b-blog

The Advent Wreath – While Shepherds Watched…

One of my family’s favorite Christmas traditions is the Advent wreath. On each of the four Sundays in Advent (the four weeks before Christmas), our family gathers around the wreath with cookies and eggnog and hot chocolate. Not only is this cozy family time, but it focuses us with joyful anticipation on the birth of Jesus.

This Sunday, December 11, is the third Sunday in Advent, but it’s never too late to participate. If you’d like to join the Sundin family in this tradition, here are some family friendly, kid-tested ideas. Adjust these to the ages of any children present to create a meaningful time for your family.

Advent Week Three – The Shepherds’ Candle

Candles:
Light two purple candles (the Prophets’ Candle and the Bethlehem Candle), and the pink candle (the Shepherd’s Candle). The pink symbolizes joy. Traditionally, the mother lights the candles.

Story:
Explain how the shepherds watched their flocks, heard the news that the Messiah had born, and went to see the Baby Jesus in the manger – and how they reacted with great joy.

Scriptures:
Isaiah 9:6-7 (Isaiah’s prophecy of how the Messiah would be born as a child, of David’s line, the Mighty God)
Luke 2:8-20 (how the shepherds heard the news and visited Jesus)
John 10:1-18 (Jesus as the Good Shepherd)
Philippians 2:1-11 (Jesus’ attitude of humility, shedding his majesty to come to earth as a baby)

Songs:
“The First Noel”
“While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night”
“Joy to the World”

How can your family celebrate the joy of Jesus this Christmas?

70th Anniversary – Remember Pearl Harbor!

Seventy years ago, on December 6, 1941, twelve B-17 Flying Fortresses left Hamilton Field, north of San Francisco, bound for their new station on Mindanao in the Philippines. My great-uncle, Roderick M. Stewart, served as a second lieutenant on one of the crews.

The first leg of their journey would take them to Hickam Field in Honolulu. Weighted down by gasoline for the thirteen-hour flight, they were unable to carry ammunition. But why would they need it? The United States of America was at peace.

When the B-17s neared Hawaii the next morning, they were pleased to see fighter planes approach – to escort them to the landing field, they assumed. Imagine their shock when the fighters opened fire on them! When the fighters careened past and the Americans saw the red circles on the planes! Japanese Mitsubishi Zeros. The United States of America was no longer at peace.

The twelve unarmed bombers dodged both enemy bullets and friendly antiaircraft shells and landed where they could on fields cratered by bombs. Eight landed at Hickam Field, two at Haleiwa Field, one at Bellows Field, and one put down on Kahuku Golf Course. One of the planes was destroyed, and three were damaged. Six men were wounded, and one man was killed.

Lt. Rod Stewart emerged unscathed, served illustriously in the Army Air Force, and lived a long life. However, over 2400 Americans lost their lives that day.

The horrific results of the “Date That Will Live in Infamy” still shock us, as they should. The cost of unpreparedness must never be forgotten. We commemorate those who gave their lives for their country, not even knowing that country was at war, and give thanks for the millions who fought to end that war.

Never take freedom for granted.

If Only They’d Listened

On December 7, 1941, two Army Air Force radar operators on Oahu reported a blip on their screen, which looked like dozens of planes approaching Pearl Harbor. They reported it to Lt. Kermit Tyler, who had been on the job only two days. Tyler knew a squadron of twelve B-17 Flying Fortresses was due to arrive from San Francisco and land at Hickam Field at 8:00 am. He told the operators, “Don’t worry about it.” (http://articles.latimes.com/2010/feb/24/local/la-me-kermit-tyler25-2010feb25).

Radar was in its infancy, American planes were expected, and Tyler hadn’t been adequately trained, but we still wonder what would have happened if he’d heeded the warning. The damage at Pearl Harbor would have been less if the sailors and antiaircraft gunners had been prepared and fighter planes had been dispatched. If more ships had survived, would the Japanese conquests around the Pacific have been slowed or stopped? We’ll never know.

While Lieutenant Tyler had legitimate excuses, King Jehoiakim of Judah did not. In 605 B.C., King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and his mighty army pressed his attack on Jerusalem. The Lord told Jeremiah to write down the description of the destruction that would come if they continued in their ungodly ways—and that if they repented, the Lord would forgive them. When the scroll was read to King Jehoiakim, he used his knife to cut up the scroll, strip by strip, and burned it.

He—and all of Judah—paid the price for his contemptuous dismissal.

God gives us warnings in Scripture for our own good. His warnings have two promises—continue in your sin and something bad will happen, or repent and be forgiven. He always offers hope and redemption, but only if we choose it. Rejoice in His love always, but never dismiss His warning. Unlike 1941-era radar, God’s word is reliable.

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” 2 Peter 3:9.

The Advent Wreath – O Little Town…

One of my family’s favorite Christmas traditions is the Advent wreath. On each of the four Sundays in Advent (the four weeks before Christmas), our family gathers around the wreath with cookies and eggnog and hot chocolate. Not only is this cozy family time, but it focuses us with joyful anticipation on the birth of Jesus.

This Sunday, December 4, is the second Sunday in Advent, but it’s never too late to participate. If you’d like to join the Sundin family in this tradition, here are some family friendly, kid-tested ideas. Adjust these to the ages of any children present to create a meaningful time for your family.

Advent Week Two – The Bethlehem Candle

Candles: Light the first purple candle (the Prophets’ Candle) and the second purple candle (the Bethlehem Candle) as shown. The purple symbolizes penance. Traditionally, the older children light these candles, but use your judgment.

Story: Explain how the prophets foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem of the family of David. Joseph and Mary came to the little town, which was crowded with visitors for the census, and the only place for them to stay was in a dark stable.

Scriptures:
Micah 5:2 (the prophecy that Messiah would be born in Bethlehem)
Luke 2:1-7 (how Jesus came to be born in Bethelehem)
Matthew 2:1-11 (the Magi come looking for Messiah; the Jewish leaders tell Herod of the Bethlehem prophecy)

Songs:
“O Little Town of Bethlehem”
“Silent Night”
“Away in a Manger”
“We Three Kings”

During this hectic holiday season, may you find stillness and peace with the Child of Bethlehem.

A Log Cabin Christmas – and a Book Signing

Christmas novella collections can be lots of fun—a sampling of several authors and styles—and A Log Cabin Christmas offers a tasty sampling. This New York Times bestselling collection contains nine novellas in an attractively bound package, complete with book flaps and ragged-edged pages. The stories are set in various locations in the 1800s, offering plenty of snow and gingerbread, but also interesting historical tidbits, such as the New Madrid earthquake of 1811 and interactions between Anglos and Hispanics in early Texas.

I enjoyed the chance to read novellas from authors I’ve enjoyed in the past, such as Jane Kirkpatrick, and from authors I hadn’t read before and thoroughly enjoyed, such as Liz Johnson, Liz Tolsma, and Michelle Ule. I enjoyed the range from drama to sweet romance to adventure to humor – something for everyone!

This Saturday, December 3, Michelle Ule and I will be signing books at the Family Christian Store in Santa Rosa, California from 11 am to 1 pm. The store is located at 2790 Santa Rosa Ave. #G; Santa Rosa, CA.

The Advent Wreath – Messiah Is Coming!

One of my family’s favorite Christmas traditions is the Advent wreath. On each of the four Sundays in Advent (the four weeks before Christmas), our family gathers around the wreath with cookies and eggnog and hot chocolate. We light the candles, read Scripture passages, and sing carols. Not only is this cozy family time, but it focuses us with joyful anticipation on the birth of Jesus.

The Advent wreath became popular in Germany and Scandinavia, and worked its way to Britain and America. Traditionally it’s a flat evergreen wreath with four candles – three purple and one pink, or four red candles – with a white candle in the middle. Even the least crafty person in the world (that would be me) can put one together.

Each Sunday one more candle is lit, going in a clockwise pattern – purple (Prophet’s Candle), purple (Bethlehem Candle), pink (Shepherd’s Candle), purple (Angels’ Candle). On Christmas Day, all four candles in the wreath are lit, plus the white Christ Candle in the center. This symbolizes the coming light of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World. This Sunday (November 27), is the first Sunday in Advent. If you’d like to join the Sundin family in this tradition, here are some family friendly, kid-tested ideas.

Each element can be adapted to the ages of any children present – and personalized for your family.

Advent Week One – the Prophet’s Candle.

Candles: Light one purple candle, the Prophet’s Candle. Traditionally the youngest child lights the candles, but this can be shared.

Story: (adapt to the ages of your children) The Old Testament prophets told of a coming Messiah, or Savior – hundreds of years before Jesus was born. He would come into the dark world and bring light. Explain how prophets spoke God’s word to people. Ponder what the world must have been like without the hope of Christ.

Scriptures:
Isaiah 11:1-10 (explains how the Messiah would come from David’s line)
Isaiah 7:14 (Messiah to be born of a virgin)
Luke 1: 26-38 (the angel Gabriel appears to Mary)
Matthew 1: 18-24 (the angel appears to Joseph)

Songs:
“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”
“Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus”

Does your family or church use an Advent wreath, and does it help you get in the true Christmas spirit?

Birthday Giveaway Winners!

Thank you for stopping by this week and sharing birthday memories!

The winner of the copy of Blue Skies Tomorrow is Serenity!

The winner of the vintage apron is Loree Huebner!

Serenity and Loree, I’ll contact you by email so I can get the book and apron in the mail to you.

Book Beat – A Lancaster County Christmas

A Lancaster County Christmas by Suzanne Woods Fisher is a holiday story with depth. When a Christmas storm strands C.J. and Jaime Fitzpatrick at the Amish home of Sol and Mattie Riehl, neither couple imagines how the unlikely new friendships will change their lives.

Mattie Riehl is struggling with secondary infertility, especially painful in the Amish community with its love of big families. She’s also becoming fearful and over-protective of six-year-old Danny, a delightful, bright little boy. Jaime thinks she’s finally found acceptance and approval now that her long-lost father has reappeared in her life, showering her with expensive gifts and promising to boost her dream of a photography career. However, her husband now pales in comparison, and Jaime wants out. Both women find they have a lot to learn from each other.

What I love about Suzanne Woods Fisher’s novels is her complex and intriguing characters. Mattie and Jaime are hampered by fears and insecurities so many women can relate to. Their friendship and personal growth is as natural and unforced as it is unlikely. This story not only gives you the heart-warming story you expect from the cover, but it also gives you plenty to think about. I highly recommend this novel.

Birthday Giveaways!

It (was) my birthday, and I can give things away if I want to!
I’ll start…one of my favorite birthday memories was my 22nd birthday when my husband and I were first dating. He took me to the Charthouse in Sausalito and to the San Francisco Symphony. Then he took me to a romantic spot overlooking the water and he told me he loved me for the first time…in Swedish. He wouldn’t tell me the translation for a full week! But I had a hunch.

Guest Post: Thankful For Those Who’ve Come Before Us by Tricia Goyer

For Veteran’s Day, I’m thrilled to have author Tricia Goyer as a guest blogger.

Thankful For Those Who’ve Come Before Us
Tricia Goyer
In 2000 I was on vacation with friends when I heard a heart-breaking story. In a small village called Mauthausen in northern Austria, 55 years earlier, prior white flakes fell from the sky. The month was May. It wasn’t snow that tumbled down, but ash. I first heard the story of the tens of thousands of people killed and of the ash from the crematorium from a historian who was giving us a tour of the concentration camp. My heart broke as I tried to imagine the horror.
For those familiar with World War II history, concentration camps such as Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen are well discussed. But there are also many lesser-known concentration camps. One of them is Mauthausen, named after the nearby village.
As early as 1940, prisoners started arriving at the small train station at Mauthausen. A full two years before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, this once peaceful community was already experiencing the horrors of war. And by January 1941, the Mauthausen-Gusen camps became the only ‘Category I’ camps in Third Reich history, meaning “camp of no return.” Prisoners were used as slave labor in quarries and munitions factories. These men and women were worked to death or killed not long after their arrival. The estimate of the number of people killed in the Mauthausen camp system is between 120,000 and 300,000. Most who entered the large gates never exited, but in May 1945 everything changed. American troops had fought through France, Belgium, and Germany and had now crossed the Austrian border. They were headed toward the camp, though they didn’t know it yet.
If you have a veteran in your life … today is the perfect day to reach out–to listen to his or her story. Don’t let the stories die, when you have a chance to make a difference.
Tricia Goyer is a homeschooling mom of four and an acclaimed and prolific writer, publishing hundreds of articles in national magazines. She has also written books on marriage and parenting and contributed notes to the Women of Faith Study Bible. Tricia’s written numerous novels inspired by World War II veterans, including her new release Remembering You. Tricia lives with her husband and four children in Arkansas. You can find out more information about Tricia at www.triciagoyer.com.
[From Sarah…please see my feature on Remembering You, a book I highly recommend.]