Day 14 of Advent: Santa Lucia, the Saint of Light

Today we celebrate the coming of the Christ light into the darkness of our world.  Scandinavians, who live in deep darkness through the winter especially celebrate the coming of the light which overcomes the darkness of their world. Historically, December 13th, before changing to the Gregorian calendar, was the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. Thus, to rejoice in the coming of the Christ light, on December 13 the Swedes celebrate Lucia, a young Sicilian woman who lived in the reign of terror of the Emperor Diocletian.

The beautiful story of Lucia is of a young woman promised by her family to a young nobleman in marriage. As a new Christian believer who was zealous and strong in her new faith, Lucia took her dowry money to buy food and clothing for the Christians who were hiding in the catacombs during this time of persecution. She brought these alms under cover of darkness wearing a wreath of candles on her head to help her find her way in the catacombs. She refused to marry the young man who was not a believer and without a dowry this settled the matter. The noble family denounced Lucia to the authorities as a Christian. She was tortured and martyred. There are many gruesome stories of her martyrdom, one notably being that her eyes were put out and she was burned. Within the 4th century, the Emperor Constantine declared the Roman Empire to be Christian and persecution ceased. Lucia was made an early saint and martyr of the church.

How did Lucia, a young Sicilian martyr and saint become the patron saint of Scandinavia?

There is a lovely legend that goes like this…..A famine had come across the land and though the people were not starving , it was Christmastide and there was no sugar, no flour, no butter to make the special baked goods which the Swedes love, especially at Christmas. It was December 13th and the villagers had all gone to mass to celebrate the feast day of Santa Lucia. Upon returning home, outside the door of each home was a bag of sugar, flour and butter. It was a gift from heaven and it was declared a miracle of Santa Lucia! Lucia brought hope and light to these villagers of long ago. Through the centuries, the tradition has been kept by the oldest daughter of a family awakening during the dark to put on a halo of candles and go through her home awakening her family with coffee and Lucia buns. She sings a song with her sisters, the angels and her brothers, the star boys.

The song of Santa Lucia

“Forgotten by the sun, all earth wears winter’s gloom.

Darkness surrounds us all, shadows fill every room

Comes she with candles bright-who is this child of light?

Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia.”

John 1: 1-13

Pastor Joy Kulvicki

Day 13 of Advent: Reading to a Child or an Elder this Advent

One of my favorite activities to do each Advent is to read a story of Christmas to a child or an elder.  It is virtually free, as you can check a book out of the library.  Reading aloud will bring joy–I promise to both you and the listener.  Here is a short list of options that you could read!

1.  The Little Match Girl, by Hans Christian Andersen

2.  Olive, the Other Reindeer, by J. Otto Seibold

3.  Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, by Susan Wojciechowski

4.  Dream Snow, by Eric Carle

5.  The Legend of the Poinsettia, by Tomie dePaola

6.  The Crippled Lamb, by Max Lucado

7.  The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving, by Jan and Mike Berenstain

8.  Charlie and the Christmas Kitty, by Ree Drummond

9.  A Wish to be a Christmas Tree, by Colleen Monroe

10.  Welcome Comfort, by Patricia Polacco

Do you have someone that you could read to?  Please feel free to share some of your favorite books and memories of Christmas reading with the blog.

Day 12 of Advent: Remembering

Sometimes the “holly, jolly” feelings are difficult during Advent.  We have all had to celebrate a first Christmas without a loved one.  2014 might be that kind of Advent for you and your family, as it is for my family, where we will celebrate the first Christmas without my Nana.  My Nana contributed so much during Christmas, from her baking and cooking to her incredible love for Christmas music.

Right before Thanksgiving, one of my colleagues from work who lives far away, wrote a short email saying that she was thinking about me and my family this Thanksgiving.  It meant the world to me that she was praying for me and got me thinking, how can I help others this Advent who are grieving?

1.  Reach Out

Just like that email meant a great deal to me, what can you do to reach out?  Write their Christmas card to your grieving friend and send it early, pick up the phone to reach out, make a date to go do something, or send that short email to say you are praying for them.  It will mean the world!

2.  Listen

I recently watched an 8 minute TED video on 5 Ways to Listen Better.  Julian Treasure gives a few tips and how important is for us to When someone is grieving, our intention to reach out and listen to their tears, fears and feelings of loss will connect us to our friends on a deeper level. It will keep us spiritually connected.

3.  Give a Gift of Remembrance

I recently bought a Christmas ornament with a slot for a picture that I will place my Nana into.  We have all seen these ornaments for a “baby’s first Christmas” or the year to put a picture of our children to capture a moment of Christmas time.  My parents have one of me when I did not have my front teeth for Christmas.  Other ways to help our friends memorialize their loved one can include asking them to share their favorite Christmas moment, song, prayer, or holiday activity of that loved one.

4.  Out of the Ordinary

Help your friend make a new memory this Advent, but doing something non-traditional or different.  Take them to tea, a Christmas Market, brunch, walk around to see the Christmas windows, or go look at the tacky Christmas lights in your community.  It may be the time to start some new traditions this year, but your friend may need some help doing so.

5.  Offer Prayer

If possible, offer to pray with your friend in person, on the phone or via FaceTime or Skype.  As we have been taught, everything is possible through prayer.  Philippians 4:6, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” KJV

Here are two resources to help:

How to be Healers?  Dr. Michael Brown, Marble Collegiate Church

http://www.marblechurch.org/welcome/calendar/events/all-church/1132/sunday-worship

Dealing with Grief During the Holiday Season from AARP

http://www.aarp.org/home-family/friends-family/info-12-2012/death-loss-christmas-holidays-goyer.html

Marcie Doll

Day 11 of Advent: The Advent Song

The Advent Song

Now we light the first candle
It must stand alone
We wait for the little child
who laid in a manger

Now we light the second candle
Then we can see better
We wait for God, our Father
to give his Son down here

Now we light the third candle
It is a sacred number
We wait for our King
to be born in a stable

Now we light the fourth candle
and night turns into day
We wait for a Saviour
for all mankind

Day 10 of Advent: Advent Movie List

As the days get shorter and the weather outside is sometimes “frightful,” how about plan a movie night or two with an Advent or Christmas theme?  I am going to go out on a limb here and not include some of our favorites like “Its a Wonderful Life” and dig deep for some movies you may not have thought about.  Here is a list of the 10 that I will be watching this Advent season.

1.  The Shop Around the Corner, 1940

2.  While you were Sleeping, 1995

3.  Love Actually, 2003

4.  The Christmas Box, 1995

5.  The Holiday, 2006

6.  Timepiece, 1996

7.  The Muppet Christmas Carol, 1992

8.  The Polar Express, 2004

9.  Nativity, 2009

10.  Joyeux Noel, 2005

Feel free to add your favorite movie to the list by posting a comment to the blog.  I know you will share some wonderful movies to watch this season of Advent!

Marcie Doll

Day 9 of Advent: Feeding the Soul and Body

During Advent, I like to serve comfort food. While the Miso in this recipe is optional, if you do use, you’ll find it adds a wonderful, rather mysterious, taste to this dish. It’s an umami sort of mystery. Try it. I bought my Miso from Amazon.

Butternut Squash Mash

Ingredients

1 tablespoon canola or olive oil or coconut oil

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

One butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into pieces*

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

3 to 4 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon Miso (optional)

Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

  • Melt the oil with 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter in a large pot (if you have one, use ceramic).
  • Add the squash and simmer for 5 minutes or so, until the squash just barely begins to brown.
  • Now add the garlic and sage and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Add 3 to 4 tablespoons of water.
  • Cover the pan and let the squash steam in the water for about 20 minutes.
  • Check after 10 minutes and add more water if it seems dry.
  • Now put the squash and liquid into a food processor or Vitamix with the rest of the butter. Add the optional Miso (highly recommended) and process until smooth and airy.
  • Taste and adjust seasonings. Ad more butter or cream if you want it thinner.

Another “mash” that I’ve also served with holiday roasts is the following:

Broccoli Mash

Ingredients

3 large broccoli crowns, cut into small florets

1 large , 1 medium russet potato, cut into 1 or 2 inch dice

2 Tb butter

2 Tsp dried thyme

¼ cup heavy cream (optional)

Salt & pepper, to taste

Preparation:

  • Peel the potatoes, cut them into  1 or 2 inch chunks and add them to a large pot of boiling water. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and boil until very soft, 10 to 12 minutes
  • Roughly chop the the broccoli crowns into small florets. Place in a steamer over a pot of simmering water and steam covered for 10 to 12 minutes until broccoli is soft and well done. The color is likely to be an unattractive green.
  • When the potatoes and broccoli are done, place in a Vita mix or food processor. Add the butter and cream and puree until thoroughly mixed and there are no chunks or particles remaining.
  • Serves 4-6

Joyce West

Day 8 of Advent: A time to prepare for the Mystery of Christmas

Using the Godly Play curriculum, we prepare the children for the arrival of Jesus in a series of lessons called “The Mystery of Christmas.” They learn of Mary and Joseph’s trip to Bethlehem, of the barn where He is born, of the star which leads the shepherds and of the animals who were there to receive Him. But the look on the children’s face when they learn about the cow who went to his feed box for food and instead found Jesus is priceless. The cow’s expression turns from bewilderment to joy.

That morning in a barn a gift was given to all… A gift of grace for all to share. May we too experience the birth of Christ in awe and wonder as the cow did and as my children do!

Merry Christmas! 

Sandy Diaz