Janice Hall Heck

Finding hope in a chaotic world…

Archive for the tag “Christmas”

Sunday. Advent Week 4.

At Margate Community Church in Margate, NJ, for the four weeks preceding Christmas, we unfold the drama of the birth of Christ as it happened over two thousand years ago.
This is the fourth week in Advent, and this morning we lit the fourth candle on the Advent Wreath representing LOVE. This candle is sometimes called the Angel’s Candle because the angels announce the birth of Jesus. The fifth candle in the middle of the wreath represents the birth of Jesus, and that will be lit at the Christmas Eve candlelight service.

Advent Week 4 - LOVE

Advent Week 4 – LOVE

Appearing on the Advent calendar this week: more animals in the manger scene, a peace dove, and Joseph standing by the manger. All is ready.


But the baby has not yet been born. The manger is still empty.


The major event is yet to come.

See other weeks in Advent:
Advent Week 1: Preparing for the Birth of Christ
Advent Week 2: Peace
Advent Week 3: Joy

Sunday. Advent Week 3: Joy

Advent Week 3. The third candle in the Advent Wreath represents JOY:  The Joy that comes with knowing that God keeps His promises, and especially the promise recorded by the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah:

Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel–God with us. Matthew 1:23 (quoting Isaiah 7:14)


The shepherds were in the fields outside Bethlehem, watching over their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared to them and said:

Don’t be afraid! I bring you good news of great joy! The Savior has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David. And this is how you will recognize him: You will find a baby lying in a manger, wrapped snuggly in strips of cloth.  Luke 2:10-12

A host of angels in the heavens sang this message of joy:

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all… (Luke 2:14)


On the children’s advent calendar, the Three Wise Men and their entourage (represented by two camels)  follow a bright star (upper left on the calendar) to find the baby Jesus.

Once again  the star appeared to them, guiding them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was.
When they saw the star, they were filled with joy!
They entered the house where the child and his mother, Mary, were and they fell down before him and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2:9

Bethlehem 12-14-13 Photo Credit: Mike of Educational Opportunities Tours

Church of the Nativity (built above the traditional birthplace of Jesus), Bethlehem 12-14-2013 Photo Credit: Mike of Educational Opportunities Tours

We feel great joy as we celebrate the birth of Christ on that cold night in Bethlehem so many years ago. This joy comes with knowing that God keeps His promises.

Our choir sang of that JOY in a Christmas Cantata by John Purifoy during today’s morning service:

Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus
Joy to the World
While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks
Songs of the Angels
Gloria in Excelsis Deo!

One year ago, I was in Bethlehem in Israel with six friends and Mike, our tour guide from Educational Opportunities.

Janice at the manger scene and Christmas tree in Bethlehem square, December, 2012

Janice at the manger scene and Christmas tree in Bethlehem square, December, 2012

This week, Mike is leading another tour group in Israel, and it is snowing. Look for pictures and a video at https://www.facebook.com/mike.eotours

Joy to the world. Peace on earth.

Advent Week 2: Peace

Advent Week 2: Light the Peace Candle

Week 2  Peace

Week 2 Peace

This week at Margate Community Church, in preparation for our celebration of the birth of Christ, we decorated the church, and on Sunday morning the congregation and choir sang hymns and carols of praise. A harpist played familiar Christmas music and joined with the choir when they sang. Anticipating the birth of Christ brings hope (Advent, week 1). The second Advent candle adds light in the darkness, and we celebrate the peace that Jesus brings into our lives. (Jesus is the Prince of Peace, Isaiah 9:6)



As part of each weekly Sunday service, Pastor Fleming has a children’s talk, and today he showed the children an Advent Calendar. While many Christmas calendars count down the days until Christmas and provide small treats for the children each day, the Christian Advent Calendar uses symbols to tell the story of the birth of Christ. Pastor Fleming opened the first eight pouches to help him tell the beginning of the Christmas story.

The first three symbols:

  • Pouches 1, 2, and 3 contained sheep.
  • Pouches 4 and 5 contained shepherds
  • Pouch 6, 7, and 8 contained angels.

All three of these symbols are important in the Christmas story.

The shepherds, as the hymn tells us, watched their flocks at night, all seated on the ground. They did not have comfortable homes because they had to sleep out in the countryside where the best feeding grounds for the sheep were. They were often lonely, with other shepherds and their flocks their only companions. These shepherds were poorest of the poor and were looked down upon by society in general.

But the angels did not appear to the wealthy, happy, and socially prominent people, rather it was to these poor, ragged, and cold shepherds that the angels brought the good news, the announcement of the birth of Christ. In this way, God shows that he accepts everyone regardless of their economic or social status or their race.

Earlier, the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, a woman betrothed to Joseph, a descendant of David of the Old Testament, a king of Israel, and a writer of most of the Psalms. The angel told Mary,

Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. (Luke 1: 26-28, 31)

Another angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him,

Mary will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name, Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)

Next Sunday: Advent Wreath Candle 3 and Advent Calendar Pouches 9 through 15.


If you want to make your own Advent calendar, visit Tricia and read Advent Calendar: Teach The True Story of Christmas.


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