This page is dedicated to the heritage of Christianity. Jesus Christ is the Cornerstone and Head of the true church worldwide and our founding and history are detailed in the New Testament of the Bible. Once Jesus ascended back into heaven, the Apostles began to formulate the doctrines of the church based on the Scriptures and to establish congregations. Christianity began to spread like wildfire around the known world as Christians fled severe persecution and took the message of Christ and salvation with them. This is all told in the Scriptures, but what happened next? What about the next generation of church fathers – those who studied under the Apostles and carried the heavy task of maintaining Christian doctrine after the last of the Apostles died for their faith? This is where we pick up. This page is dedicated to the stories of the early church fathers. While we do not consider their writings to be divinely-inspired like the Bible, their work holds the standard of Christian doctrine and ensures that it is maintained. They were the mainstays of early Christianity.
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ADVENT – O COME, O COME, EMMANUEL
Have you ever eagerly anticipated something so much that you could barely stand it? Think about how excited children get when it gets close to their birthday or to Christmas – they can hardly contain their excitement! What if you have such a longing in your soul for something to happen that it almost hurts?
In the same way, the Jewish anticipation of the coming Messiah is played out during the Passover Seder meal, which is a type and pattern of Christ. From pierced and striped matzo bread to the lamb whose leg bones are not broken when preparing the meal, this holiday represents redemption. As part of ceremonial tradition, Jewish children get up from the table and pretend to look for Elijah (who symbolizes deliverance), and adults leave an empty seat and cup of win at the table for him.1
As Christians, we know John the Baptist came in the spirit of Elijah to make way for the coming of Jesus. During the Last Supper (which was the Passover Seder), Jesus looked at the matzo bread and declared, “This is My body which has been broken for you…” (Luke 22:19) and said of the third cup of wine, known as the cup of redemption – the same cup that is traditionally left for Elijah, “This is My blood which is shed for you…” (Luke 22:20).
During the 400 years of prophetic silence, known as the Intertestamental Period, the Jewish people anticipated the coming of the Messiah. Today Christians enter the holiday season with the tradition of Advent as they reflect on His first coming and eagerly await and even inwardly groan for His second coming.
The celebration of Advent (a Latin word which means “coming/arrival”) has roots that extend back to the Celtic monks of the fourth century who fasted the six weeks preceding Christmas. By the tenth century, the time period was shortened to four weeks, and liturgical colors and various prayers were instituted. Today Advent is celebrated by both Protestants and Catholics; however, the Protestants have distinguished themselves by using a different set of colors (blue instead of violet) in their celebration. Each group begins the season of Advent by lighting a candle each week prior to Christmas and reciting passages of Scripture. A fifth candle, a white one – the Christ candle – is lit on Christmas Day.2
Today, families make wreaths to decorate their tables and carefully place the candles for each week, leaving a middle spot for the Christ candle. Some families decorate a Jesse Tree, representing the genealogy of Christ, taken from Isaiah 11:1, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit” (NIV). Here, an ornament is hung each day of Advent, each one telling the story of God’s redemption throughout human history.3 There are special songs [see the link below] and church services which reflect the anticipation of Advent season. Although family traditions vary during this time, as well as cultural traditions and season cooking within various parts of the world, the main theme is the anticipation of the second advent of Christ.
As we enjoy the upcoming holiday season (with Advent starting November 27th), may we also reflect the words of John as we await His return: “He Who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (ESV).
- Pesach a Christian Passover. A Covenant Books Text, Amended for use at Holy Trinity Church, Freckleton (2007). Retrieved November 10, 2016, from http://www.freckletonparishchurch.org.uk/Passover%20Booklet.pdf
- Longman, B. (2005, August). Advent and Christmas. Retrieved November 10, 2016, from http://www.spirithome.com/advent.pdf
- Inscore Essick, A. Inscore Essick J. (2010). Distinctive Traditions of Advent. Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor University. Retrieved November 10, 2016, from http://www.baylor.edu/content/services/document.php/125486.pdf
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