber strummed a few simple chords on the guitar, and soon was humming an original melody that seemed to express the sentiments of the poem perfectly. At midnight the new carol was sung for the first time.

If might have remained there at Oberndorf had not Karl Mauracher come from the valley of Zillertal to repair the organ early in 1819. Mohr asked Gruber to play the new carol for the famous organ builder and repairman, when the job was finally completed, Mauracher fell in love with it right away.  About ten years later he felt that the four gifted Strasser children, Caroline, Joseph, Andreas, and Amalie, were just the ones to give the new song to the world. They renamed the carol “The Song From Heaven” and sang it wherever they went.

On Christmas Eve 1832, they were invited to introduce it in the Royal Saxon Court Chapel in Pleissenburg Castle for the King and Queen of Saxony. The Director General of Music, Mr. Pohlenz, had heard the children singing at one of the great fairs in Leipzig where their parents went every year to sell their famous gloves. It was at his request that the four were invited to sing for the Royal family at this special Christmas Eve celebration. Shortly thereafter, “Silent Night” took its rightful place among the most beautiful Christmas carols in the Christian world, and the passing of time has only added to its luster.

“Silent Night” is one of the most beautiful Christmastime hymns ever written, and it is also a demonstration of how God uses simple events, such as a broken musical instrument, to bless his people with a beautiful song of celebration and praise for the birth of our Lord.

PRAYER
Loving God, may our faith in your ultimate plan make us not only optimists but also eager workers for the great harvest that is to come. Amen.

QUOTE

 “The greatest and most momentous fact which the history of the world records is the fact of Christ’s birth.” ~Charles H. Spurgeon 

WEEK 3 – WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 19    Good News of Great Joy    Luke 2:8-18    8  And in the same area there were shepherds living in the fields,  keeping watch over their flock by night. 9  And then an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were very afraid.  10  But the angel said to them, “Listen! Do not fear. For I bring you good news of great joy, which will be to all people.  11  For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  12  And this will be a sign to you: You will find the Baby wrapped in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”   13  Suddenly there was with the angel a company of the heavenly host praising God and saying,   14  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, and good will toward men.”   15  When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”   16  So they came hurrying and found Mary and Joseph, and the Baby lying in a manger.  17 When they had seen Him, they made widely known the word which was told them concerning this Child .  18  And all those who heard it marveled at what the shepherds told them.  At this Christmas season it is heartwarming to know that the same God who appeared to the shepherds so many years ago, still reveals Himself to everyday people today. The shepherds were just average people doing their jobs to earn a living, then out of nowhere God appears and changes their lives. One day they are just tending sheep, the next they are in the presence of the Messiah and then they are proclaiming this very same Christ child to anyone who would listen! When a real encounter with the living God occurs you can expect that lives will be changed forever.  It is the same today, people encounter Christ in their lives and all of a sudden life takes a turn and you become a follower of Christ and one who proclaims all He has done for you, and what He means to you. You don’t have to go to seminary to be someone who proclaims the glorious gospel of Christ…. You just have to be someone who has met Him. Isn’t it encouraging to know that our great God reveals Himself to ordinary people, then actually uses those people as a vital part of His plan. Thank God today that like the shepherds, God will use you!   Kevin Ledbetter, Pastor of Music & Arts @ 3Crosses Church    PRAYER   “Lord God, may we, your people, who look forward to the birthday of Christ experience the joy of salvation and celebrate that feast with love and thanksgiving. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.”     QUOTE      “For outlandish creatures like us, on our way to a heart, a brain, and courage, Bethlehem is not the end of our journey but only the beginning―not home but the place through which we must pass if ever we are to reach home at last.”      – Frederick Buechner      ARTWORK  The Adoration of Shepherds by Antonio Vassilacchi nickname l’Aliense (1556-1629) from Chiesa di San Zaccaria church.

WEEK 3 – WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 19

Good News of Great Joy

Luke 2:8-18

8 And in the same area there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And then an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were very afraid. 10 But the angel said to them, “Listen! Do not fear. For I bring you good news of great joy, which will be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign to you: You will find the Baby wrapped in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly there was with the angel a company of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace, and good will toward men.”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

16 So they came hurrying and found Mary and Joseph, and the Baby lying in a manger. 17 When they had seen Him, they made widely known the word which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at what the shepherds told them.

At this Christmas season it is heartwarming to know that the same God who appeared to the shepherds so many years ago, still reveals Himself to everyday people today. The shepherds were just average people doing their jobs to earn a living, then out of nowhere God appears and changes their lives. One day they are just tending sheep, the next they are in the presence of the Messiah and then they are proclaiming this very same Christ child to anyone who would listen! When a real encounter with the living God occurs you can expect that lives will be changed forever.

It is the same today, people encounter Christ in their lives and all of a sudden life takes a turn and you become a follower of Christ and one who proclaims all He has done for you, and what He means to you. You don’t have to go to seminary to be someone who proclaims the glorious gospel of Christ…. You just have to be someone who has met Him. Isn’t it encouraging to know that our great God reveals Himself to ordinary people, then actually uses those people as a vital part of His plan. Thank God today that like the shepherds, God will use you!

Kevin Ledbetter, Pastor of Music & Arts @ 3Crosses Church

PRAYER

“Lord God, may we, your people, who look forward to the birthday of Christ experience the joy of salvation and celebrate that feast with love and thanksgiving. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

QUOTE

“For outlandish creatures like us, on our way to a heart, a brain, and courage, Bethlehem is not the end of our journey but only the beginning―not home but the place through which we must pass if ever we are to reach home at last.”

– Frederick Buechner

ARTWORK

The Adoration of Shepherds by Antonio Vassilacchi nickname l’Aliense (1556-1629) from Chiesa di San Zaccaria church.

WEEK 3 –  TUES DECEMBER 18

CHRISTMAS HYMN:  O LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM
Dame Kiri Te Kanawa - BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
To listen to music, click
HERE.

O little town of Bethlehem,
how still we see thee lie;
above thy deep and dreamless sleep
the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
the everlasting light;
the hopes and fears of all the years
are met in thee tonight.

SCRIPTURE
LUKE 2:1-7

In those days, Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

POETRY
Once in royal David's city
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her Baby
In a manger for His bed.
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little child.
Cecil Frances Alexander, 1848

THE STABLE by Joni Eareckson Tada

"…When I think of special Christmas memories, I think of those quiet moments when God unexpectedly surprised me.  With Himself.  With an overwhelming sense of His nearness and love.

In the midst of so much activity, so much going on, so many days on the calendar filled with appointments or parties, God seeks out the quiet heart-and speaks to us in a still, small voice.

Think of the stable in Bethlehem.  Somehow it stands serene. What a contrast to the celebrating going on in that inn. Who would have supposed? Who would have suspected? If someone had only taken the time to peer out a back window toward the stable. If someone had only dropped what he was doing to leave the party and go check on his donkey. If someone had only slipped away from the festivities for a moment to seek a quiet moment outside.

Just think of what they might have witnessed! Perhaps they would have seen the angels. Maybe the shepherds. And yes, even the Son of God.

Take the time this Christmas season to step outside the clamor and excitement. Visit the stable and ask God to speak to you in the quiet and serenity and stillness.  He will."

PRAYER
God, may your light illuminate our hearts and shine in our words and deeds. May the hope, the peace, the joy, and the love represented by the birth in Bethlehem fill our lives and become part of all that we say and do.

QUOTE
"No priest, no theologian stood at the cradle in Bethlehem. And yet, all Christian theology has it's origin in the wonder of all wonders that God became man" – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

WEEK 3 – MONDAY DEC 17    THE THREE KINGS by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow   Three Kings came riding from far away, Melchior and Gaspar and Balthazar; Three Wise Men out of the East were they, And they travelled by night and they slept by day, For their guide was a beautiful, wonderful star.  The star was so beautiful, large and clear, That all the other stars of the sky Became a white mist in the atmosphere, And by this they knew that the coming was near Of the Prince foretold in the prophecy.  Three caskets they bore on their saddle-bows, Three caskets of gold with golden keys; Their robes were of crimson silk with rows Of bells and pomegranates and furbelows, Their turbans like blossoming almond-trees.  And so the Three Kings rode into the West, Through the dusk of the night, over hill and dell, And sometimes they nodded with beard on breast, And sometimes talked, as they paused to rest, With the people they met at some wayside well.  “Of the child that is born,” said Balthazar, “Good people, I pray you, tell us the news; For we in the East have seen his star, And have ridden fast, and have ridden far, To find and worship the King of the Jews.”  And the people answered, “You ask in vain; We know of no King but Herod the Great!” They thought the Wise Men were men insane, As they spurred their horses across the plain, Like riders in haste, who cannot wait.  And when they came to Jerusalem, Herod the Great, who had heard this thing, Sent for the Wise Men and questioned them; And said, “Go down unto Bethlehem, And bring me tidings of this new king.”  So they rode away; and the star stood still, The only one in the grey of morn; Yes, it stopped—it stood still of its own free will, Right over Bethlehem on the hill, The city of David, where Christ was born.  And the Three Kings rode through the gate and the guard, Through the silent street, till their horses turned And neighed as they entered the great inn-yard; But the windows were closed, and the doors were barred, And only a light in the stable burned.  And cradled there in the scented hay, In the air made sweet by the breath of kine, The little child in the manger lay, The child, that would be king one day Of a kingdom not human, but divine.  His mother Mary of Nazareth Sat watching beside his place of rest, Watching the even flow of his breath, For the joy of life and the terror of death Were mingled together in her breast.  They laid their offerings at his feet: The gold was their tribute to a King, The frankincense, with its odor sweet, Was for the Priest, the Paraclete, The myrrh for the body’s burying.  And the mother wondered and bowed her head, And sat as still as a statue of stone, Her heart was troubled yet comforted, Remembering what the Angel had said Of an endless reign and of David’s throne.  Then the Kings rode out of the city gate, With a clatter of hoofs in proud array; But they went not back to Herod the Great, For they knew his malice and feared his hate, And returned to their homes by another way.   Matthew 2:1-12 (NIV)   After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem       and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”   3    When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born.       “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:    ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ”    Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.    PRAYER   Lord God, thank you for your precious gift of eternal life, guide us each day of our lives, and help us remember to seek the things that please you.

WEEK 3 – MONDAY DEC 17

THE THREE KINGS by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Three Kings came riding from far away,
Melchior and Gaspar and Balthazar;
Three Wise Men out of the East were they,
And they travelled by night and they slept by day,
For their guide was a beautiful, wonderful star.

The star was so beautiful, large and clear,
That all the other stars of the sky
Became a white mist in the atmosphere,
And by this they knew that the coming was near
Of the Prince foretold in the prophecy.

Three caskets they bore on their saddle-bows,
Three caskets of gold with golden keys;
Their robes were of crimson silk with rows
Of bells and pomegranates and furbelows,
Their turbans like blossoming almond-trees.

And so the Three Kings rode into the West,
Through the dusk of the night, over hill and dell,
And sometimes they nodded with beard on breast,
And sometimes talked, as they paused to rest,
With the people they met at some wayside well.

“Of the child that is born,” said Balthazar,
“Good people, I pray you, tell us the news;
For we in the East have seen his star,
And have ridden fast, and have ridden far,
To find and worship the King of the Jews.”

And the people answered, “You ask in vain;
We know of no King but Herod the Great!”
They thought the Wise Men were men insane,
As they spurred their horses across the plain,
Like riders in haste, who cannot wait.

And when they came to Jerusalem,
Herod the Great, who had heard this thing,
Sent for the Wise Men and questioned them;
And said, “Go down unto Bethlehem,
And bring me tidings of this new king.”

So they rode away; and the star stood still,
The only one in the grey of morn;
Yes, it stopped—it stood still of its own free will,
Right over Bethlehem on the hill,
The city of David, where Christ was born.

And the Three Kings rode through the gate and the guard,
Through the silent street, till their horses turned
And neighed as they entered the great inn-yard;
But the windows were closed, and the doors were barred,
And only a light in the stable burned.

And cradled there in the scented hay,
In the air made sweet by the breath of kine,
The little child in the manger lay,
The child, that would be king one day
Of a kingdom not human, but divine.

His mother Mary of Nazareth
Sat watching beside his place of rest,
Watching the even flow of his breath,
For the joy of life and the terror of death
Were mingled together in her breast.

They laid their offerings at his feet:
The gold was their tribute to a King,
The frankincense, with its odor sweet,
Was for the Priest, the Paraclete,
The myrrh for the body’s burying.

And the mother wondered and bowed her head,
And sat as still as a statue of stone,
Her heart was troubled yet comforted,
Remembering what the Angel had said
Of an endless reign and of David’s throne.

Then the Kings rode out of the city gate,
With a clatter of hoofs in proud array;
But they went not back to Herod the Great,
For they knew his malice and feared his hate,
And returned to their homes by another way.

Matthew 2:1-12 (NIV) After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ”

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

PRAYER

Lord God, thank you for your precious gift of eternal life, guide us each day of our lives, and help us remember to seek the things that please you.

WEEK 3 – SUNDAY DECEMBER 16   The  3rd Sunday of Advent  symbolizes Joy with the “Shepherd’s Candle” reminding us of the Joy the world experienced at the coming birth of Jesus.  Pink or rose is also one of the colors of Advent used during the third Sunday of Advent, also known as Gaudete Sunday. This candle represents joy or rejoicing and reveals a shift in the season away from repentance and toward celebration.  “Let there be jubilation, celebration, and festivity! Our hope is sure, we have peace with God, and the Messiah is coming to set everything right in our sin-drenched world. Every tear will be dried, every hurting heart mended, every broken body healed, every torn relationship restored. We are treasured sons and daughters of the Most High God. The only reasonable response to God’s lavish love and goodness is joy - pure joy!”   Max Lucado (Because of Bethlehem)    Luke 2:9-12(NIV)  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”   THE SHEPHERD POEM by William Blake  How sweet is the shepherd's sweet lot! From the morn to the evening he strays; He shall follow his sheep all the day, And his tongue shall be filled with praise.   For he hears the lambs' innocent call, And he hears the ewes' tender reply; He is watchful while they are in peace, For they know when their shepherd is nigh.   PRAYER  Dear Jesus, help us focus on you during this busy season. May we stay aware of the joy you bring into our lives. We want to find you in the everyday moments and come with hearts of gratitude to your manger on Christmas. Come, Lord Jesus. Be my joy. Amen.    QUOTE “Joy is nurtured by anticipation…Just as joy builds on the past, it borrows from the future. It expects certain things to happen” - Eugene H. Peterson, A long Obedience in the Same Direction

WEEK 3 – SUNDAY DECEMBER 16

The 3rd Sunday of Advent symbolizes Joy with the “Shepherd’s Candle” reminding us of the Joy the world experienced at the coming birth of Jesus.

Pink or rose is also one of the colors of Advent used during the third Sunday of Advent, also known as Gaudete Sunday. This candle represents joy or rejoicing and reveals a shift in the season away from repentance and toward celebration.

“Let there be jubilation, celebration, and festivity! Our hope is sure, we have peace with God, and the Messiah is coming to set everything right in our sin-drenched world. Every tear will be dried, every hurting heart mended, every broken body healed, every torn relationship restored. We are treasured sons and daughters of the Most High God. The only reasonable response to God’s lavish love and goodness is joy - pure joy!”
Max Lucado (Because of Bethlehem)

Luke 2:9-12(NIV)
An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

THE SHEPHERD POEM by William Blake
How sweet is the shepherd's sweet lot!
From the morn to the evening he strays;
He shall follow his sheep all the day,
And his tongue shall be filled with praise.

For he hears the lambs' innocent call,
And he hears the ewes' tender reply;
He is watchful while they are in peace,
For they know when their shepherd is nigh.

PRAYER
Dear Jesus, help us focus on you during this busy season. May we stay aware of the joy you bring into our lives. We want to find you in the everyday moments and come with hearts of gratitude to your manger on Christmas. Come, Lord Jesus. Be my joy. Amen.

QUOTE
“Joy is nurtured by anticipation…Just as joy builds on the past, it borrows from the future. It expects certain things to happen” - Eugene H. Peterson, A long Obedience in the Same Direction

WEEK 2- SATURDAY DEC 15    Gold, Frankincense & Myrrh   "It is significant that the magi worshiped when they found Jesus. Whatever their motives at the start of the journey, when they saw Jesus, 'they fell to the ground and worshiped Him' (Matthew 2:11) God in His grace opened their eyes to something His own people did not see - that Jesus was God in human form. From this response, it appears that they were converted and thus became the earliest Gentile believers in Christ.  The gifts of the magi had special significance. Gold and frankincense would be typical gifts for a king. Gold, the most precious metal then known to man, was a common symbol of royalty from the earliest times and remains so today. Frankincense, an expensive fragrance, had special significance in Old Testament worship (Leviticus 2:2). It was often sprinkled on offerings in the temple. The frankincense may there have had additional meaning in signifying Jesus' deity.  Myrrh, on the other hand, was an unusual gift for a newborn king. It was a substance used in embalming the dead (John 19:39). Mixed with wine, it had an anesthetic effect. When Jesus was crucified. He was offered a myrrh and wine mixture to drink, but He refused it (Mark 15:23). The gift of myrrh therefore seems to foreshadow Jesus' suffering and death. There's no indication that the magi foresaw the details of this. But it is likely that just as God guided the magi to the infant Jesus. He also guided them to the selection of gifts so that the combination of gifts they brought would testify to the new King's royalty, His deity, and His death on behalf of humanity.  'Wise men still seek Him,' the familiar phrase says. It's true. In all the world, there are only two kinds of people: those who are fools and those who are wise…  The magi, on the other hand, were true wise men. It wasn't convenient for them to come to Jesus, but they came anyway. Although it meant great sacrifice for them, they doggedly pursued until they found Him. They typify every true wise man or woman who has ever lived.  In Christ 'are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge' (Colossians 2:3). May you be truly wise."   Excerpt from God's Gift at Christmas by John MacArthur    CREATOR OF THE STARS OF NIGHT    A Medieval Latin Hymn for Evening Prayer Based on translation by John Mason Neale (1851)   Creator of the stars of night, Your people's everlasting light, O Christ, Redeemer of us all, We pray you, hear us when we call.  When this old world drew on toward night, You came, but not in splendor bright, Not as a monarch, but the child Of Mary, blameless mother mild.  At Your great name, O Jesus, now All knees must bend, all hearts must bow: All things on earth with one accord, Like those in heaven, shall call You Lord.  To God the Father, God the Son, And God the Spirit, Three in One, Praise, honor, might and glory be From age to age eternally.    QUOTE      He was created of a mother whom He created. He was carried by hands that He formed. He cried in the manger in wordless infancy, He the Word, without whom all human eloquence is mute. - Augustine     ARTWORK: THE MAGI by Henry Siddons Mowbray (1915)

WEEK 2- SATURDAY DEC 15

Gold, Frankincense & Myrrh

"It is significant that the magi worshiped when they found Jesus. Whatever their motives at the start of the journey, when they saw Jesus, 'they fell to the ground and worshiped Him' (Matthew 2:11) God in His grace opened their eyes to something His own people did not see - that Jesus was God in human form. From this response, it appears that they were converted and thus became the earliest Gentile believers in Christ.

The gifts of the magi had special significance. Gold and frankincense would be typical gifts for a king. Gold, the most precious metal then known to man, was a common symbol of royalty from the earliest times and remains so today. Frankincense, an expensive fragrance, had special significance in Old Testament worship (Leviticus 2:2). It was often sprinkled on offerings in the temple. The frankincense may there have had additional meaning in signifying Jesus' deity.

Myrrh, on the other hand, was an unusual gift for a newborn king. It was a substance used in embalming the dead (John 19:39). Mixed with wine, it had an anesthetic effect. When Jesus was crucified. He was offered a myrrh and wine mixture to drink, but He refused it (Mark 15:23). The gift of myrrh therefore seems to foreshadow Jesus' suffering and death. There's no indication that the magi foresaw the details of this. But it is likely that just as God guided the magi to the infant Jesus. He also guided them to the selection of gifts so that the combination of gifts they brought would testify to the new King's royalty, His deity, and His death on behalf of humanity.

'Wise men still seek Him,' the familiar phrase says. It's true. In all the world, there are only two kinds of people: those who are fools and those who are wise…

The magi, on the other hand, were true wise men. It wasn't convenient for them to come to Jesus, but they came anyway. Although it meant great sacrifice for them, they doggedly pursued until they found Him. They typify every true wise man or woman who has ever lived.

In Christ 'are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge' (Colossians 2:3). May you be truly wise."

Excerpt from God's Gift at Christmas by John MacArthur

CREATOR OF THE STARS OF NIGHT

A Medieval Latin Hymn for Evening Prayer
Based on translation by John Mason Neale (1851)

Creator of the stars of night,
Your people's everlasting light,
O Christ, Redeemer of us all,
We pray you, hear us when we call.

When this old world drew on toward night,
You came, but not in splendor bright,
Not as a monarch, but the child
Of Mary, blameless mother mild.

At Your great name, O Jesus, now
All knees must bend, all hearts must bow:
All things on earth with one accord,
Like those in heaven, shall call You Lord.

To God the Father, God the Son,
And God the Spirit, Three in One,
Praise, honor, might and glory be
From age to age eternally.

QUOTE

He was created of a mother whom He created. He was carried by hands that He formed. He cried in the manger in wordless infancy, He the Word, without whom all human eloquence is mute. - Augustine

ARTWORK: THE MAGI by Henry Siddons Mowbray (1915)

WEEK 2 – FRIDAY DECEMBER 14
THE MIRACLE OF CHRISTMAS

AVE MARIA
Ricardo Garcia with Judi Thompson on piano
To listen to the music, click
HERE

Psalm 40:17
But I am poor and needy;
yet the Lord thinks about me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
do not delay, O my God

Christmas is full of interesting characters that come from all walks of life. There are Kings, Shepherds, Wise Men, and plenty of just plain ordinary people, individuals that most of us would not even notice.

Mary and Joseph had no distinguishing features that would cause us to focus on them, but God had big plans for them. There was nothing amazing about the Shepherds, but God chose them to see and experience something wonderful. It is truly noteworthy to reflect on just who God chooses to reveal Himself to. It is often the lowly, the poor, the downtrodden, the meek, and yet to God, these people are of the greatest importance. When you think about your relationship with God, always remember that no matter where you see yourself in life, God looks at you as something special…. Someone He plans on using in powerful ways.

Christmas is indeed a time of miracles, and one of those miracles is what God is going to do in your life.

Kevin Ledbetter, Pastor of Music and Arts @3Crosses

CHRISTMAS BENEDICTION/PRAYER

May you be filled with the wonder of Mary, the obedience of Joseph, the joy of the Angels, the eagerness of the Shepherds, the determination of the Magi, and the peace of the Christ child. Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit bless you now and forever.

QUOTE

"Miracles are not in contradiction to nature. They are only in contradiction with what we know of nature." Saint Augustine

Ave Maria is a popular and much-recorded setting of the Latin prayer Ave Maria, originally published in 1853 as Méditation sur le Premier Prélude de Piano de J.S. Bach. The piece consists of a melody by the French Romantic composer Charles Gounod that he superimposed over an only very slightly changed version of the Prelude No. 1 in C major, BMV 846, from Book I of J.S. Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier, written 137 years earlier.

WEEK 2 – THURSDAY DECEMBER 13    The Son of God    ISAIAH 9:6-7   "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this."   JESUS, WHO IS HE? By Tim LaHaye   No person other than Jesus has been addressed by the following titles, because no other person qualifies for them. Some of these titles were given to Him by angels, others by disciples or followers, or even by Hebrew prophets. No one title fully describes Him. To understand who he really was and who He is in His Second Coming, all must be considered together. One thing is certain: No one else comes close to deserving even one of these titles.  THE ALMIGHTY THE MIGHTY GOD THE WORD WAS GOD MY LORD AND MY GOD OUR SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST WONDERFUL COUNSELOR THE FATHER OF ETERNITY THE PRINCE OF PEACE ALPHA AND OMEGA FIRST AND LAST GOD BLESSED FOREVER THE CHRIST JEHOVAH THE BEGINNING AND THE ENDING THE LORD SAVIOR THE HOLY ONE LORD OF ALL EMMANUEL THE WAY, THE TRUTH, THE LIFE KING OF KINGS LORD OF LORDS  In the history of the world, no one has ever risen from a carpenter's shop to assume such lofty titles. His life can only be explained by the fact that He was indeed "the Son of God" in a unique sense.   PRAYER  Almighty God, you have so many names that describe your relationship to us. During the upcoming year, grant us a more complete sense of you as our heavenly Father, provider, friend, and Savior. Amen    QUOTE      "Let us not flutter too high, but remain by the manger and the swaddling cloths of Christ, in whom dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." – Martin Luther

WEEK 2 – THURSDAY DECEMBER 13

The Son of God

ISAIAH 9:6-7

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this."

JESUS, WHO IS HE? By Tim LaHaye

No person other than Jesus has been addressed by the following titles, because no other person qualifies for them. Some of these titles were given to Him by angels, others by disciples or followers, or even by Hebrew prophets. No one title fully describes Him. To understand who he really was and who He is in His Second Coming, all must be considered together. One thing is certain: No one else comes close to deserving even one of these titles.

THE ALMIGHTY
THE MIGHTY GOD
THE WORD WAS GOD
MY LORD AND MY GOD
OUR SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST
WONDERFUL
COUNSELOR
THE FATHER OF ETERNITY
THE PRINCE OF PEACE
ALPHA AND OMEGA
FIRST AND LAST
GOD BLESSED FOREVER
THE CHRIST
JEHOVAH
THE BEGINNING AND THE ENDING
THE LORD SAVIOR
THE HOLY ONE
LORD OF ALL
EMMANUEL
THE WAY, THE TRUTH, THE LIFE
KING OF KINGS
LORD OF LORDS

In the history of the world, no one has ever risen from a carpenter's shop to assume such lofty titles. His life can only be explained by the fact that He was indeed "the Son of God" in a unique sense.

PRAYER
Almighty God, you have so many names that describe your relationship to us. During the upcoming year, grant us a more complete sense of you as our heavenly Father, provider, friend, and Savior. Amen

QUOTE

"Let us not flutter too high, but remain by the manger and the swaddling cloths of Christ, in whom dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." – Martin Luther

WEEK 2 – WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 12  ARTWORK: ANGEL APPEARS TO JOSEPH IN A DREAM Gaetano Gandolfi (1790)  MATTHEW 1: 18-21  Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”  “You can imagine how great Joseph’s feelings of amazement, relief, and gratitude must have been once he realized what the Lord, through the heavenly messenger, had told him. Not only could he go ahead and take Mary as his wife with honor and righteousness, but he also could rejoice at the privilege of being allowed to bring up God’s own Son.  Here we see the tremendous depth and firmness of Joseph’s faith. When he awoke from the dream, he took Mary as his wife. They had the huppa, the wedding ceremony, and he spared her the shame, disgrace, and loneliness of having to bear the child alone and in anonymity. Joseph must have been a good man. Can you imagine the Almighty God of the universe depositing His only Son in the home of a man who wasn’t?  Although to external appearances they were husband and wife. Joseph kept Mary a virgin until after Jesus was born (Matthew 1:25). Thus Isaiah’s prophecy was literally fulfilled.”  Excerpt from John MacArthur’s God’s Gift of Christmas    WHAT CHILD IS THIS?  What child is this, who, laid to rest On Mary’s lap, is sleeping? This, this is Christ the King, Whom shepherds guard and angels sing: Haste, haste to bring Him laud, The Babe, the Son of Mary!   Traditional English Carol    PRAYER  Loving and powerful God,  Some days I can only be in awe of your power and love.  You never tire of supporting me.  I constantly ask for help  knowing you will always be there.   From some place deep in my soul,  I hear you calling me by name  and I prepare with a joyful heart for your coming.   Grant me the gift of hope, patience and waiting in these Advent days  because I want the focus of my waiting to be on you.  I want to praise and glorify you with my life.  Let me live my gratitude to you, rejoicing!    QUOTE “God came as a baby, giving and entrusting Himself to me. He expects my personal life to be a ‘Bethlehem.’ Am I allowing my natural life to be slowly transformed by the indwelling life of the Son of God? God’s ultimate purpose is that His Son might be exhibited in me” – Oswald Chambers

WEEK 2 – WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 12

ARTWORK: ANGEL APPEARS TO JOSEPH IN A DREAM
Gaetano Gandolfi (1790)

MATTHEW 1: 18-21

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

“You can imagine how great Joseph’s feelings of amazement, relief, and gratitude must have been once he realized what the Lord, through the heavenly messenger, had told him. Not only could he go ahead and take Mary as his wife with honor and righteousness, but he also could rejoice at the privilege of being allowed to bring up God’s own Son.

Here we see the tremendous depth and firmness of Joseph’s faith. When he awoke from the dream, he took Mary as his wife. They had the huppa, the wedding ceremony, and he spared her the shame, disgrace, and loneliness of having to bear the child alone and in anonymity. Joseph must have been a good man. Can you imagine the Almighty God of the universe depositing His only Son in the home of a man who wasn’t?

Although to external appearances they were husband and wife. Joseph kept Mary a virgin until after Jesus was born (Matthew 1:25). Thus Isaiah’s prophecy was literally fulfilled.”
Excerpt from John MacArthur’s
God’s Gift of Christmas


WHAT CHILD IS THIS?
What child is this, who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap, is sleeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary!
Traditional English Carol

PRAYER
Loving and powerful God,
Some days I can only be in awe of your power and love.
You never tire of supporting me.
I constantly ask for help
knowing you will always be there.

From some place deep in my soul,
I hear you calling me by name
and I prepare with a joyful heart for your coming.

Grant me the gift of hope, patience and waiting in these Advent days
because I want the focus of my waiting to be on you.
I want to praise and glorify you with my life.
Let me live my gratitude to you, rejoicing!

QUOTE
“God came as a baby, giving and entrusting Himself to me. He expects my personal life to be a ‘Bethlehem.’ Am I allowing my natural life to be slowly transformed by the indwelling life of the Son of God? God’s ultimate purpose is that His Son might be exhibited in me” – Oswald Chambers

WEEK 2 – TUES DECEMBER 11

MUSIC:  MARY, DID YOU KNOW?
Saxophone: Kevin Ledbetter
Pianist: Judi Thompson
Words and music by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene 
3Crosses Church – Music & Arts

Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you

Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God

The blind will see, the deaf will hear and the dead will live again
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you're holding is the Great I Am

Luke 1:46-55(NIV)

And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.  His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”

“When Mary was visited by Gabriel and told she was to have a baby-and not just a baby but the baby, the one every Jewish girl hoped she would be privileged to bear-she didn’t ask why but rather how. She could quite understandably have asked, ‘Why? And why now? Why here?’ Instead, she simply asked, ‘How?’ The answer to How can I possibly do the will of God in this incredible situation? Was quite simple, given by the angel visitor: ‘The Holy spirit….’ Immediately Mary responded with a glad ‘I am the Lord’s servant.’”

Jill Briscoe – Heartstrings 

PRAYER

All-powerful God, your eternal Word took flesh on our earth when the Virgin Mary placed her life at the service of your plan. Lift our minds in watchful hope to hear the voice which announces his glory and open our minds to receive the Spirit who prepares us for his coming. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

POETRY

Hush, my babe; be still and slumber,
Holy angels guard they bed,
Heavenly blessings without number
Gently resting on they head.
                                                            Laura Ingalls Wilder

QUOTE
“The hinge of history is on the door of a Bethlehem stable.”
– Lucille Sollenberger

Week 2 – DECEMBER 10

IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER: Choir of Kings College, Cambridge

Christina Georgiana Rossetti (1830-1894) gives us one of the most beloved Christmas hymns. The author of three collections of mostly religious poetry and four devotional books, she came from a family steeped in the arts. Her deep faith is thought to be partially the result of the solace that she found in writing as a result of her poor health from age sixteen.

Her most famous hymns are the Christmas texts, "Love Came Down at Christmas" composed in 1885 (UM Hymnal No. 242) and "In the Bleak Midwinter," the latter first published as the poem "A Christmas Carol" in Scribner’s Monthly in January 1872. It first appeared as a hymn in The English Hymnal (1906), where it was paired to a tune by the famous English composer Gustav Holst (1874-1934). Now, over 100 years later, we sing this hymn in virtually the same form as it appeared in 1906.

The writer invites us to offer our own gift to the Christ Child just as the shepherds and wise men did. Rather than the present of a lamb or expensive gifts, however, we offer the most important gift -- our hearts.

POETRY

A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Christina Rosetti (1830-1894)

In the bleak mid-winter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter, long ago. 

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign:
In the bleak midwinter a stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.  

Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day    
A breastful of milk and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore. 

 Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
 But His mother only, in her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved with a kiss.     

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb,
 If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

GALATIANS 4:4-5
But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

QUOTE
“The very purpose of Christ's coming into the world was that he might offer up his life as a sacrifice for the sins of men. He came to die. This is the heart of Christmas." -Rev. Billy Graham

WEEK 2 – DECEMBER 9   The second candle of the Advent Wreath is called the "Bethlehem Candle" reminding us of Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem. This candle also represents the "preparation and peace" that Christ's first Advent brought to mankind that fateful night in an almost forgotten stable in Bethlehem.  Bethlehem is a story about a humble couple on an unwanted journey, at an inconvenient time, to visit a tiny insignificant town.  God's plan for humanity unfolded in the town of Bethlehem, the birthplace of the Messiah, joyously fulfilling a long-awaited promise. Today we confidently wait for the Messiah's triumphant return.  In Micah 5, we read a prophecy that occurred 735 years before the birth of Christ and yet it's as specific as if it were spoken today. Micah tells us several things. He tells us where the Messiah will be born, that He will come from a tribe of Judah, He will rule in Israel, Jesus is eternal and divine but will rule on earth and He will be a shepherd to His People. This One will be our peace.   MICAH 5:2   "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times."   POETRY    O GLADSOME LIGHT   O gladsome light, O grace Of our Creator's face, The eternal splendor wearing: Celestial, holy, blest, Our Savior Jesus Christ, Joyful in your appearing.  As fades the day's last light, We see the lamps of night Our common hymn outpouring; O God of might unknown, You, the incarnate Son, And Spirit blest adoring.  To you of right belongs All praise of holy songs, O Song of God, Life-giver; You, therefore, O Most High, The world does glorify And shall exalt forever.   A third century Greek hymn for evening prayer, this English text is based on a translation by Robert Seymour Bridges (1899)     QUOTE      "The birth of Christ is the central event in the history of the earth—the very thing the whole story has been about."      C.S. Lewis

WEEK 2 – DECEMBER 9

The second candle of the Advent Wreath is called the "Bethlehem Candle" reminding us of Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem. This candle also represents the "preparation and peace" that Christ's first Advent brought to mankind that fateful night in an almost forgotten stable in Bethlehem.

Bethlehem is a story about a humble couple on an unwanted journey, at an inconvenient time, to visit a tiny insignificant town.

God's plan for humanity unfolded in the town of Bethlehem, the birthplace of the Messiah, joyously fulfilling a long-awaited promise. Today we confidently wait for the Messiah's triumphant return.

In Micah 5, we read a prophecy that occurred 735 years before the birth of Christ and yet it's as specific as if it were spoken today. Micah tells us several things. He tells us where the Messiah will be born, that He will come from a tribe of Judah, He will rule in Israel, Jesus is eternal and divine but will rule on earth and He will be a shepherd to His People. This One will be our peace.

MICAH 5:2

"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times."

POETRY

O GLADSOME LIGHT

O gladsome light, O grace
Of our Creator's face,
The eternal splendor wearing:
Celestial, holy, blest,
Our Savior Jesus Christ,
Joyful in your appearing.

As fades the day's last light,
We see the lamps of night
Our common hymn outpouring;
O God of might unknown,
You, the incarnate Son,
And Spirit blest adoring.

To you of right belongs
All praise of holy songs,
O Song of God, Life-giver;
You, therefore, O Most High,
The world does glorify
And shall exalt forever.

A third century Greek hymn for evening prayer, this English text is based on a translation by Robert Seymour Bridges (1899)

QUOTE

"The birth of Christ is the central event in the history of the earth—the very thing the whole story has been about."

C.S. Lewis

800px-Domenico_Beccafumi_-_The_Annunciation_-_WGA01551.jpg

Week 1 – SATURDAY DEC 8
 
ARTWORK
THE ANNUNCIATION by Domenico Beccafumi (1545)

 
SCRIPTURE: LUKE 1:26-33
The Birth of Jesus Foretold

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
 
POETRY
MADE FLESH

After the bright beam of hot annunciation
         fused heaven with earth, His searing,
         sharply focused light went out for a while,
         eclipsed in amniotic gloom
His cool immensity of splendor, His universal grace,
         small folded in a warm, dim, female space,
         the Word stern sentenced to be nine months dumb.
Infinity walked in a womb until the next enormity,
        the mighty.
After submission to a woman’s pains,
         helpless in a barn bare floor,
         first tasting bitter earth.
But now I in Him surrender
         to the crush and cry of birth
Because eternity was closeted in time,
         He is my open door to forever.
         from His imprisonment my freedoms grow, find wings,
Part of His body, I transcend this flesh
         from His sweet silence my mouth sings.
Out of His dark I glow. My life,
         as His, slips through death’s mesh, times bars,
         joins hands with heaven, speaks with stars.
Immanuel.
By Luci Shaw, Listen to the Green
 
PRAYER
God of hope, who brought love into this world,
be the love that dwells between us.
God of hope, who brought peace into this world,
be the peace that dwells between us.
God of hope, who brought joy into this world,
be the joy that dwells between us.
God of hope, the rock we stand upon,
be the center, the focus of our lives
always, and particularly this Advent time.

QUOTE
“The Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as this truth of the Incarnation.” -J.I. Packer

WEEK 1 –  FRIDAY DEC  7

PRINCE OF PEACE

To listen to music, click HERE

ISAIAH 9:5
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace

An excerpt from  "IN SEARCH OF THE REAL SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS" by Dan Schaeffer

PRINCE OF PEACE

"We want peace, but we also want our own way. We desire peace, but we can't remove all the peace-disturbing things in our life.  I can feel at peace toward you, but what happens if you don't feel at peace toward me? A true and lasting peace in our world is simply beyond our reach. How appropriate then, that, as the names of Messiah are listed, the last one we hear echoing in our minds is Prince of Peace.

…Real lasting peace, for nations or individuals, is not something we achieve; it is something we receive through the Son. It is part of the gift.

Vance Havner once wrote, "Christmas is based on an exchange of gifts: the gift of God to man-His Son; and the gift of man to God-when we first give ourselves to God." He gives Himself to us daily, moment by moment. And we give ourselves to Him not just once, at conversion, but a hundred times a day…

The true Christmas spirit reminds us again of His gift and of the proper response to that gift. He gives, and we give back. What can we give that would be appropriate for such a gift as His? Gratitude. It seems so small, and yet there is nothing greater we can give. To simply take time from our busy schedules and remember this tremendous gift He gave to us and to be overwhelmed all over again by His love. Tears of gratitude are pearls and diamonds we can offer Him, more precious to Him than all the money in the world.

He will forever be the child born to us, the Son given to us, the perfect governor, our Wonderful Counselor, our Mighty God, our Everlasting Father, our Prince of Peace.

PRAYER OF PEACE – Francis of Assisi
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace!
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith'
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
Oh Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life!

QUOTE
"And when the Lord Jesus has become your peace, remember, there is another thing: good will towards men. Do not try to keep Christmas without good will towards men." -Charles Spurgeon

Week 1 – THURSDAY DEC 6   The Advent wreath is a circular garland of evergreen branches representing eternity. On that wreath, four or five candles are typically arranged.  The circular shape of the wreath, without beginning or end, symbolizes God's complete and unending love for us - a love that sent his Son into the world to redeem us from the curse of sin.  It also represents eternal life, which becomes ours through faith in Jesus Christ.  The wreath is made of various evergreens signifying continuous life. Even these evergreens have a traditional meaning which can be adapted to our faith: The laurel signifies victory over persecution and suffering; pine, holly and yew, immortality; and cedar, strength and healing. Holly also has a special Christian symbolism: The prickly leaves remind us of the crown of thorns.  Any pinecones, nuts or seedpods used to decorate the wreath also symbolize life and resurrection. All together, the wreath of evergreens depicts the immortality of our soul and the new, everlasting life promised to us through Jesus Christ, who entered our world becoming true man and who was victorious over sin and death through His own passion, death, and resurrection.  What makes the Advent period so profoundly meaningful to Christians is that it reminds us of the true meaning of Christmas—that Christ is the light of the world, and in us He is the hope of glory.   SCRIPTURE    JOHN 1:14  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.   JOHN 3:16  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life   POETRY    THE HOLLY AND THE IVY   The holly and the ivy, When they are both full grown, Of all the trees that are in the wood, The holly bears the crown:  The holly bears a blossom, As white as the lily flower, And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ To be our Saviour:  The holly bears a berry, As red as any blood, And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ To do poor sinners good:  The holly bears a prickle, As sharp as any thorn, And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ On Christmas day in the morn:  The holly bears a bark, As bitter as any gall, And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ For to redeem us all:  The holly and the ivy, When they are both full grown, Of all the trees that are in the wood, The holly bears the crown.    QUOTE      "You can never truly enjoy Christmas until you can look up into the Father's face and tell him you have received his Christmas gift." – John R. Rice

Week 1 – THURSDAY DEC 6

The Advent wreath is a circular garland of evergreen branches representing eternity. On that wreath, four or five candles are typically arranged.

The circular shape of the wreath, without beginning or end, symbolizes God's complete and unending love for us - a love that sent his Son into the world to redeem us from the curse of sin.

It also represents eternal life, which becomes ours through faith in Jesus Christ.

The wreath is made of various evergreens signifying continuous life. Even these evergreens have a traditional meaning which can be adapted to our faith: The laurel signifies victory over persecution and suffering; pine, holly and yew, immortality; and cedar, strength and healing. Holly also has a special Christian symbolism: The prickly leaves remind us of the crown of thorns.

Any pinecones, nuts or seedpods used to decorate the wreath also symbolize life and resurrection. All together, the wreath of evergreens depicts the immortality of our soul and the new, everlasting life promised to us through Jesus Christ, who entered our world becoming true man and who was victorious over sin and death through His own passion, death, and resurrection.

What makes the Advent period so profoundly meaningful to Christians is that it reminds us of the true meaning of Christmas—that Christ is the light of the world, and in us He is the hope of glory.

SCRIPTURE

JOHN 1:14
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

JOHN 3:16
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life

POETRY

THE HOLLY AND THE IVY

The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown,
Of all the trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown:

The holly bears a blossom,
As white as the lily flower,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To be our Saviour:

The holly bears a berry,
As red as any blood,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To do poor sinners good:

The holly bears a prickle,
As sharp as any thorn,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
On Christmas day in the morn:

The holly bears a bark,
As bitter as any gall,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
For to redeem us all:

The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown,
Of all the trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown.

QUOTE

"You can never truly enjoy Christmas until you can look up into the Father's face and tell him you have received his Christmas gift." – John R. Rice

WEEK 1 – WEDNESDAY DEC 5

Anticipation

"One of the most treasured qualities of the Christmas season is anticipation. For weeks ahead of time, hearts everywhere reflect the glow of expectation, knowing that wonderful happenings are right around the corner.

From our vantage point, the first Christmas seems eons ago. Think for a moment, though, what it might have been like to live before Jesus' birth. What an awesome sense of anticipation those days and years must have held for so many people who lived each moment awaiting the promised Messiah.

"O come, O come Emmanuel" brings to life the longing of a nation - the longing for freedom and healing - not so very different from the yearnings of today.

Whatever you have been waiting for or hoping to find, set your mind on the true meaning of the holiday. Nothing else measures up to the joy of knowing Jesus."

Excerpt from the "Gifts of Christmas-Sights and Sounds of the Season"

CHRISTMAS HYMN

O COME, O COME, EMMANUEL

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.

O come, thou dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death's dark shadows put to flight,

O come, thou Key of David, come
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
and close the path to misery

O Come, O come, Emmanuel (with Camille Saint-Saëns' "Aquarium")

Latin Hymn, Plainsong: McKinney Music, In. Arranged by Keveren

SCRIPTURE

Isaiah 9:6

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Romans 8:21

All creation anticipates the day when it will join God's children in glorious freedom from death and decay.

PRAYER

Lord, what wonderful blessing you have in store for us! Please help us pray with expectation, fully trusting that you are in control. In Jesus' name, Amen.

QUOTE

Dearer than memory, brighter than expectation is the ever returning now of Christmas. – Elizabeth Bowen

WEEK 1 – TUESDAY DEC 4    Hope At Christmas   When you contemplate the concept of Hope.... what comes to mind? In Scripture "Hope" is most often used to assure us of a blessed future, not that we won't have trials and tribulation today, but that God is always working things out for His glory and our good. Our Savior who is the "Light of the World" tells us that because of His great love, a blessed future is certain. We who know the Lord, trust the Lord, no matter what today looks like, we know at some point that He will make our tomorrows better. Hope gives us joy now, because we know He has promised a better future. In Hebrews we learn that even though we can't see the future clearly, we confidently believe what God has promised so clearly, that it’s as if we already hold it in our hands now. How wonderful it is to rest in the knowledge that "The Light of the World" has shined His light on us, and we can rest assured that tomorrow will bring a beautiful new day.... this is our Hope.   Kevin Ledbetter, Pastor of Music & Arts    Hebrews 11:1-3 (MEV)  Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.   PRAYER   Dear Jesus, you are the hope in our messy world. This Advent, help us slow down, listen to your voice, and focus on what’s really important. We place our hope in you as we prepare our hearts to celebrate your birth on Christmas. Amen.    QUOTE      “The world needs less heat and more light. It needs less of the heat of anger, revenge, retaliation, and more of the light of ideas, faith, courage, aspiration, joy, love and hope.” – Wilfred Peterson       ARTWORK: THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD by William Holman Hunt (1853-54)   “The Light of the World is an allegorical painting by William Holman Hunt representing the figure of Jesus preparing to knock on an overgrown and long-unopened door, illustrating Revelation 3:20: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” The door in the painting has no handle, and can therefore only be opened from the inside, representing “the obstinately shut mind.” Hunt painted a life size version, which was hung in St. Paul’s Cathedral, London.

WEEK 1 – TUESDAY DEC 4

Hope At Christmas

When you contemplate the concept of Hope.... what comes to mind? In Scripture "Hope" is most often used to assure us of a blessed future, not that we won't have trials and tribulation today, but that God is always working things out for His glory and our good. Our Savior who is the "Light of the World" tells us that because of His great love, a blessed future is certain. We who know the Lord, trust the Lord, no matter what today looks like, we know at some point that He will make our tomorrows better. Hope gives us joy now, because we know He has promised a better future. In Hebrews we learn that even though we can't see the future clearly, we confidently believe what God has promised so clearly, that it’s as if we already hold it in our hands now. How wonderful it is to rest in the knowledge that "The Light of the World" has shined His light on us, and we can rest assured that tomorrow will bring a beautiful new day.... this is our Hope.
Kevin Ledbetter, Pastor of Music & Arts

Hebrews 11:1-3 (MEV)
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

PRAYER

Dear Jesus, you are the hope in our messy world. This Advent, help us slow down, listen to your voice, and focus on what’s really important. We place our hope in you as we prepare our hearts to celebrate your birth on Christmas. Amen.

QUOTE

“The world needs less heat and more light. It needs less of the heat of anger, revenge, retaliation, and more of the light of ideas, faith, courage, aspiration, joy, love and hope.” – Wilfred Peterson

ARTWORK: THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD by William Holman Hunt (1853-54)

“The Light of the World is an allegorical painting by William Holman Hunt representing the figure of Jesus preparing to knock on an overgrown and long-unopened door, illustrating Revelation 3:20: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” The door in the painting has no handle, and can therefore only be opened from the inside, representing “the obstinately shut mind.” Hunt painted a life size version, which was hung in St. Paul’s Cathedral, London.

WEEK 1 – MONDAY DEC 3    The Light of the World   "Come, people of Israel, let us walk in the light of the Lord." Isaiah 2:5  "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light -- on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." Isaiah 9:2  The prophet Isaiah describes how God was preparing to bring His great light to the dark confusion of the world. Darkness in the Bible describes a society in chaos and rebellion. Throughout the Bible, we see that God's light heralds His presence and His truth.  In this passage, Isaiah invites the people of Israel to "walk in the light of the Lord." The prophecy was fulfilled through Jesus who boldly declared, "I am the light of the world" John 8:12. Therefore the invitation is no longer just for the people of Israel, but for all humanity.   PRAYER   Father God, let the light of Christ shine in our lives so that we may glorify you. Help us to walk in the light of the Lord. Daily teach us the truth in your word. Amen.   CHRISTMAS HYMN    THE PEOPLE THAT IN DARKNESS WALKED Words by John Morrison 1781 Music by Thomas Ravenscroft (1592-1635)   The people that in darkness walked Have seen a wondrous light, A light that beamed afar, The bright and morning star, And those that dwelt in death's dark vale Have felt their joy increase, Their constant theme shall be, "All hail the Prince of Peace."  Wonderful, Counselor! The everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace, Wonderful, Counselor! The everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace.  For unto us a child is born, To us a Son is given: His kingdom shall increase, And never, never cease. Upon the throne of David shall He reign forevermore, Till ev'ry knee shall bow And ev'ry heart adore.    QUOTE      "And then, just when everything is bearing down on us to such an extent that we can scarcely withstand it, the Christmas message comes to tell us that all our ideas are wrong, and that what we take to be evil and dark is really good and light because it comes from God. Our eyes are at fault, that is all. God is in the manger, wealth in poverty, light in darkness, succor in abandonment. No evil can befall us; whatever men may do to us, they cannot but serve the God who is secretly revealed as love and rules the world and our lives." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

WEEK 1 – MONDAY DEC 3

The Light of the World

"Come, people of Israel, let us walk in the light of the Lord." Isaiah 2:5

"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light -- on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." Isaiah 9:2

The prophet Isaiah describes how God was preparing to bring His great light to the dark confusion of the world. Darkness in the Bible describes a society in chaos and rebellion. Throughout the Bible, we see that God's light heralds His presence and His truth.

In this passage, Isaiah invites the people of Israel to "walk in the light of the Lord." The prophecy was fulfilled through Jesus who boldly declared, "I am the light of the world" John 8:12. Therefore the invitation is no longer just for the people of Israel, but for all humanity.

PRAYER

Father God, let the light of Christ shine in our lives so that we may glorify you. Help us to walk in the light of the Lord. Daily teach us the truth in your word. Amen.

CHRISTMAS HYMN

THE PEOPLE THAT IN DARKNESS WALKED
Words by John Morrison 1781
Music by Thomas Ravenscroft (1592-1635)

The people that in darkness walked
Have seen a wondrous light,
A light that beamed afar,
The bright and morning star,
And those that dwelt in death's dark vale
Have felt their joy increase,
Their constant theme shall be,
"All hail the Prince of Peace."

Wonderful, Counselor!
The everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace,
Wonderful, Counselor!
The everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace.

For unto us a child is born,
To us a Son is given:
His kingdom shall increase,
And never, never cease.
Upon the throne of David shall
He reign forevermore,
Till ev'ry knee shall bow
And ev'ry heart adore.

QUOTE

"And then, just when everything is bearing down on us to such an extent that we can scarcely withstand it, the Christmas message comes to tell us that all our ideas are wrong, and that what we take to be evil and dark is really good and light because it comes from God. Our eyes are at fault, that is all. God is in the manger, wealth in poverty, light in darkness, succor in abandonment. No evil can befall us; whatever men may do to us, they cannot but serve the God who is secretly revealed as love and rules the world and our lives." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

WEEK 1 - SUNDAY DEC 2   Advent prepares us for the celebration of the birth of Christ and reminds us that we are eagerly waiting for Jesus' return to glory.  The first Sunday in Advent focuses on the prophecies of the Bible describing the coming of Christ. Prophecies prepared, taught, warned and encouraged the people about God, His ways and His plans.  This week we will look at how God revealed His plan to His people. Over 2,000 years ago, He fulfilled His plan by sending His Son, Jesus and now we are anticipating the fulfillment of the final prophecies describing His return.  The first candle of the Advent represents the Prophecy Candle or Candle of Hope.  We light one candle in the midst of all the darkness in our lives and in the world. It symbolizes our longing, our desire, our hope. We want to be renewed in a sense that Jesus came to save us from our sin and death. We want to experience his coming to us now, in our everyday lives, to help us live our lives with meaning and purpose. We want to prepare for his coming to meet us at the end of our lives on this earth. So we begin with our longing, our desire and our hope.   SCRIPTURE    Isaiah 7:14(NIV) Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.    PRAYER   To God our Father, who has given us the grace to wait in graceful hope for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, let us make our prayer: Show us your mercy, Lord. Sanctify us in mind and body, keep us without sin until the coming of your Son. Make us walk this day in holiness, and live upright and devout lives in this world. May we be clothed in our Lord Jesus Christ, and filled with the Holy Spirit. Lord, help us to stand watchful and ready until your Son is revealed in all his glory.   CHRISTMAS HYMN    COME THOUGH LONG EXPECTED JESUS Charles Wesley-1744   Come, Thou, long-expected Jesus, Born to set Thy people free; From our fears and sins release us, Let us find our rest in Thee. Israel's Strength and Consolation, Hope of all the earth Thou art; Dear Desire of every nation, Joy of every longing heart.    QUOTE      "The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God. " – C.S. Lewis

WEEK 1 - SUNDAY DEC 2

Advent prepares us for the celebration of the birth of Christ and reminds us that we are eagerly waiting for Jesus' return to glory.

The first Sunday in Advent focuses on the prophecies of the Bible describing the coming of Christ. Prophecies prepared, taught, warned and encouraged the people about God, His ways and His plans.

This week we will look at how God revealed His plan to His people. Over 2,000 years ago, He fulfilled His plan by sending His Son, Jesus and now we are anticipating the fulfillment of the final prophecies describing His return.

The first candle of the Advent represents the Prophecy Candle or Candle of Hope.

We light one candle in the midst of all the darkness in our lives and in the world. It symbolizes our longing, our desire, our hope. We want to be renewed in a sense that Jesus came to save us from our sin and death. We want to experience his coming to us now, in our everyday lives, to help us live our lives with meaning and purpose. We want to prepare for his coming to meet us at the end of our lives on this earth. So we begin with our longing, our desire and our hope.

SCRIPTURE

Isaiah 7:14(NIV)
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

PRAYER

To God our Father, who has given us the grace to wait in graceful hope for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, let us make our prayer: Show us your mercy, Lord. Sanctify us in mind and body, keep us without sin until the coming of your Son. Make us walk this day in holiness, and live upright and devout lives in this world. May we be clothed in our Lord Jesus Christ, and filled with the Holy Spirit. Lord, help us to stand watchful and ready until your Son is revealed in all his glory.

CHRISTMAS HYMN

COME THOUGH LONG EXPECTED JESUS Charles Wesley-1744

Come, Thou, long-expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel's Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

QUOTE

"The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God. " – C.S. Lewis