Category Archives: Faith

Reflections on Epiphany

On January 6, the 12th day of Christmas, we celebrate Epiphany. The word “Epiphany” comes from the Greek word, epiphaneia, which means “that which is revealed” or “the manifestation.” This day celebrates the time that Mary and Joseph were visited by three Magi, referred to in some traditions as wise men or kings. In Spanish-speaking countries, at least at one time, this was the day that children received Christmas presents, not from Santa, but from the three Wise Men. In other countries, this day is celebrated with a King Cake, such as in France, the Galette des Rois.

In the United States, perhaps, this day has dwindled in importance next to the festivities of Christmas and not many people I know of celebrate it any more.

But we should revive that custom, and honor it! because it was an important occasion in the life of the young Christ child. Here is an illustration of their journey from one of my childhood books, The Christmas Story, illustrated by Eloise Wilkin.

The magi, as you doubtless know, followed a star to see the newborn king that their studies had revealed. At that time, Persian priests studied astrology and it’s possible that these visitors from the East were members of this group.

They brought gifts of gold, frankincense of myrrh. But their greatest gift was a warning. They had discerned that Herod had malevolent intentions. They were able to warn Mary and Joseph to take their child and leave the country. This warning saved the life of the young Jesus. Here is the story, as recounted by Matthew.

The Magi Visit the Messiah

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.”

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.

There is so much to unpack in this story of joy and fear. You recall that Joseph received a divine message in a dream. And then the Magi also received the blessing of a divine message in a dream. All of these, and other events, converged to ensure that a little child survived to fulfill his destiny.

Tonight, let’s give thanks for the kind and brave Magi. And let’s also reflect about what meaning this story may hold in this new year.

The Magi were studious, wise, discerning, committed, courageous and generous. They turned away from the power and influence of Herod, possibly at risk to their own lives, to do the right thing by the Holy Family. Above all, they had faith.

How can you emulate the values of the Magi in your own life?

  • What can you take from this story that would be relevant to your own life?
  • Epiphany, as mentioned, means “reveal” or “manifest.” This marks a time in the life of Jesus when he was revealed to be more than an ordinary child. What is being revealed to you at this time? What will you manifest in the new year?
  • In your lifetime, which wise helpers set you on a safe path?
  • What gifts were you given to ensure your way was smooth?
  • Who has believed in you and your future?

Here is a carol about the Magi; one of my favorite carols, since I was very young. It is the 12th day of Christmas and not too late for one more carol as we end the Christmas season. I am sure you agree with me that these unsung heroes need to be sung! I hope you enjoy it and find meaning and hope in it. God bless you.

1 We three kings of Orient are;
bearing gifts we traverse afar,
field and fountain, moor and mountain,
following yonder star.

O star of wonder, star of light,
star with royal beauty bright,
westward leading, still proceeding,
guide us to thy perfect light.

2 Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain,
Gold I bring to crown him again,
King forever, ceasing never,
over us all to reign. [Refrain]

3 Frankincense to offer have I;
incense owns a Deity nigh;
prayer and praising, voices raising,
worshiping God on high. [Refrain]

4 Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume
breathes a life of gathering gloom;
sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
sealed in the stone-cold tomb. [Refrain]

5 Glorious now behold him arise;
King and God and sacrifice:
Alleluia, Alleluia,
sounds through the earth and skies. [Refrain]


Reflections on the Fourth Sunday of Advent: The Story of the Shepherds

Today is the fourth Sunday of Advent. For the past three Sundays,  I have shared passages from the Bible that relate the experiences of Mary and Joseph, as well as the story of the birth of Christ. Today, let’s recall the story of the shepherds. Like Mary and Joseph before them, the shepherds received the uncommon blessing of an angelic visitation.

Luke 2:9 – 20 Annunciation to the Shepherds

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 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.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Tiffany window, shepherds

Tiffany stained glass window, Annunciation to the Shepherds

It is strange and beautiful, is it not? Angels visited Joseph and Mary, but to our knowledge, the only other people they sought out to tell the joyful news of the birth of Jesus were a group of shepherds. The angels did not appear to priests or kings, they did not even appear to the wise men — they followed a star.

What can it all mean?

I am struck by the line “just as they had been told.” The shepherds faithfully reported what they had been told by the angels. Had the angels trusted them to do just that? Surely, had they appeared to a figure of state or a high priest, there would be some danger of that person turning the events to his or her advantage, or reshaping the story, or seeking some kind of personal glory in it.

But there was no danger of that with the shepherds. Reliability was central to their profession. They had nothing to gain, so they were simply truthful and reverent.

If you can, tonight, as the sun sets, find some place where you can be quiet. If you like, light a candle, or light four candles for the four Sundays of Advent. Meditate on the story of the shepherds, how they were visited by angels and the journey they undertook.

As I have done with previous posts, I’d like to share an image from one of my childhood books, The Christmas Story, illustrated by Eloise Wilkin, that depicts this scene.

Have angels appeared in your life, perhaps in less overt ways and forms?

When has your heart been called to take action, and to what purpose? How did that feel? How did you know what to do?

In what ways can you emulate the truthfulness and diligence of the shepherds?

Reflect on any messages this story has for you today. And this evening, if the weather permits it, step quietly outside, just for a moment, to listen to the singing of the stars.

Carol: Angels We Have Heard On High (from the traditional French carol)

Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o’er the plains
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains
Gloria in excelsis Deo!
Gloria in excelsis Deo!

Shepherds, why this jubilee?
Why your joyous strains prolong?
What the gladsome tidings be?
Which inspire your heavenly songs?
Gloria in excelsis Deo!
Gloria in excelsis Deo!

Come to Bethlehem and see
Him whose birth the angels sing;
Come, adore on bended knee,
Christ the Lord, the newborn King.
Gloria in excelsis Deo!
Gloria in excelsis Deo!

See Him in a manger laid
Whom the choirs of angels praise;
Mary, Joseph, lend your aid,
While our heart in love we raise.
Gloria in excelsis Deo!
Gloria in excelsis Deo!

Please join me on January 6 for another reading, this one on the Three Magi, on Epiphany.

The Observance of 🕎 Hanukkah 🕎

Tonight marks the first of the eight days and nights of Hanukkah.

This year, the observance of Hanukkah runs through the evening of December 26. One of the first things people who aren’t Jewish notice about Hanukkah is that it does not seem to occur on the same date each year. But Hanukkah does fall on the same date each year on the Jewish calendar, which is based on the lunar cycle. The Gregorian calendar we are most familiar with is based on solar cycle. Easter is also based on the lunar calendar, by the way. So, that is why Hanukkah does not fall on the same date each year on our regular calendars.

Hanukkah is an annual Jewish holiday, also known as the Festival of Lights. The word Hanukkah means “dedication.” The holiday celebrates a miracle that happened in the 2nd century B.C. Greece then ruled Jerusalem and the ruler took over the Jewish temple and had it rededicated to Zeus. The Maccabees fought this and reclaimed the Temple. They wanted to re-consecrate their temple but there was only one small jar left of holy oil. They found, however, after lighting the temple Menorah, that the oil lasted long enough to burn for eight nights, until more oil could be had.

Photo by RODNAE Productions on

Hanukkah became a festive holiday in the U.S. partly in response to a desire to supply Jewish children with a fun celebration of their own to identify with at a time when Christmas festivities were prevalent. Customs include treats cooked with oil, lighting a menorah each night, recitations, parties, songs and games. Some also decorate and exchange gifts and cards.

Some Hanukkah traditions you may know include

  • Menorah a sacred candelabrum with symbolic meaning, including the seven days of creation plus the Sabbath, the Tree of Light, areas of knowledge and the eight days of Hanukkah.
  • Blue and white came to be associated with Hanukkah in the US in the 20th century as the demand for greeting cards and party supplies grew. The colors refer to the flag of Israel, which became a state in 1948. In lights and decorations, the blue and white colors help distinguish Hanukkah items from the traditional red and green colors of Christmas.
  • Latkes potato pancakes fried in oil and often served with apple sauce and sour cream.
  • Sufganiot donuts filled with jelly, fried in hot oil and covered with sugar.

    Photo by cottonbro on

  • Dreidl and Gelt. A dreidl is a game piece, similar to dice, wth four sides. The Hebrew letters correspond to a statement along the lines of “a miracle happened there,” referring to the miracle of Hanukkah. Each player puts an item in the pot (e.g., pennies, raisins or “gelt’ – chocolate money). The players take turns spinning the dreidl and the side it lands on determines whether It  player wins the whole pot, part of it, none of it or has to share from his stash.

    Photo by cottonbro on

You know how I feel about Christmas movies, so you also know I am going to talk about Hanukkah movies! A delightful movie exploring Hanukkah customs is Mistletoe and Menorahs. You can rent it on YouTube. Here’s the trailer. And the dreamy star, Jake Epstein, also appears in the 2021 Hanukkah movie The Eight Gifts of Hanukkah, available for purchase on Amazon Prime Video, if you are interested. Happy Hanukkah!

Reflections on the 3rd Sunday of Advent: a Child is Born

Today is the third Sunday in Advent. I have shared passages from the Bible that relate to the individual, personal experiences of Mary and of Joseph. Now, let us read the story of their experience together and the story of the Nativity. They say Luke may have actually spoken to Mary and heard her account of the events that transpired. Read what he had to say…

The Gospel of Luke: 2-7 The Birth of Jesus

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.

If you can, tonight, as the sun sets, find some place where you can be quiet. Light a candle, if you like, or light three candles for the third Sunday of Advent. Meditate on the story of the birth of Jesus.

It is such a little story and yet, it is so huge in its significance, so huge that, even now when I think about it, I get a lump in my throat. Do you remember the first time it was told to you? Here is an illustration from one of my childhood books, The Christmas Story, illustrated by Eloise Wilkin.

There is something in this story, I think, that almost everyone can relate to on some level. I always loved it but when I brought my infant son home from the NICU in early December 1998, it really resonated with me in a different way. And perhaps that message changes as we accumulate years and life experiences. What message surfaces today for you?

Here is a carol for this evening.

O Little Town of Bethlehem (American carol, Phillips Brooks,1868)

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.

O morning stars, together proclaim the holy birth,
and praises sing to God the King and peace to men on earth;
For Christ is born of Mary; and, gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondring love’.

How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is giv’n!
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heav’n.
No ear may hear his coming; but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him, still the dear Christ enters in.

O holy child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray,
Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today,
We hear the Christmas angels, the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel.

Reflections on the Second Sunday of Advent: the Story of Joseph

Today is the second Sunday in Advent. Today, let’s read the story of Joseph and how he was visited by an angel in a dream.

The Gospel of Matthew 1: 18 – 25. Joseph’s dream experience.

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.

19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet[e] did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

That’s a pretty powerful story, isn’t it?

If you can, tonight, as the sun sets, find some place where you can be quiet. If you like, light a candle, or light two candles for the 2nd Sunday in Advent.

Joseph was blessed with clear and unequivocal spiritual guidance when facing a difficult decision, but we are rarely in so fortunate a position when we have to make decisions that could change our lives. Not that his path was an easy one.

It occurs to me that so much in life is showing up. Working, making sure our loved ones are fed, warm and safe. The day to day things we do for love. By themselves, they may not seem that earth-shaking. But what Joseph did enabled a miracle. Joseph showed up. He worked, paid his taxes, and made sure his loved ones had what they needed. Does that sound familiar to you?

I’d like to share another illustration from The Christmas Story, illustrated by Eloise Wilkin. Perhaps this image will help you meditate on the story of Joseph.

Has there been a time when the wise words of another helped you see another perspective? What role does prayer play in your life when facing tough choices? What meaning does Joseph’s story have for you?

Here is a carol for this evening.

When Joseph Was an Old Man – (Traditional)
When Joseph was an old man, and an old man was he
He wedded Virgin Mary the queen of Galilee
He wedded Virgin Mary the queen of Galilee

When Joseph was married and brought Mary home
Mary was with child and Joseph hadn’t known
Mary was with child and Joseph hadn’t known

As they went a-walking through the garden so green
There were cherries and berries hanging from a tree
There were cherries and berries hanging from a tree

Up then bespoke Mary, so meek and so mild
Saying, “Joseph, pluck some cherries, for I am with child”
Saying, “Joseph, pluck some cherries, for I am with child”

In anger spoke Joseph, in anger spoke he
“Let the father of your baby pick cherries for thee”
“Let the father of your baby pick cherries for thee”

Then out spoke baby Jesus, from his mother’s womb
“Mary shall have cherries and Joseph shall have none”
“Mary shall have cherries and Joseph shall have none”

Then down bowed the cherry tree all down to the ground
And Mary plucked cherries while Joseph stood around
And Mary plucked cherries while Joseph stood around

As Joseph was a-walking he heard angels sing
“This night shall be born our heavenly king”
“This night shall be born our heavenly king”

Reflections on the First Sunday of Advent: Mary’s Story

Today is the first Sunday in Advent. As you know, the four Sundays in Advent before Christmas Day recount various messages from the Bible, not just the Christmas story. But I am going to depart from that tradition, because, after all, I am not a minister or priest. I would like to share some sections of the Bible that relate to the Christmas story. Perhaps it will give you something to ponder as we approach Christmas Day.

Today, let’s read the story of Mary, and how she learned that she was to have a baby.

The Gospel According to Luke 1:26-38 – The Annunciation

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 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, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be calledthe Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

I have always liked this story. I remember first reading about it in the Little Golden book, The Christmas Story, illustrated by Eloise Wilkin. I have it; here is the illustration that shows Mary talking with the angel Gabriel.

Tonight, as the sun sets, find some place where you can be quiet. If you like, light a candle; the first candle for the first Sunday in Advent. White roses and lilies are symbolic of Mary. Perhaps, add some next to your candle, or leave some at a statue honoring Mary (there is one on Broad Street in Falls Church).

Meditate on the story of Mary and how it may relate to your life or inspire you.

  • Mary was meek but brave. Think about a time when you showed faith and courage in the face of uncertainty.
  • Has there ever been anyone who has played the role of Gabriel in your life?
  • Did you ever come to a path in your experience where the direction you were to take was abundantly clear? What was that like?
  • Does any part of this story resonate with you today?
  • How can you honor Mary in your heart?

Here is a carol for today.

Gabriel’s Message  (Basque carol, traditional)

The angel Gabriel from heaven came
His wings as drifted snow
His eyes as flame
“All hail” said he “thou lowly maiden Mary
Most highly favored lady,
Gloria, Gloria

“For known a blessed mother thou shalt be
All generations laud and honor thee
Thy Son shall be Emanuel
By seers foretold
Most highly favored maid,
Gloria, Gloria

Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head
“To me be as it pleaseth God, ” she said,
“My soul shall laud and magnify His holy name.”
Most highly favored lady,
Gloria, Gloria

The Tradition of Epiphany Celebrations

Today, January 6, is Epiphany. It is the last day of the Christmas season and is also known as Three Kings Day and Twelth Night, depending on the country and custom. To celebrate this day in a meaningful way, in this post, I will share information about the three kings, an excerpt from the Bible about their visit to the Christ child, some customs associated with Epiphany, a short story about one of these customs and a carol. Enjoy!

Origin of Epiphany

Like many Christian holidays, Epiphany has ancient origins. In pre-Christian times, Egyptians drew water from the Nile for holy water, as it was considered to be purest on January 6. This festival became associated with the baptism of Christ when Egyptians converted to Christianity. Four hundred years after Christ died, the date of December 25 was fixed as the date of his birth and Christmas began to be celebrated as an important Christian observance, heavily influenced by existing stories and customs, and the date of January 6 soon became marked as the finale of the Christmas festival.

The Gospel According to Matthew

The Biblical account of the journey and visit of the three wise men is as follows:

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the King, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem.

Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

When Herod the king heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

And when he had gathered the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should  be born.

And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet.

And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.

And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.

When they had heard the king, they departed, and lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.

And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

And when they were departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.

When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt.

The Three Kings

Three Magi, or wise men, were said to visit Jesus. In the early Christian times, they were deonoted as Kings although they were not known to have dominions. Magi were Persian priests, scientists and astrologers who had observed the stars on the night of Jesus’ birth. Legend has it that they brought three gifts to the Christ child.

  • Balthazar, from Ethiopia, brought frankincense. Frankincenes is an incense that was used in relgious rites. The symbolism is that the child was acknowledged as a future priest.
  • Melchior, from Arabia or India, brougt gold. Gold was a tribute to a young king.
  • Caspar, possibly Greek, brought myrrh. Myrrh was an incense and ointment. It was a symbol of a healer.

Although I do not know if it is still done today, in some countries, it was the custom in the past for boys or men to dress up as the Three Kings and process or deliver gifts. We are accustomed to our children receiving gifts on Christmas Day but in those countries, Kings brought the gifts, just as they did to the Christ Child, on January 6. In Italy, La Befana, an old woman, delivers the gifts that day.

We Three Kings

One of my favorite carols is We Three Kings. I like how the melody sounds like the slow plodding of camels and kings on their way to Bethlehem. Listen to the carol as sung by the great jazz singer and Virginian Ella Fitzgerald.

Three Young Kings

The beautiful and moving short story, Three Young Kings, written by George Sumner Albee in 1956, describes the procession of the Three Kings in a Cuban town. You can listen to it here or read the text here.

The King Cake

In France, they still celebrate Epiphany with a King Cake. A delicious pastry is topped with a golden crown. Whomever finds the baby inside is king for a day. This tradition has continued in New Orleans, although now King Cakes are more associated with Mardi Gras.

You can order and buy delicious, French-style King Cakes or King Cake slices at the franchise restaurant, La Madeleine, typically through January 6, while supplies last.

Farewell until November!

For many years, my Christmas has extended past New Year’s until January 6, when I wistfully take down my tree and put away my Christmas decorations. Epiphany also marks the last day of the season I post on Cool Yule. Please visit often and come back for new content about the winter holidays in November 2022. May God bless you and keep you all year. — Mary

The story of the birth of Christ

On Christmas Day, one year, I listened to a rector talk about the beautiful story of the birth of Christ in his sermon. Whether or not it is completely true was immaterial, he said. He referred to the meaning of the story and its timelessness.

I agreed with him, but all my life, even when I doubted the existence of God himself, I believed this story happened. It seems too wonderful to not be true. But as the rector stated, that isn’t truly the point. We don’t know the exact date Christ was born and other details are lost to history. The point is that the wrondrous story of the birth of Christ is a story of love, reverence, faith, difficulty, sacrifice and miracles. And that is a story that every person can relate to on some level.

Let’s remember the night the angels sang…

Let’s remember what happened in a little town, as related in the Gospel of Luke. Merry Christmas.

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of Davdi, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David: )

To be taxed with Mary, his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

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

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known to us.

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

The Observance of Advent

You may have heard of Advent, and you may have had an Advent calendar as a child. But do you know what Advent means?

Advent is a Christmas tradition and liturgical practice that marks the days of waiting before the birth of Jesus Christ.

Since early Christian times, it has taken place on the four Sundays before Christmas. The first Sunday of Advent is the first day of the Christmas season of religious observance and also the first day of the Christian liturgical year.

That day is today. Today is the first Sunday of Advent.

The last day of the Christmas celebration is Epiphany, in many traditions, which is January 6, and celebrates the day the Wise Men came to visit the baby Jesus.

You have heard of the 12 days of Christmas? Those are the 12 days between Christmas and Epiphany.

The Advent Candles and Wreath

Some families have an advent wreath at home. When they do, it’s traditional to gather reverently to light a candle on the evening of each of the four Sundays preceding Christmas. Candles also appear at Sunday services in the churches of many denominations. The candles are often placed in a wreath of greenery and represents God’s never-ending love.The wreath is a custom that comes from Germany, like the Christmas tree.

On the first Sunday you light one candle, the second Sunday, two candles, and so on.

While the traditional colors of Christmas are red and green, Advent candles are often purple (the first two and fourth Sundays) and pink (the third Sunday). The clergy’s vestments during Advent are also purple and rose on these days. But there are different colors and customs. Some candles are all red, all white or other colors.

Meanings of the Four Advent Candles

The candles have different meanings and tell, sequentially, the story of Christmas.

  • The first candle is called the “Prophet’s Candle” and represents hope. The prophets of the Old Testament waited in hope for the arrival of the prophesied Messiah. The first, second and fourth candles are often purple, but in some denominations, they are blue. Purple represents penitence (and is also used during Lent), while blue represents hope and expectation.
  • The second candle is “Bethlehem’s Candle.” The candle represents the faith that Jews held that a Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.
  • The third candle is the “Shepherd’s Candle.” It represents joy, the joy the shepherds had when the angels came to them to tell them that Jesus was born. This candle is pink. It is pink, because in liturgy, the color pink stands for joy. The joy is the anticipation of the birth of Jesus and the arrival of the Messiah. This service or Mass is also usually a joyful one.
  • The fourth candle the “Angel’s Candle.” It represents peace. The angels told that Jesus had come to bring peace to all people.
  • Sometimes, people or churches add a fifth candle, in the middle of the wreath and light in on Christmas Day. This one is usually white and is is called “Christ’s candle.” The candle represents the purity of Christ. It is also the color of celebration in the church, so vestments are white on Christmas and Easter.

Advent is a lovely, quiet and reverent tradition to add to your celebration of Christmas.