Here we are, the 1st day of the last month of 2019. It boggles my mind a little bit to think that it feels like yesterday we were on the cusp of a new millennium, and now we are nearly a decade into it! December is my very favorite month of the year, so no matter how tired my job has me at the end of each day, I know that I will be walking into the magic of our Christmas decorations and lights, sweet/sappy Christmas movies, and far too many cookies and treats that will fill the air with the aromas of the season. It is my hope that everyone will be filled with the joy and anticipation that comes with celebrating the birth of our Lord, and the peace that He brought to us.
On Thanksgiving Day we went out to get a Christmas tree at one of the best – if not THE best – Christmas tree farm I have ever been to. It is a family run farm, and has been, for four generations. The fields of trees were so organized, into itty baby trees, toddler trees (that’s what I called them anyway) and even some pre-teen sized trees. The adult trees that were ready for harvesting were all in the same fields. What I liked about this arrangement was that we were able to look at the trees without worrying about stepping on a baby tree, or more likely, tripping on one. The trees were all incredibly healthy too! Last year it took four different farms and a lot of disappointment to finally find one tree that didn’t look like it had a disease. Every single one of these trees was perfect in every way! The needles were strong, the branches perfect. It was wonderful! We brought home a gorgeous tree that is just begging for lights and ornaments. Not only were the trees amazing, the farm was neat and clean. They had a beautiful old barn where they sold ornaments, wreathes, swags, honey, apples and an assortment of other items. There was a gorgeous bonfire pit in the yard that was a warm place to sit and sip hot cider, warm up after tromping through the fields, and rest before making the drive home. If you are ever in the Pacific Northwest and need to get a Christmas tree, look up Lazy J Christmas Tree Farm near Port Angeles. It’s worth the drive.
Verse of the Day
December 1, 2019
Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.
Thoughts on the Verse of the Day
God promised a sifting between the righteous and unrighteous. Jesus repeated the same assurance in his parables. For God’s people, however, these are not fearful warnings. Instead, these are words of promise. Those who have wisely honored and lived for God will shine brilliantly for all to see. Those who have led others to live righteously will twinkle like stars in their Father’s eyes!
Why do we put up Christmas trees? Where does the tradition come from and does it tie in with the birth of Christ? Well, I looked up several sources and this is what I found out: The fir-tree has long been associated with Christianity, beginning in Germany almost 1,000 years ago with St. Boniface, who converted the German people to Christianity. It is said that he came across a group of pagans worshiping an oak tree, and in his anger, he cut the oak down. To his amazement a young fir-tree sprung up from the roots of the oak tree, and he took this as a sign of the Christian faith. That was the very beginning of the Christmas tree, but it wasn’t until the 16th century that fir trees were brought indoors at Christmas time.
The Christmas tree has even older history than that though! King Tut never saw a Christmas tree, but he would have understood the tradition that traces back to long before the first Christmas. The Egyptians, like many other cultures, treasured and worshiped evergreens. When the winter solstice came, they brought green date palm leaves into their homes to symbolize life triumphing over death. The Romans also celebrated with greens – with a winter solstice festival called Saturnalia – in honor of Saturnus, the god of agriculture. They decorated their homes with greens and lights, exchanging gifts. They gave coins for prosperity, pastries for happiness and lamps to light one’s way through life. In Great Britain centuries ago, there were woods priests called Druids who used evergreens during mysterious winter solstice rituals. They used holly and mistletoe as symbols of eternal life and placed evergreen branches over doors to keep the evil spirits away.
Late in the Middle Ages, Germans and Scandinavians placed evergreen trees inside their homes, or just outside their doors, to show that they were hoping for the upcoming spring. Our modern Christmas tree is an evolution from these early traditions. According to legend Martin Luther began the tradition of decorating trees to celebrate Christmas. In about the year 1500, one crisp Christmas Eve, he was walking through snow-covered woods and was quite taken with the beauty of a small group of evergreens that were dusted with snow and shimmered in the moonlight. When he got home, he set up a little fir-tree indoors, so he could share this story and the beauty with his children. He decorated it with candles, which he lit in honor of Christ’s birth. The Christmas tree tradition likely came to the United States with Hessian troops during the American Revolution, or with the German immigrants to Pennsylvania and Ohio. The custom spread slowly though. The Puritans banned Christmas in New England and even as late as 1851 there was a Cleveland minister who just about lost his job because he allowed a tree in his church. Schools in Boston stayed open on Christmas Day through 1870 and even sometimes expelled students who stayed home that day! In 1851 a Catskill farmer hauled two ox sleds of evergreens into New York City, and sold them all, starting the Christmas tree market. By 1900, one in five American families had Christmas trees, and 20 years later the custom was nearly universal.
With all of that history though – I’ve barely scratched the surface – what it comes down to is that the Christmas tree is enjoyed as a holiday decoration by people of many cultures and religions. To Christians it is a promise of renewed life during a barren season, symbolizing Christ’s birth, resurrection and promise of eternal life.
First Sunday of Advent –
Advent Begins – Growing up I always looked forward each week to the Advent ceremony at the beginning of church, my heart filling up with happiness, wonder and gratitude as the candles were lit and the readings were done. We always attended the morning services, and it was wonderful in the mornings, but there is something about the hush of the evening that appeals to me when lighting the candles and reading the verses that herald the birth of our Lord. Christmas has become so secular. The world is working so diligently to remove Christ from His own birthday celebration, that the true meaning is getting lost in the politically correct terminology (and anyone who knows me KNOWS how I feel about that!), the non-spiritual, commercialistic celebrations of a “holiday” instead of a Holy Day. As a nation, and a world even, we have cut off the purpose of celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. It is so important, for this very reason, for Christians to recapture the season of Advent as a time for preparing for Christmas. Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming”. Advent begins the church year, starting four Sundays before Christmas. The season of Advent has been set aside as a time of preparation for Christmas since the last half of the 6th century, if not earlier. It is a time for self-examination and asking for forgiveness as the church prepares for Christ’s Second Coming, even as it prepares for Christmas. Traditionally the color of the first three candles is purple, which signifies royalty. The 3rd week in Advent is set aside as more celebratory than the others, and the color for this week is rose, rather than purple, to mark the week. The purple and rose candles were used primarily in the Catholic church. Many Protestant churches that celebrate Advent use red candles instead.
The circle of the wreath and the evergreens used both signify God’s endless mercy and His undying love. The three purple candles and one rose-colored candle, or the four red ones, are evenly spaced around the wreath. A larger white candle is placed in the center of the wreath. The wreath can be as simple as four candle holders with greenery laid around them to form a circle, or very detailed, using a variety of greens that mean different aspects of the season. These include:
Ivy: to remind us of the human spirit clinging to God’s strength.
Cedar: to remind us of eternal life that is available to all of us through Christ.
Holly: to remind us of Jesus’ crown of thorns.
Bay: to remind us of victory over sin and death.
Celebrating Advent faithfully each day of the season, more than any other activity, can restore Jesus to the center of the Christmas celebration because on each Advent Sunday we read about the birth of our Savior and discuss it – bringing it to the center of our day. The whole family can be a part of it and find it to be meaningful. The memories and training will last a lifetime, and by doing it at home, each family can add their own emotion to the celebration.
When: Advent starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. Because Christmas falls on different days each year, Advent can last 22 to 28 days.
Prepare your family: Let your family know that this year you are going to start a new tradition to celebrate Jesus’ birthday. Deciding what time of day works best for you is something you should think about ahead of time. For us it is after dinner.
You need an Advent wreath, the five candles listed above, and a Bible for the nightly readings. If you search the posts in DIY you can see instructions for making your own Advent wreath. We made ours a few years ago and it’s still working out very nicely for us.
Beginning the celebration:
On the first day begin with either a prayer or a Christmas carol. Light the first purple (or red) candle, known as the prophecy candle. With the lighting, talk about Jesus being the light of the world. Read the Advent Scripture of the day. End by singing or praying. Blow out the candle. Light the same candle each day of the first week. Follow with the reading, Christmas carols or other meaningful activities.
Here is a suggested reading list for the week. It’s a different one from what I have used for the past several years to change things up.
Sunday: Romans 13:11-14
Monday: Corinthians 1:3-9
Tuesday: Mark 13:33-37
Wednesday: John 1: 1-5
Thursday: John 1:6-9
Friday: Jeremiah 33:14-16
Saturday: Isaiah 6
Antarctica Day – This observance was created to commemorate the signing of the 1959 Antarctic Treaty. This treaty concludes that Antarctica will forever be used for peaceful purposes that are in the interest of humanity, forever remaining a peaceful continent and a natural reserve that is devoted to scientific explorations, with no one being able to claim domination over it. In this power-hungry globe we live on, let’s hope that this remains a treaty that stands strong.
Civil Air Patrol Day – The Civil Air Patrol is a volunteer organization that is a Congressionally chartered, federally supported non-profit that serves as the official civilian auxiliary of the United States Air Force. People from all backgrounds, lifestyles and occupations are part of the Civil Air Patrol, and they perform three key missions. Emergency services, which include search and rescue by both air and ground, disaster relief operations, and aerospace education for youth and the general public. One of their major programs is the cadet program for youth ranging from 12 to just under 21 years old, with their senior members being 18 years old and up. This is a wonderful education program that teaches responsibility, community outreach, discipline and dedication.
Rosa Parks Day – On December 1st, 1955, Rosa Parks, a black woman, was arrested for disobeying an Alabama law that required all black passengers to give up their seat to white passengers when the bus was full. Black passengers were also required to sit at the back of the bus. When she was arrested, a 381-day boycott of the Montgomery bus system was done, which led to a 1956 Supreme Court decision banning segregation on public transportation. I cannot imagine life during those times and know that people like Rosa Parks helped pave the way for the lines between the races to be erased. It is so sad that all these years later the lines have been drawn again, with the relationship between the races worse than it has been in decades.
Food Celebrations of the Day –
Eat a Red Apple Day – The phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” was coined at the 1904 World’s Fair by J.T. Stinson in an effort to promote apples as a healthy snack. I love apples. I’m sure most of us do. We all know how good they are for us, they are delicious and the combination of tasty and healthy is one we can all get behind. There are thousands of apples grown all over the planet, so there are tasty choices, so we can all find a type that appeals most to us. My personal favorites are Honey Crisp and Cameo. YUM! Did you know that the science of growing apples is called “pomology”?
Fried Pie Day – Here’s a recipe I found on www.cook.com for fried fruit pies. Give them a try!
- Fried pies are small fried dessert pastries, which have fruit fillings wrapped in the dough.
- Fried apple pies were first introduced in McDonald’s in 1968, originally fried in lard.
- New Hampshire fried pies (blueberry or blackberry flavored variations) were the favorite dessert of S. president Franklin Pierce.
- The two most popular flavors of fried pies in the deep South are apple and peach.
- Roadside stands in the South often refer to fried pies as “Crab Lanterns”.
This gorgeous Christmas tree needs to get dressed in twinkling lights and sparkling ornaments, and it isn’t going to decorate itself, so I need to get busy! Have a wonderful 1st day of the month! God bless you and I’ll see you tomorrow.
Celebration list sources: