Tag Archive for: History

Advent Day 17

Wise Men

By Kathleen Heppell
Selah Companion

As men who study the heavens, believing they foretell what will happen on earth, they ask what does the appearance of this Star mean?

Close to journey’s end the Star grows brighter… larger… brilliant in the cloudless night sky. Hot sun rests low on the horizon. We break camp. Efficient. Deliberate. Though the outsider might believe all is chaos. 

Ready, our anticipation growing, we look up to the vastness of the sky filled with stars. We gasp as one. Where is the Star? Despite the multitude of stars, the Star we’ve studied, and followed for these many months is gone!

How can this be? The Star we’ve studied is gone!

How can this be? It has been close to two years since we first saw this new brilliant Star in the western sky, larger than any planet.  As men who study the heavens, believing they foretell what will happen on earth, we asked what does the appearance of this Star mean? 

Searching wisdom literature of many countries, we found in Jewish writings Daniel’s prophecy. This captive from the tribe of Judah, honored by our Babylonian ancestors, prophesied the coming of Messiah.

We, too, believe…

We, too, believe in a Messiah coming to bring the end of time as we know it. Studying these writings, we understand this Star announces the birth of the Jewish Messiah. He will change the world. 

Our hearts quicken with awe and excitement. We must do whatever is necessary to see this Jewish King and Messiah. We will follow the Star to find him to worship and bring gifts to honor him.

We watch for bandits. Dressed as any traveler, nothing indicates our status.

It took much to prepare for this journey: camels to carry food, water, tents, and many men to keep us safe. They lead the animals, set up and take down camp. Traveling in the cooler air of darkness to see the Star, we watch for bandits. Dressed as any traveler, nothing indicates our status or gifts to be given to the Jewish King.

Now, with no Star visible we are confused, discouraged. We have come too far to give up. Entering Jerusalem, we ask the men we pass, Do you know where the King of the Jews has been born? Their faces show shock, fear, and heads turning to see who might have heard our question. No words spoken, heads move from side to side. They almost run from us.

Certainly, the King must have been born here.

We come to the palace. Certainly the King must have been born here.  When we ask the guard, he orders us to enter through the gate. Long is the wait before we meet King Herod. We explain our quest. Treated with great respect, food is set before us. We wait again as he calls for priests and religious leaders. 

The Messiah’s birthplace is Bethlehem.

Finally, in a private room, we learn the Jewish King, Messiah’s birthplace, is Bethlehem. So close! Another night’s journey! King Herod tells us to return and report where the King resides expressing his desire to worship. His face shows no joy. How curious King Herod and the people we met did not know of his birth. Profusely we thank the King for his hospitality and direction.

We depart to the out skirts of Jerusalem to camp, rest, sleep, as we wait with excitement. Tomorrow we will meet this new King! Taking down the camp at sunset, we await the darkness praying for the star’s appearance to locate the exact place in Bethlehem. There… The Star… Such beauty… Dawn’s edges peak over the eastern horizon. Leaving all but a few to set up camp, we walk to a simple home, the star directly overhead.

Holding our breath, we enter a room dimly lit.

Servants take our gifts from sacks, handing them to us. We are at the door. It is open. Holding our breath. Hard to believe we have reached our destination. We enter into a room dimly lit. There is a young woman dressed in peasant clothes, dark hair, questioning eyes, and no fear of us: strangers entering her home.  A child, not yet two, sits quietly on her lap, her son with the same dark hair and eyes. 

Our only thought to bow down. Worship pours from our hearts, out of mouths to the Almighty God. After a pause of reverent silence, we explain how we have come to her door: the Star, the search leading to Daniel’s prophecy, our long journey, and priests at Jerusalem’s palace telling us of Bethlehem. 

Our hearts burst with joy, tears of gratitude flow down our cheeks.

We present our gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh.  This young boy toddles to us smiles, touches us, curious…  We smile, reach out to him, our hearts bursting with joy, tears of gratitude flow down our cheeks.

We depart before the village awakes. Returning quickly to our camp, we wonder if sleep will come. Awakening, we share what we have dreamed. We all had the same dream! We are not to return to Jerusalem or Herod. Departing as quickly as possible, we take another route not equipped to face battle with palace guards, be taken captive, or required to tell Herod where the child lives. Boundless joy in our hearts mingles with foreboding. Herod intends evil.

Boundless joy in our hearts mingles with foreboding. 

Long will be our journey home. Our hearts lightened and filled with unshakeable hope. God, who we have known as Mystery, has spent thousands of years preparing for this day and the days to come. We will wait and watch filled with awe and reverence; he will bring his plan to fruition for the Jewish people and the world!

We will wait and watch filled with awe and reverence.

Photo by Jonathan Meyer on Unsplash

Third Week of Advent

THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT

Day 15

Scripture
Isaiah 35:1-10
Psalm 146:5-10 or
Luke 1:46b-55
James 5:7-10
Matthew 11:2-11

The Revised Common Lectionary

On this third Sunday of Advent, we light the Rose Candle representing joy. This Sunday is also known as Gaudete Sunday (Latin).

The Advent Wreath

By Debora Buerk,
Editor, Here & Now,
Selah Companion

The Advent wreath originated among German Lutherans in the sixteenth century. However, it was not until three centuries later that the modern Advent wreath took shape, thanks to German protestant pastor Johann Hinrich Wichern (1808-1881). Along with Wichern’s wreath came the tradition of lighting candles during Advent worship services. 

Pastor Wichern’s wreath consisted of a large wooden ring (made from an old cartwheel) with twenty small red candles and four large white candles. The small red candles were lit during the week, the white candles on Sundays.

While the form of the Advent wreath changed over time, the tradition of lighting candles during Advent spread throughout Germany and beyond Lutheranism. The Advent wreath expanded into the western Church and took hold in the United States during the 1930s. 

Symbolism. Advent wreaths are circular, representing God’s infinite love, and are usually made of evergreen leaves, expressing the hope of eternal life Jesus brings. 

Hope


Peace


Joy


Love

Within the wreath, four prominent candles represent the four weeks of the Advent season. Collectively, the candles symbolize the light of God coming into the world through the birth of Jesus. 

The colors of the candles have their significance. In the Western Christian church, violet is the liturgical color for three of the four Sundays of Advent. Rose is the liturgical color for the third Sunday of Advent. White is traditionally chosen for the Christ candle to represent the liturgical color for Christmas. 

The centerpiece of the wreath is a white candle, the Christ candle, to represent the arrival of Christmastide. Lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, the Christ candle is the fitting completion of Advent.

Traditionally, the candles stand for the Christian truths of hope (week one), peace (week two), joy (week three), and love (week four). 

The rose candle, lit on the third Sunday of Advent is also known as Gaudete Sunday—from the Latin meaning “rejoice, ye”—represents joy

May this third week of Advent be joy-filled for you.