Welcome, dear Friends and Neighbors,
It was an old tradition in my family while I was growing up to comemorate the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. This old tradition is often known as Advent and has everything to do with preparing hearts and minds for not just the celebration of Christ's First Coming, but also anticipates the Lord's Second Coming. We had an Advent Wreath, which is a centerpiece containing 5 candles. On each Sunday leading up to Christmas, we'd light a new candle and read from the Bible. That accounts for 4 candles, the fifth is lit on Christmas Eve.
Each candle symbolizes something different. For instance, the first candle is called the Prophets Candle and represents Hope, the hope that Christ would come to fulfill the ancient prophecies. The second candle is called the Bethlehem Candle and honors the place prepared for Christ's birth. The third or Shepherd's Candle represents the humble in heart who would receive Him. The Fourth candle is the Angels Candle, symbolizing the angels who proclaimed Christ's birth. The fifth and final candle, often located in the middle of the wreath, is lit on Christmas Eve to celebrate Christ's birth. What I love most about the wreath is that on each succeeding Sunday, as more candles are lit, the wreath gives off greater and greater light until the night we celebrate the birth of the true Light of the World.
There are many Christmas traditions throughout the world. I am sure we all have many different ways of celebrating, depending on our heritage and spiritual believes. I am especially drawn to those that celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, our Savior.
In honor of the first Sunday of Advent today, I am sharing a Christmas story which reflects the meaning of the first candle - HOPE.
Hope in a Box
An inexplicable reminder of God's love helped me face my first Christmas without my parents...
The large cardboard box sat on the floor, untouched. It was the day after Thanksgiving, when I usually decorate the house for Christmas, but I wasn’t in the holiday spirit. It would be my first Christmas without Mom. She passed away a few months earlier after a long battle with breast cancer. And my beloved stepfather died just two years before her. Losing them both was harder than anything I’d ever gone through. Opening that box—filled with their favorite holiday decorations—would be another reminder that they were no longer with me.
The Nativity! I’ll start with that, I thought, pulling it down from the attic. The porcelain Hummel Nativity scene, a gift from my brother-in-law and his wife, was my favorite decoration. Each year they gave my husband, Peter, and I a new piece until the set was complete. There were stately wise men, shepherds, Mary, Joseph and a sleeping baby Jesus along with a donkey, cow and baby lamb. Maybe it sounds strange, but I’d always felt like it was missing something, I just couldn’t imagine what.An hour later, I’d covered the tree in lights and tinsel, framed the doors in garland, and hung the stockings. I guess I can’t put this off much longer, I thought, opening the box of Mom and Dad’s decorations.
Inside lay homemade and hand-blown glass ornaments, wooden toy soldiers—dozens of decorations from my childhood, each one a memory of happier times. Oh, how I missed my parents! Lord, help me to know they are still with me.
After I’d finished decorating, I reached back inside the box to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. What’s that? I thought, feeling another, smaller, box way down at the bottom. I pulled it out, opened the top and unfolded the faded yellow tissue paper. There, in the palm of my hand, sat two porcelain angels I’d never seen before. Hummel figurines meant to go with a set. I put the angels in the Nativity scene. Now it was complete. The angels were a perfect match, and a heaven-sent gift from Mom and Dad.
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Have a lovely Sabbath!