Dear Prayer Warrior
Christmas means "Christ's Mass" and is the celebration of Jesus Christ's birth and baptism. Although December 25th is generally accepted as being the time when the Christ Child was born, the exact date has never been chronicled with any degree of accuracy. There is neither scriptural nor secular evidence to establish the exact moment. One thing is relatively certain, however, the event did not take place in December. Since the child was born when shepherds were "abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night" (Luke 2:8), it is unlikely that shepherds in Israel would have been sleeping outside with their flocks during the month of December. In Winter, the herders would have led their sheep outside only during the daylight hours...the nights would have been far too cold.
The colors most often associated with Christmas decorating are green, red, white, blue, silver and gold. These colors have been used for centuries and, as with most traditions, the reason may be traced to religious beliefs. In this instance, green represents everlasting life, red represents the bloodline of Jesus Christ, blue represents the sky from which the angels appeared, white represents the purity of the Virgin Birth, and silver and gold represent the richness of God's Blessings.
Our prayer warriors stand at the ready to pray for your needs.If you would like to submit a prayer request, it will be shared with our community of faithful Christians, so that they may pray for you.
Yours in Christ,
Those serving in the Military: that God would protect them and strengthen them to serve loyally. For their families, that God would care for their needs.
For those suffering the aftermath of hurricane Sandy or other disasters
Those recovering from Surgery: including Joan Schwartz, Liz Miller, Zane Brantner, Don Brown, Kristy Noland, Lynn Holmes
Those with Health Concerns: including Carole Reid, Ashe Wheeler, Dee Merrifield, Jessica Kuse, James Standridge, Ron Gray, Janice Mortensen, Orman Enke, Austin Dukes.
Those with Cancer:
Those in Hospice care: including Bob Rowland, and Barbara Brown
For Expectant Mothers and their unborn babies: Tiffany Danley, Shelby Osburn, Heather Pijanowski, Stephie Kuhn.
Newborn Babies and Children: For Ashe Wheeler; Great-Granddaughter of Norm and Deb Baldwin; continued growth and recovery and a successful surgery for the hole in her heart.
For midweek and confirmation, for Men's and Women's Bible studies that God would bless all who teach and all who learn, that we may all receive wisdom from God.
For our Abounding Love Preschool and Parents Day Out program, that God would bless this ministry and provide for its needs, that through it we may reach out with God's love to children and their families.
For Upward Basketball and the new season just underway.
Those seeking Employment: That God would provide jobs for the unemployed and underemployed.
Prayers for all who travel:
Those in Care Centers:
For all who grieve: Dittmer Family, Kappelmann Family, Family of baby Bentley, Family of Tami Binder's neighbor, Pam and Trent Williams and family at the death of Pam's great Aunt Shirley.
For marriages and families to grow stronger and for those suffering from divorce or broken relationships.
For those suffering from depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and mental illness.
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Praise:
For all the called and support staff of Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church: that God would provide all that is needed - the time, talents, and treasures - for BSLC's growing ministry.
For BSLC staff and volunteers as we head into a busy amd active time of year.
For the fund drive for the Facility Improvement Project.
For inactives to return. For visitors to attend our worship sercvices.
For the English District's Mission Council, as it seeks to manage well and begin new District mission projects.
That God would richly bless missionaries Rev. Bob Malone in Kansas City, Missouri, and Rev. Bob Roegner at Peace Luthran in O'Fallon, and the Ablaze Center in St. Louis.
Heavenly Father, the death of our dear friends has filled our eyes with tears and our hearts with sorrow. We are distressed by the mysteries of Your providence. As Your children we want so much to say, "Not my will, but Thine be done," but at times we find it difficult to do. Forgive us and help us, we pray You, by Your Holy Spiorit, to accept Your Ways as always best.
Apply to our wounded hearts the healing touch of Your precious promises, ad let us soon experience its power. Teach us mot to mourn as those who have no hope. Wiipe away the tears from our eyes that we may be able to see through the mist, beyond death and grave, to the resurrection and life assured by the glorious vcictory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ over death and grave.
Comfort those around our loved ones, family, friends, neighbors, doctors, nurses, caregivers, the congregation and pastors.Bless them with Your strength in this time of trail. Remind them that You are the God of the living, whose Son conquered death by His dying and rising. Set the joy of Easter and the open, empty tomb of Jesus before their eyes, and wipe away every tear of grief. Encourage them with the knowledge that those who die in the Lord are not lost, nor are they far away, but they are as near as the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom live all the saints, joined together as one body, as we will see with our own eyes on the Day of Resurrection. Teach us to number my days and to apply my heart to the wisdom taught by Jesus Christ, that He is the Way and the Truth and the Life, and that no one comes to You but by Him. Amen
Teach me to live that I may dread
The grave as little as my bed.
Teach me to die that so I may
Rise glorious at the awefull day.
From Heaven Above to Earth I Come (Vom Himmel hoch da komm ich her) The words of the hymn were written by Martin Luther, for his five year old son. The hymn has 15 verses.
Luther originally used the melody of a tavern song "Ich komm aus fremden Landen her" for his words, but later the tune was "ejected" from the hymnbooks because of the tavern associations. The anonymous melody currently in use was chosen by Johann Walther in 1551.
Some people claim that there is a reference to this melody in BWV 127.1, but to my mind it is a stretch. "In the very first 5 measures, Bach establishes Christ’s descent with an untexted musical reference to the famous Christmas chorale by Luther “Vom Himmel hoch, da komm ich her” [“From heaven on high, that’s where I come from.”] by having the highest-sounding instruments (recorders, in this instance) representing the heights of heaven begin in the very first measure with a vague attempt (the first interval drop is ‘tonal’ rather than ‘real’ – it is a full-step/tone down rather than just a half-step/tone down in the original melody."Comment from: Schweitzer: Believing, as he said, that "the devil does not need all the good tunes for himself", Luther formed his Christmas hymn "Vom Himmel hoch da komm ich her" out of the melody of the riddle-song "Ich komm aus fremden Landen her" - in which the singer propounds a riddle and takes her garland from the maiden who cannot solve it. Afterwards, however, he had to let the devil have the melody back again, for even after its conversion it haunted every dancing-place and every tavern. In 1551 Walther ejected it from the hymn-book, replacing it by the tune to which Luther's Christmas hymn is sung to this day.
Luther wrote this hymn for his five year old son Hans; it was not published until four years later. It was sung at the annual Christmas Eve festival at the Luther home: a man dressed as an angel would sing the opening verses, then the children would greet him with the verse, “Welcome to earth, thou noble guest…”
From Heaven above to earth I come,
To you, this night, is born a Child
’Tis Christ our God, who far on high
He brings those blessings long ago
These are the tokens ye shall mark,
Now let us all, with gladsome cheer,
Give heed, my heart, lift up thine eyes!
Welcome to earth, Thou noble Guest,
Ah, Lord, who hast created all,
Were earth a thousand times as fair,
For velvets soft and silken stuff
Thus hath it pleased Thee to make plain
Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child,
My heart for very joy doth leap,
Glory to God in highest Heaven,
FR. WILLIAM SAUNDERS
A Baptist friend asked me about the Advent wreath — its history, meaning, etc.. I think I gave her a pretty good answer. Perhaps you could provide a little more information.The Advent wreath is part of our long-standing Catholic tradition. However, the actual origins are uncertain. There is evidence of pre-Christian Germanic peoples using wreathes with lit candles during the cold and dark December days as a sign of hope in the future warm and extended-sunlight days of Spring. In Scandinavia during Winter, lighted candles were placed around a wheel, and prayers were offered to the god of light to turn “the wheel of the earth” back toward the sun to lengthen the days and restore warmth.
By the Middle Ages, the Christians adapted this tradition and used Advent wreathes as part of their spiritual preparation for Christmas. After all, Christ is “the Light that came into the world” to dispel the darkness of sin and to radiate the truth and love of God (cf. John 3:19-21). By 1600, both Catholics and Lutherans had more formal practices surrounding the Advent wreath.
The symbolism of the Advent wreath is beautiful. The wreath is made of various evergreens, signifying continuous life. Even these evergreens have a traditional meaning which can be adapted to our faith: The laurel signifies victory over persecution and suffering; pine, holly, and yew, immortality; and cedar, strength and healing. Holly also has a special Christian symbolism: The prickly leaves remind us of the crown of thorns, and one English legend tells of how the cross was made of holly. The circle of the wreath, which has no beginning or end, symbolizes the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul, and the everlasting life found in Christ. Any pine cones, nuts, or seedpods used to decorate the wreath also symbolize life and resurrection. All together, the wreath of evergreens depicts the immortality of our soul and the new, everlasting life promised to us through Christ, the eternal Word of the Father, who entered our world becoming true man and who was victorious over sin and death through His own passion, death, and resurrection.
The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. A tradition is that each week represents one thousand years, to sum to the 4,000 years from Adam and Eve until the Birth of the Savior. Three candles are purple and one is rose. The purple candles in particular symbolize the prayer, penance, and preparatory sacrifices and goods works undertaken at this time. The rose candle is lit on the third Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, when the priest also wears rose vestments at Mass; Gaudete Sunday is the Sunday of rejoicing, because the faithful have arrived at the midpoint of Advent, when their preparation is now half over and they are close to Christmas. The progressive lighting of the candles symbolizes the expectation and hope surrounding our Lord’s first coming into the world and the anticipation of His second coming to judge the living and the dead.
The light again signifies Christ, the Light of the world. Some modern day adaptions include a white candle placed in the middle of the wreath, which represents Christ and is lit on Christmas Eve. Another tradition is to replace the three purple and one rose candles with four white candles, which will be lit throughout Christmas season.
In family practice, the Advent wreath is most appropriately lit at dinner time after the blessing of the food. A traditional prayer service using the Advent wreath proceeds as follows: On the First Sunday of Advent, the father of the family blesses the wreath, praying: O God, by whose word all things are sanctified, pour forth Thy blessing upon this wreath, and grant that we who use it may prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ and may receive from Thee abundant graces. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” He then continues for each of the days of the first week of Advent, O Lord, stir up Thy might, we beg thee, and come, that by Thy protection we may deserve to be rescued from the threatening dangers of our sins and saved by Thy deliverance. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” The youngest child then lights one purple candle.
During the second week of Advent, the father prays: O Lord, stir up our hearts that we may prepare for Thy only begotten Son, that through His coming we may be made worthy to serve Thee with pure minds. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” The oldest child then lights the purple candle from the first week plus one more purple candle.
During the third week of Advent, the father prays: O Lord, we beg Thee, incline Thy ear to our prayers and enlighten the darkness of our minds by the grace of Thy visitation. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” The mother then lights the two previously lit purple candles plus the rose candle.
Finally, the father prays during the fourth week of Advent, O Lord, stir up Thy power, we pray Thee, and come; and with great might help us, that with the help of Thy grace, Thy merciful forgiveness may hasten what our sins impede. Who livest and reignest forever. Amen.” The father then lights all of the candles of the wreath.
Since Advent is a time to stir-up our faith in the Lord, the wreath and its prayers provide us a way to augment this special preparation for Christmas. Moreover, this good tradition helps us to remain vigilant in our homes and not lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas.
A candy cane is a cane-shaped hard candy stick associated with Christmas. It is traditionally white with red stripes and flavored with peppermint; but is also made in a variety of other flavors and colors.
According to a popular account, in 1670, in Cologne, Germany, the choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral, wishing to remedy the noise caused by children in his church during the Living Crèche tradition of Christmas Eve, asked a local candy maker for some sweet sticks for them. In order to justify the practice of giving candy to children during worship services, he asked the candy maker to add a crook to the top of each stick, which would help children remember the shepherds who paid visit to infant Jesus. In addition, he used the white colour of the converted sticks to teach children about the Christian belief in the sinless life of Jesus. From Germany, the candy canes spread to other parts of Europe, where they were handed out during plays reenacting the Nativity.
A recipe for straight peppermint candy sticks, white with colored stripes, was published in 1844. The candy cane has been mentioned in literature since 1866, was first mentioned in association with Christmas in 1874, and as early as 1882 was hung on Christmas trees. Chicago confectioners the Bunte Brothers filed the earliest patents for candy cane making machines in the early 1920s.
It is said that when the Emperor Constantine had his great vision that caused him to convert to Christianity, he saw the Greek letters Chi and Rho intertwined. Chi is written as an 'X' and Rho is written as a 'P', but they are the first two letters of the Greek word Christ 'savior'. 'XP' is sometimes used to stand for Christ. Sometimes X is used alone. This is the case in the Chi (X) abbreviation for Christ in Xmas. Thus, Xmas is not directly a way of secularizing the holiday, but since 'X' is not Chi in English, we read the word as X-mas and see no connection with Christ.
Sacrilegious, an adjective some have applied to the Xmas spelling, is easy to misspell. It looks as though it should be "sac-" plus the word religious, but it isn't. Instead, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, it comes from the Latin phrase sacrum legere "to steal sacred things."
Some people seem to get worked up easily about things that are either largely irrelevant or incidental, or that they do not really understand. This seems to be the case with some religious folk when the topic is an aspect of Christianity that is personally important to them.
For example, around Christmas each year there are always those who loudly decry the use of the abbreviation "Xmas" as some kind of blasphemy against Christ and Christianity. This concern has been elevated recently with the public debates about manger scenes and the substitution of "holiday" for Christmas in stores and government venues. Among religious folks, the objection to Xmas is usually along the line that people have taken Christ out of Christmas and replaced him with an unknown (since the Greek letter chi, [C,c] which looks like the English letter x, is the symbol for an unknown quantity in mathematics).
For example, on the "Voice of Prophecy" web site is an article entitled "You Can’t 'X' out Christ."
Well it certainly does make one think. It makes one think how uninformed or misinformed, and unnecessarily militant with that misinformation, so many Christians are concerning their own Faith. The story illustrates what could have been a marvelous opportunity to teach a child about some of the important symbolism of the Christian Faith. But it was an opportunity lost, in this story at least, because many Christians do not understand their own iconography and symbolism. The results are often battles waged against windmills while far more consequential issues for the Faith are neglected (a modern example of Matt. 23:23).
Now, in all honesty, the article on that web site focuses on the secular commercialization of Christmas, something to which most Christians I know would object or at least with which they are uncomfortable. But the fact that the use of "Xmas" can be associated so easily with crass commercialization rather than locating it within the Christian tradition itself reveals a lack of understanding of heritage and history.
The same perspective is obvious in this response to a BBC broadcast on the meaning of Christmas:
It is as if the term "Xmas" used anywhere in public is part of some diabolical grinchly plot to subvert Christmas. This is implied in other places as well. A 2005 poll on the website bible.com, a popular biblical resource site, has this question: "What concerns you the most about how the world is attacking Christmas, a Christian holiday?" The four choices given in order are:
Certainly, the question does not imply what the web site itself thinks of the answers. But the fact that this issue can still be included with the other fears that people have about Christmas illustrates a continuing and significant level of misinformation mixed with people’s concerns. And the less than neutral language of the question ("world," "attacking," "Christian") certainly leaves the impression that using "Xmas" is part of some worldly plot to overthrow Christendom.
This misunderstanding and fear mongering about the use of "Xmas" is not a new phenomenon. I heard the same kinds of comments in sermons many years ago. It was especially prevalent among those Christians and church leaders who wanted or needed to see the world in negative and threatening terms (see The Jonah Syndrome), or who tended to see everything in society as part of some grand conspiracy of Satan or the inexorable working out of God’s own predetermined plan, without really knowing all the facts or complexities of the situation (see Christians and Urban Legends).
I have no doubt that some people write "Xmas" because they are too busy or too lazy to write out the whole word. And no doubt some secular people, who are just as uninformed as Christians, see "Xmas" as a way to avoid writing "Christ." And certainly there are secular and commercial motives in the fact that "XMAS" appears in ads and signs because it can be larger and more attention getting in the same amount of space (more bang for the buck). But those factors do not take away the thoroughly Christian origin of the word "Xmas." In this instance, all of the hype and hysteria over supposedly taking Christ out of Christmas by writing "Xmas" instead of spelling out "Christmas" is both uninformed and misdirected.
Abbreviations used as Christian symbols have a long history in the church. The letters of the word "Christ" in Greek, the language in which the New Testament was written, or various titles for Jesus early became symbols of Christ and Christianity. For example, the first two letters of the word Christ (cristoV, or as it would be written in older manuscripts, CRISTOS) are the Greek letters chi (c or C) and rho (r or R). These letters were used in the early church to create the chi-rho monogram (see Christian Symbols: Christmas Ornaments), a symbol that by the fourth century became part of the official battle standard of the emperor Constantine.
Another example is the symbol of the fish, one of the earliest symbols of Christians that has been found scratched on the walls of the catacombs of Rome. It likely originated from using the first letter of several titles of Jesus (Jesus Christ Son of God Savior). When combined these initial letters together spelled the Greek word for fish (icquV, ichthus).
The exact origin of the single letter X for Christ cannot be pinpointed with certainty. Some claim that it began in the first century AD along with the other symbols, but evidence is lacking. Others think that it came into widespread use by the thirteenth century along with many other abbreviations and symbols for Christianity and various Christian ideas that were popular in the Middle Ages. However, again, the evidence is sparse.
In any case, by the fifteenth century Xmas emerged as a widely used symbol for Christmas. In 1436 Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press with moveable type. In the early days of printing typesetting was done by hand and was very tedious and expensive. As a result, abbreviations were common. In religious publications, the church began to use the abbreviation C, or simply X, for the word "Christ" to cut down on the cost of the books and pamphlets. From there, the abbreviation moved into general use in newspapers and other publications, and "Xmas" became an accepted way of printing "Christmas" (along with the abbreviations Xian and Xianity). Even Webster’s dictionary acknowledges that the abbreviation Xmas was in common use by the middle of the sixteenth century.
So there is no grand scheme to dilute Christianity by promoting the use of Xmas instead of Christmas. It is not a modern invention to try to convert Christmas into a secular day, nor is it a device to promote the commercialism of the holiday season. Its origin is thoroughly rooted in the heritage of the Church. It is simply another way to say Christmas, drawing on a long history of symbolic abbreviations used in the church. In fact, as with other abbreviations used in common speech or writing (such as Mr. or etc.), the abbreviation "Xmas" should be pronounced "Christmas" just as if the word were written out in full, rather than saying "exmas." Understanding this use of Christian symbolism might help us modern day Xians focus on more important issues of the Faith during Advent, and bring a little more Peace to the Xmas Season.-Dennis Bratcher, Copyright © 2011, Dennis Bratcher - All Rights Reserved
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