Sunday, December 6, 2009

Second Sunday in Advent and Saint Nicholas' Day

Today marks the Second Sunday in Advent. At our church home, Lake Murray Community Church, the Bethlehem Candle was lit, and Micah 5:2-4 was read aloud:

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has given birth;
then the rest of his brothers shall return
to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth.

At Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity, my second church home, the second candle was also lit, and my favorite Collect from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer was prayed:

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 Epistle and Gospel readings are as follows:

The Epistle
Romans xv. 4.
WHATSOEVER things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: that ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God. Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: and that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people. And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people. And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust. Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
The Gospel
St. Luke xxi. 25.
AND there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; when they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.
And today also marks the Feast of Saint Nicholas.

We celebrate the "true" Saint Nicholas, not the modern "Santa Claus" version. The below information is from the Saint Nicholas Center:

The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to the those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.

Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned. The prisons were so full of bishops, priests, and deacons, there was no room for the real criminals—murderers, thieves and robbers. After his release, Nicholas attended the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. He died December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church, where a unique relic, called manna, formed in his grave. This liquid substance, said to have healing powers, fostered the growth of devotion to Nicholas. The anniversary of his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day.

One of the legends that surround the historical figure of Saint Nicholas reveals his generosity. A friend of his had three lovely daughters, but he was too poor to provide them with dowries; without the chance of marriage, the daughters would be forced into prostitution. Nicholas apparently tossed gold coins for dowries through the daughters' windows where they fell into shoes on the hearth and stockings that were hung to dry. And thus the tradition of hanging stockings or putting out shoes (the European version) on Christmas Eve was begun.

We celebrate Saint Nicholas as a family by giving chocolate coins, often in the kids' shoes or spread on their places at the kitchen table. And we also pray for generous hearts and the ability to see and care for the needs of others. One of our favorite resources is a book that may be out of print, but it's terrific, especially if younger children are part of your family. Celebrating the Christian Year by Martha Zimmerman relates the different legends, history, and traditions regarding Saint Nicholas and also has some wonderful Advent material as well, plus celebrations for Saint Lucia's Day, Epiphany, Saint Valentine's Day, Holy Week, Easter, etc. In addition to information, the book includes craft ideas and recipes that, as the subtitle reminds us, aid us in "building family traditions around all the major Christian holidays."

And that is what we have striven to do for and with our children as they grow up. With our youngest turning ten tomorrow, I know all too well that the time we have them home is short, especially if Elizabeth decides to live in the dorms next year when she starts college. So this may be our last year to celebrate the liturgical year with the entire family, and I hope to make the most of it.

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