Merry Christmas Calvary Church!

You may not have noticed that we have a short Advent Season this year. Usually there are four Advent Sundays and then Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. But this year the fourth Sunday of Advent is Christmas Eve, so we are combining the fourth Sunday of Advent with Christmas Eve and at the Christmas Eve service I will be sharing about God’s Advent Love. Here’s one way we can think about the four Advent themes… Because of the incarnation of Jesus, the Christ we now have an awakened HOPE that gives way to an abiding PEACE, which blossoms into a fragrant JOY that causes the sacrificial LOVE of God to flourish.

Some Christmas Traditions Unpacked (These might be fun to share with your family, friends, and kids…)

  • The Candy Cane — The candy cane was created to honor Jesus. If the traditional candy cane is held upright, it is the shape of a shepherd’s staff, which the shepherd uses to watch over his sheep. Jesus is our Shepherd. If the candy is turned upside down, it becomes the letter J for Jesus. The Bible tells us that by Jesus’ stripes we are healed. Jesus was beaten and stripes were put on His back before He was crucified in payment for our sins. So, the candy cane was made with red and white stripes to represent the blood of Jesus, which washed away our sins and makes us pure and white as snow.
  • Saint Nicholas, Kris Kringle, and Santa Claus — Saint Nicholas was born of wealthy parents in the year 280 in a small town called Patara in Asia Minor. He lost his parents early from an epidemic but not before they had instilled in him the gift of faith. Then little Nicholas went to Myra (renamed Demre in 2005) and lived a life full of sacrifice and love in the spirit of Jesus. Nicholas became so Christ-like that when the town needed a bishop, he was elected. Saint Nicholas was imprisoned for his faith, but later released. There have been many stories of his generosity and compassion: how he was willing to beg for food for the poor, and how he would give girls money so that they would have a dowry to marry. The story most often repeated was how Saint Nicholas would put on a disguise and go out and give gifts to poor children. The story of Saint Nicholas eventually spread around the world. We know him today as Kris Kringle (a U.S. name for Father Christmas) or Santa Claus. What’s most important about Saint Nicholas is that he learned the mind of Christ. Because of his gentle, selfless love, he has touched the whole world.
  • Hanging Stockings — The tradition of hanging stockings on the fireplace can be traced back to a story of a widowed man who was worried he could not provide for his three daughters. St. Nicholas heard about the family’s hardships and filled the daughters’ stockings, which were drying by the fire, with gold coins. The popularity of the tradition, however, can be attributed to Clement Clarke Moore’s poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas” from 1823. A line from the classic poem reads, “[St. Nick] fill’d all the stockings, then turn’d with a jerk,/And laying his finger aside of his nose/And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.” From then on, it was a common practice for children to hang their stockings by the fire on Christmas Eve in the hopes that Santa Claus would fill them with presents.
  • Christmas Gift Giving — From the earliest times of the account of the journey of the Wise Men (or Magi) has been an integral part of the Christmas Season. It was through their love and desire to know the King of Kings that they traveled many miles, even risking their lives in encounters with King Herod, so that they might present their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. In our Christmas Season today we continue that gift giving tradition.
  • The Christmas Tree — The Christmas tree is a symbol of peace and eternal life, representing the Cross, on which hung the Light of the World, reuniting God and humanity in love. The lights of the tree represent Jesus, the light of the world and the ornaments represent us, the offspring of the union between Jesus and His Church. And thus did the Tannenbaum (German for “fir tree” or Christmas tree) become the Christian Christmas tree.
  • Evergreen Christmas Wreaths — The evergreen wreath became an emblem of eternal life and God’s faithfulness to all humanity. Although cold winter kills most plants, the evergreen remains, through it all, the symbol of life. For us, today, it becomes the joyous, happy and aromatic symbol of life eternal in Jesus the Christ. The wreaths have the symbolic significance, and the circle reminds us of the endless love of God, and their green color reminds us of the new life that God gives to us will never die.
  • Poinsettias — The poinsettia has become the traditional Christmas flower. Although it is treasured in all parts of the world as a symbol of Christmas, it can be traced back to an old Mexican legend. A poor peasant girl going to her church to visit the manger scene on Christmas morning was brokenhearted because she had nothing of beauty or value to offer the Christ Child. On her way, she picked some weeds from the side of the road and, as her only possession in the world, laid them at the feet of the statue of Mary. Miraculously, they were transformed into the scarlet brilliance of the poinsettia we know today. The poinsettias remind us of Joel Robert Poinsett, for whom the plant is named. He was born in Charleston in 1759 and was a farmer, botanist, statesman he became the first minister to Mexico from whence he first brought the plant to Charleston in 1829. Now it is used throughout the world at Christmastime. The bright, blood-red poinsettia has become the most popular of all Christmas flowers. The star of the leaf is said to represent the star that stood over the Christ Child. The red flower stands for the blood of the male infants that King Herod had killed. The red flower also represents the shed blood of Christ who came to be our Savior.
  • Christmas Carolers — Ever since the first Christmas night when the angel choir sang of them coming of the Savior to the shepherds, Christmas’ have been heralded with the singing of carols. Although the words of carols may vary, the essence of the message is the same. The practice of caroling from house to house is still one of the most treasured customs of all.
  • The Advent Wreath – symbolizes several things: The evergreen, which represents everlasting life found in Jesus. The circle of the wreath symbolizes life without end. The candles also remind us of Jesus, the light of the world. Within the wreath, there are usually three purple candles, one rose-colored candle, and one large white candle. The first purple candle, representing royalty (HOPE), remaining two purple candles, representing humility (PEACE) and penitence (JOY). The rose-colored candle, representing joy and happiness (LOVE), is lit the fourth Sunday and the tall white candle, placed in the center, is lit on Christmas Eve to symbolize God’s extraordinary light that has indeed come to this dark world.

See you on Sunday afternoon – and bring your family, or perhaps a few friends!

Pastor Gregg