Sunday, November 29, 2009

TODAY IS ADVENT SUNDAY! The fulfillment of hope was prophesied and the angel named Him!

THE MOST JOYOUS SEASON OF THE YEAR BEGINS TODAY! One might say Easter is most joyous, but it has its Good Friday sorrow. CHRISTMAS, on the other hand, is all joy--a super celebration of Christ's ADVENT --which we began celebrating today in church with beautiful music and the lighting of the advent candle.

Even the holiday decorations, the alleged "spirit of Christmas," the holly, the ivy, the candles, lights and candy canes, the red and the green, the gifts AND Santa and Christmas movies --all part of a glorious celebration that GOD HAS VISITED THE PLANET --AND CAME AS A BABY BOY! AND SO WE LIVE FOREVER! And the world rejoices --it PARTIES! It feels altruistic/generous--and the secularist doesn't even understand why it's so thoroughly enjoyable! even though he may feel it, too!

Or is it so enjoyable for everyone? Are there many for whom Christmas is a disappointment because of fractured families, alienated children and parents? domestic violence, drunkenness and poverty? Do some stand on the outside looking in wistfully, because the joy doesn't quite reach them? Or because they stopped believing?

Christmas for me was always magical --and we were not at all wealthy when I was a child. But I didn't know it. We had enough to eat, clothes enough, kept warm, and there would be at least 2 wonderful toys for each of us under the tree --and a sock full of little things: always a bottle of coke, an orange and/or apple, a Hershey bar, toothpaste, toothbrush, a pack of gum, and other little things. So it wasn't about wealth and materialism --it was about happiness--family happiness --doting Daddy, responsible Mom. Visiting Grandparents and other family members. Daddy and I would lie on the floor, with our heads under the REAL tree with its evergreen fragrance; we'd look at the lights and our faces reflected in the ornaments while the radio played Christmas music. And sing the carols.

There was always music! When my father's family gathered, Mom or I played the piano, Dad and/or I on trumpet, Mom and Uncle Bob on violins, Ron and cousin Jean singing or with Kazoo/instruments, or wax paper covered combs --(sing through them and it makes an instrumental sound with a buzz! ) and we had jingle bells and other relatives singing.

Christmas meant feasting on turkey and mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes with pecans and marshmallows --and Mom's good pies. And always the lime sherbet punch (no better Christmas punch than lime sherbet with 7 up. We actually used Ginger ale, but it's not as pretty to look at with the green sherbet. With ginger ale, I call it "river bottom punch." )

One tradition we had on my father's side of the family, which my family has continued, was to sit in a circle, pass out all the gifts, and then go around the circle, taking turns opening the gifts one by one. Each person was "on stage, in the limelight" for a short time with his gift. Gifts of limburger cheese and exotic canned delicacies of dubious nature were occasions of much clowning around --these usually came from Uncle Bob (who had his PhD and supervised PhD candidates in history and philos. of ed. for secular uni's. ) This way of doing the gifts took HOURS and extended the holiday fun for all it was worth!

Later on, family caroling to anyone who would listen became a beloved activity especially for me. Fortunately, I married a man who loved to sing and could sing --with the voice of an angel! Oddly, I don't think my children love to sing just for the fun of singing --as my parents' and I did. It was entertainment for us on car rides, especially. But they are the really good singers. I hope to get them on my website one of these days!

Happy Advent Season to all of you and yours! The Holland Free Methodist Church on Angola Road in Holland, Ohio, is making beautiful music. Our cantata is Dec. 18 and 20, 7 pm and our Christmas Eve Service is 6 pm.

"God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance and have eternal life."--the Bible


matthew said...

I can't believe it's Christmastime already...

We had a big party at our house Sunday because Peter was baptized so we didn't begin our home advent liturgy yet. We'll do that tonight although my oldest daughter has been scared of candles ever since she went on a field trip to the fire museum. Hopefully I can convince her they're safe if you're careful.

I also just printed all the stuff we'll need to start our Jesse Tree. It's the biggest thing we do as a family during Advent. This will be our fourth year doing it and the kids really enjoy it and learn a lot. We'll begin tomorrow night.

These traditions are important, I think. Using the Jesse Tree was my idea but Sarah has been a great help in establishing other traditions leading up to Christmas. It was her idea to have a decorating party where people come over and help us decorate (mostly we eat and drink and put ornaments on the tree because Sarah will have already done the hard stuff). It was also her idea to have a "sleep under the tree" night just a few days before Christmas. That really builds anticipation in the children. Of course all of these are engineered by us to be focused on Christ and His coming to earth.

We have learned these things by watching godly families around us so maybe my writing will be an encouragement to others, as well.

Barb said...

Why is it a Jesse tree? Sounds like a meaningful time and fun!

Our family will carol and ring the S.A. bell at Krogers' in Spring Meadows this Saturday at 4 to 5 --of course, I'm sure Krogers doesn't want us to block the entry with our singers and our audience!!! I hope it's not against their policy to sing while ringing the bell -- I did it before with the Tomsic family, as I recall. I don't expect an audience, seriously --but hope we aren't viewed as a bottle neck to ban from the premises!

matthew said...

This is from wikipedia:

The secular Christmas Tree, and the Advent calendar, have been adapted in recent years by some modern Christians, who may use the term "Jesse Tree", although the tree does not usually show Jesse or the Ancestors of Christ, and so may have little or no relation to the traditional Tree of Jesse. This form is a poster or a real tree in the church or home, which over the course of Advent is decorated with symbols to represent stories leading up to the Christmas story, for the benefit of children. The symbols are simple, for example a burning bush for Moses and a ram for Isaac.

The name "Jesse Tree" comes from the passage in Isaiah 11 which explains that the Messiah would come from the root of Jesse.

Our children color and decorate paper ornaments with pictures representing people or stories from the Bible. While they decorate, I read the story from the Bible and then talk about how those people or that story looked forward to Christ. Then we tie string to the ornaments and put them on a small Christmas tree. The tree starts out pretty bare, of course, but by Christmas it looks really nice. As we attach an ornament each night, I quiz the children on what the other ornaments stand for and I've been amazed at how the lessons stick with them.

Jeanette said...

What a wonderful way to teach your children the real meaning of Christmas, Matthew, and it takes off the (I think)curse of having a (I think) pagan symbol in the house and makes it Christian.

Congratulations! Please send a photo to Barb when it's decorated so she can post it on her blog if you both don't mind. ;)

Barb said...


Mats said...

Jeanette. . .Christmas in december is in tiself pagan. No one knows what day Jesus Christ was born on, but from the biblical description, most historians believe that his birth probably occurred in September, approximately six months after Passover. One thing they agree on is that it is very unlikely that Jesus was born in December, since the bible records shepherds tending their sheep in the fields on that night. This is quite unlikely to have happened during a cold Judean winter.

In 350, Pope Julius I declared that Christ’s birth would be celebrated on December 25. There is little doubt that he was trying to make it as painless as possible for pagan Romans (who remained a majority at that time) to convert to Christianity. The new religion went down a bit easier, knowing that their pagan feasts would not be taken away from them.

Barb said...

Welcome, Mats in Sweden.

We are all well aware that the date isn't actual and that our holiday celebration has some pagan roots. But that doesn't bother me and mine --we just claim the tree, God's creation for celebration of the baby -- and the celebration of God's winter. And Party Hearty!

The Emperor Constantine was the first to convert, wasn't he --and established religious freedom, I thought --am I wrong? Did all the Romans have to convert when the emperors did? That's what I used to believe until I had to teach a bit about Constantine.

Jeanette said...

I quit putting up Christmas trees in my home several years ago. It doesn't seem normal to have a huge tree in a room in a house. They don't normally grow there. Also the pagan ritual.

I love Christmas Eve because we reflect on the birth of God as a man. It doesn't matter to me what day He was born, but I detest the commercialism of Christmas these days.

I would much rather give to someone who needs basic necessities of life, and, yes a couple of toys for their children.

It makes me feel much better than receiving a gift from someone. In fact, this year I asked my daughter to use whatever money she planned to spend on me and give it to a needy family. Unfortunately, she had already bought my gift.

I doubt that night was silent as Mary was giving birth to a child without the benefit of painkillers mothers get these days and I'm sure she let out a few screams. She was, after all, a very young girl.

No matter the date or the way of celebrating we must remember we are celebrating the arrival of the Prince of Peace and our Redeemer.