Stephanie’s Blog

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Welcome to the 12 Days of Christmas!

December 27th, 2011 by stephanie

Happy Christmastide!
For those of you into holiday trivia or history, the fun has just begun. Few realize in today’s culture, that the 12 Days of Christmas, actually began on Christmas Day. And day 12 arrives on January 5 — the day many of you recognize as Epiphany.

Our Colonial forefathers were English, and they brought quite a few holiday traditions with them to our shores. One of those traditions was a homemade wreath that was made from greenery and any special fruits that might be available. Making the wreaths was one of the traditions of Christmas Eve. It was hung on your front door beginning on Christmas Night (1st night of Christmas) through Twelfth Night or Epiphany morning. Meanwhile, back in England, all decorations would be taken down by Epiphany morning.

And here’s an extra scoop, a special cake, the king cake, was also baked at that time for Epiphany. But we’ll talk more about that later.

For now, hope your Christmas was very merry, and for now, a VERY happy New Year.

Best,

S.

Did You Know about this Christmas in History?

December 21st, 2011 by stephanie

300px-Washington_Crossing_the_Delaware_by_Emanuel_Leutze,_MMA-NYC,_1851

It was Christmas night. The year? 1776.

It was winter and visions of sugar plums most likely danced in their weary heads as they longed for the warmth of hearth and home far away. Many were in shredded clothes, and most without shoes in the midst of a winter gale of rain, sleet, ice and snow. The secret orders called for the men to muster near the river at midnight. The crossing, that would take all night, awaited them. They did not sleep. Fishermen, now soldiers, rowed back and forth all night long, in silence, ferrying soldiers to the other side. Awaiting them would be a nine mile march over frozen roads. But in the end. They were victorious. A surprise attack by this surly bunch on the thoroughbred Hessian army (who slept soundly due to having celebrated Christmas late into the night) led to a spectacular victory at Trenton, New Jersey, the following morning. Those were indeed times, as Thomas Paine would write, that ‘try men’s souls’.”

It is very difficult to imagine any man, let alone those soldiers committing body and mind to the utmost in those excruciatingly cold and exhausting conditions. What would possess those men to press on rather than run or retreat? Perhaps something deep in their souls. Maybe an amazing trust in, and loyalty to, their leader or, their acute awareness of the immense task they had undertaken for a new country. Committed to the end. With God’s blessing. They turned pain into purpose and they conquered.

Newt Gingrich in a holiday article shares “In a season that has become too commercialized and — worse yet — had much of its religious meaning driven from the public square, Washington’s Christmas crossing is a story that should be remembered and celebrated, this Christmas and every Christmas. Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Christ, to be with family and friends, and, I would add, to give thanks to God for those who endured so much on that Christmas night, 234 years ago.”

I couldn’t say it better myself. On this Christmas night, may we all pause and remember. I would bet, too, that those men had our Lord on their minds that night. And their hearts and bodies found strength in the prayers they breathed as they rowed or wondered how they could endure that next painful step. They knew their families were gathered around trees at home and in the morning would head off to church in celebration. The Spirit of Christ and Christmas was with surely them then, and that same Spirit is with us this season.

Whatever river you may need to cross in the days ahead, know that He is with you today and He will be with you tomorrow. You and I can and will endure. Thanks to His blessing, His Providence and the strength He sends our way. May we cross over and into victory.

Merry Christmas.

Stephanie

Advent: Light the 4th Candle this Sunday.

December 15th, 2011 by stephanie

The season of Anticipation is just about to hit a high note. This Sunday, we will finally light that pink candle in the wreathe that we’ve all been looking at and wondering about. So, here it is. The scoop on the Rose Colored Candle.

It’s apparently known as the angels‘ candle, symbolising the angelic proclamation of joy at Christ’s birth .

Now, I have a surprise for you. If you like, there’s one more candle we can add and light together after this Sunday. A fifth candle. Let me tell you about it. You can put it in the center of your wreath, and they usually suggest that it be white. It is the “Christ Candle”.   It can be lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.  

Just so you know, there are a variety of ways to celebrate advent and the tradition of the wreath. You may not celebrate the same way as your neighbor, but don’t let that throw you.  Get a green wreathe (green represents eternity), try to find three purple candles, one pink and one white, and you are good to go for next year if you weren’t able to join us this year. (They’ll be on special after the holidays if you want to prepare for next year now. 🙂

It’s hard to believe that it’s almost here! The culmination of everything we’ve been looking forward to – together. And I can tell you, it’s been very special to share my annual tradition with YOU.

So, here’s to what has been, is, and is to come. 
S.

Advent: Light the 3rd Candle this Sunday!

December 8th, 2011 by stephanie

This Sunday actually has a name.

It’s called Gaudete Sunday. And a very big $3 prize for whoever got that word right.
For those of you new to this blog, welcome. We’ve been taking a look at Advent (the season of anticiption) this month, with a few sidebars along the way.

If Advent is a bit new to you, here’s the deal. This coming Sunday, churches and homes around the world will light the third candle in that pretty Advent wreath.

If you’re into colors and symbolism of the season, the last two candles that were lit during the past two Sundays, were purple.

This week? A rose colored candle will be lit.  This is called the JOY candle.

But, back to Gaudete. You will find that it comes from the latin phrase
“Gaudete in Domino semper” – translation: Rejoice in the Lord always.
Thus our candle of Joy.
[You Marines caught that word Semper, at least? Semper Fi = Always Faithful.]

Anyway…in certain High Church environments, the priest will even change from his purple vestments of the past two weeks into rose colored ones. The church as a whole will move from a season of fasting and repentance into one of joy.

So, if you see any of these symbols or colors in wreaths this coming weekend, you will certainly feel more “in the know”.  If anything, that will put a smile on your face. And if you have a moment, why not read Luke Chapter 2.

Rejoice!

Just my thoughts,
Stephanie

Don’t Forget…December 7th. Do you know?

December 7th, 2011 by stephanie

Location: America

Date: December 7

Clue: the year was 1941…

I was remembering the other day that back when I was in high school, I used to jog around my neighborhood in order to keep in shape. My route usually took me past this one particular house with an RV (recreational vehicle) in the driveway that had a “Pearl Harbor Survivor” license plate. Try as I might, I never saw the resident of the home. One sunny day however, as I came plodding down the sidewalk, to my utter surprise, there was the veteran out washing the RV. My time had finally come.

Carefully approaching him, I pointed to the license plate and our conversation began. “We didn’t sleep for days. We worked with one hand, and ate and took care of personals with the other.” He recalled. I could see the memories flashing before his eyes as his face changed shape while he spoke. I was mesmerized. He’d been there. He knew. And I wanted to hear anything he would be willing to share.

If you don’t recall the significance of 12/7/41, let me refresh your memory. For you younger set, 9/11/01 was not the first time we’ve been attacked on American soil.

Men sleeping soundly aboard U.S. ships suddenly found themselves trying to make sense of what they soon realized were the sounds of alarms, bombs exploding, and gunfire. Dressing as they ran to General Quarters stations they would hear the now famous message, “Air raid Pearl Harbor. This is not drill.” Sadly, ammunition lockers were locked, aircraft parked wingtip to wingtip in the open to deter sabotage, guns sat unmanned. Men were ashore, on leave, resting. But those on board and able to assist fought and worked valiantly.

Those on duty in that sunny paradise never saw it coming. Rumor says a person or two had wind of the notion, but we as a nation, never acted on the data. The Japanese had called the secret mission that came in three successful waves, Hawaii OperationOperation Z. The target? The United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Target date? The morning of December 7, 1941.

It was that surprise attack that ultimately threw our country into the very war we were trying to avoid: World War II. The enemy was strategic and deadly. 353 Japanese planes were launched from six aircraft carriers that day. They sank four U.S. Navy battleships while damaging four others. They also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, one minelayer, and 188 aircraft. When the toll was taken, the U.S. listed 2,402 killed and 1,282 wounded.

The Japanese only lost 29 aircraft, five midget submarines, and 65 servicemen killed or wounded. Only one Japanese sailor was captured.

Horrifically, many sailors trapped in the damaged and sinking ships would never be abstracted. Their banging to be heard by those nearby. Those longing, but unable to come to their rescue. A nightmare our servicemen hoped to forget. But veterans that were there, and those that diligently sat by their radios and read the papers will always remember. As may we. It took that tragedy to force us into a war that would inevitably bring down Hitler and his regime. In time, many others in another land would be freed. And in time, we would all celebrate. That, is something to remember.

I hope you will pause this day, to remember. And perhaps remind a family member or colleague of the significance of this day in our country’s very rich history. May we remember.

Sincerely,

S.

 

Advent: 2nd Sunday-The Peace Candle.

December 3rd, 2011 by stephanie

I recall one particular Christmas pageant that I was in as a young girl. You remember those. We used to put on bathrobes and placed towels on our heads. Magically we suddenly transformed into shepherds. White sheets and tinsel halos were the costume of choice for those of us desiring to be angels. And Mary? Well, she was always in blue, of course. Anyway, for this one particular production, I was the third angel from the right, and we memorized the entire second chapter of the book of Luke. And you know what? To this day, I can still recite almost the entire thing. (Something to be said for teaching young folks the Scriptures. It sticks!)christmas-wreaths-advent-wreath

It’s interesting, because that’s the same passage that Linus, of the famed Peanuts gang, quotes on stage during the Charlie Brown Christmas Special (The TV classic which I still love to watch each year.)

There is one particular section of the Luke passage that continues to be one of my favorites. Especially during these confusing and difficult times. May be it bring a sense of peace to your heart and to your corner of the world today:

Luke 2:8-14 (ESV)

8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.

10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

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

12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

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

14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

This past Sunday, churches and homes round the world lit the 1st candle of Advent. It was called the Hope Candle. If you are new to this tradition, Advent season (which begins the 4th Sunday before Christmas) is considered the Time of Anticipation. And if you aren’t sure what we are anticipating, it is the coming of the Baby Jesus. Christ coming to earth.

This coming Sunday, we will light Advent’s second candle: the Peace candle. In a world where we don’t often see eye to eye, peace is definitely one thing most of us seem to agree on and what many of us hold dear.

Peace to you.

S.

 

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