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Summary: The meaning of the candles in an Advent Wreath; Prophecy, Bethlehem, Shepherds, Salvation and the Birth (Incarnation) of Christ

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Happy Birthday, Jesus

(An Advent Celebration)

Luke 2.1-20 December 24, 2000

An Advent Wreath has five candles representing different parts of the Christmas story. They consist of three white candles (Prophecy, Bethlehem and Shepherds), a purple candle (our Salvation), and a pink candle in the middle of the wreath symbolic of the birth of Christ. The candles will speak to us this morning:

The Light Candle says: REMEMBER

God knows our needs. In Genesis 3.15 the Lord gave the first promise of redemption through a Savior, only moments after the first sin. As guilty as man has always been, and as needy as we are, God has always been one step ahead of our need with His grace.

Jesus spoke to Moses out of a bush that burned, but wasn’t burned-up. Jesus walked in the midst of the fire with three captive children of Israel who wouldn’t bow, bend or burn. Jesus kept the widow’s cruse of oil filled, and her meal barrel filled.

Throughout the Old Testament prophets told of His coming -- yet He was with them all the while. Remember how God meets your need.

The Bethlehem Candle says: READY

The poor Innkeeper of Bethlehem shall forever be known as the man who missed Christmas. God comes to where we are, but not always in the way we expect.

 Jesus found the woman at the well, but she wasn’t expecting God.

 He came to Nicodemus talking of being born again, and it surprised the religious man.

 Jesus told Peter to put up his sword, and come along to the cross. That confused the fisherman.

The Bethlehem candle says, Be ready, my ways are higher than yours.

The Shepherd’s Candle says: REALITY

God has always come to the neediest among us first. Shepherds were (and still are) social outcasts who could not participate in religious ceremonies very often. But then, Jesus didn’t come to bring us more religion; the world has always had more than its fill of religious activity. He came to bring peace and freedom from the things that enslave us. The first announcement of the arrival of the Good Shepherd was to ordinary shepherds, people who needed a bit of good news!

The Salvation Candle says: REJOICE!

God not only meets our needs, He teaches us how to respond to His provision. Rev. H.C. Shade was the pastor of the First Reformed Church in Nyack, N.Y. It was a very small congregation. The week before Christmas a storm blew a hole in the roof. There was an auction to raise funds for the youth activities, and the pastor spotted an old hand-embroidered tablecloth. He bid $6.50 and got it. Then he stretched it out over the hole in the roof, and it looked like a fine old tapestry from within the church.

The day before Christmas the pastor noticed an elderly lady standing at the bus stop. It was cold, and the hourly bus had just left, so he went out and invited her to come inside and warm up while she waited. She came in and saw the tablecloth. She got near where it was hanging down from the roof and felt it. Through tears and broken English she told the pastor, This is mine -- my husband bought it for me in Brussels before the Nazis ran us out. She told the story of how she had escaped, and her husband was to follow her, but the last word she got was that he had died in the concentration camp. The pastor offered her the cloth, but she said, No, it is where it belongs.


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