Sunday, December 9, 2007

Second Sunday in Advent

It's been an eventful week in Advent. We celebrated St. Nicholas Day on Thursday the 6th with the story of the real St. Nicholas who lived in the early 4th century and was a generous giver to people in his community. The story goes that a friend of his lost all his money when his merchant ships sunk, and the merchant's daughters, three beautiful young women, were left without dowries, which were needed in order for them to marry. Desiring to help the family anonymously, St. Nicholas tossed gold coins through the oldest daughter's open window during the night, and the coins fell into her shoes and stockings that were drying on the hearth, where she found them the next morning. So THAT's why we hang stockings on our hearths for "Santa" to fill! Our kids woke up on St. Nicholas' Day to find chocolate coins in their Christmas stockings which they were allowed to eat after I read them the above story. The spirit of giving came from a real-life saint who delighted in giving rather than receiving, a good lesson for us all and especially for kids who tend to get just a wee bit greedy this time of year.

The day after St. Nicholas' Day is the feast day of Saint Ambrose, the patron saint Father Acker chose when he was first ordained twenty-five years ago Friday. St. Ambrose was known as such a wonderful preacher of God's Word that he was said to be "honey-tongued." His symbol is the bee, and as Father Acker keeps bees in his yard, all seems to fit together beautifully.

Today marks the Second Sunday in Advent, and the Collect for this day is my favorite prayer of Advent. In fact, I love this prayer so much that I use it as my e-mail signature throughout Advent. It reads:

Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

The second Advent candle was lit today -- three times for us, in fact. In Sunday School we lit the Bethlehem candle, and then did so again in the church service at Lake Murray. And after dinner tonight the kids and I gathered around the Advent wreath that graces our kitchen table, and E lit the two candles for our family celebration.

The reading for the Second Sunday in Advent is Micah 5:2-4:

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.... He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. And he will be their peace.

The Bethlehem Candle reminds us that our Lord Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, was born in the smallest, poorest part of Israel, in a place that Pastor Rollo once called "a podunk town." Not only was He born in a stable alongside humble barn animals and was laid in a rough feeding trough, but this stable was located in the poorest area of Israel. Our Lord arrived on this earth in the humblest of circumstances in every way which emphasizes even more what He left behind Him as King of Heaven and Earth. So His humility can be our humility during this Advent season -- a reminder that these Holy Days are not about gifts and parties but is all about loving and serving in kindness and humility of heart, word, and action.

O King of all nations, Jesus Christ,
only joy of every heart,
come and save your people. Amen.

A blessed Advent from our family to yours!

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