Friday, November 30, 2012

Candles, Because the King is Coming!

This is not a book review. It is adapted from an article I wrote for The Bible Newsletter in December, 1982. I hope you find it helpful as we celebrate Advent again.
"It’s my turn to light the candles," said David.
"No, It’s my turn," Anne argued.
"No," insisted Mary. "You did it last night. It’s my turn."
"When’s my turn?" wailed Martha.
"You’re after me," said John, looking disdainfully down at his sister, "cause you’re the youngest."
"All right," said Mother, moderating since Dad was out of town. "It’s Mary’s turn. And John may put the candles out when we’re finished."
They all settled down in their places again as Mary took the matches from Mother and carefully lit the Advent candles, her small hands trembling with responsibility, while the other children watched, each one ready to take over the job, if necessary.
We always have candles at supper, but during Advent the after-dinner lighting of the candles in the Advent wreath in the middle of our dining room table is a special treat.
The children sit quietly in the candlelight while Mother, Dad, or one of the older children (we take turns) reads the verses that tell of the coming of Christ. There may be a comment or question on the Scripture just read. Perhaps we will sing a favorite hymn or Christmas carol. We finish with a prayer of thanksgiving to God for his great provision for all of our needs, especially for our Savior Jesus Christ.
Advent was established many years ago as a preparation for Christmas, just as Lent is a preparation for Easter. Four Sundays before Christmas, Advent begins. Its spirit is one of longing and expectation, recalling the centuries during which the faithful waited for the birth of the promised Messiah.
Some Advent wreaths are made to hold four candles, some five, the fifth being lit on Christmas Day. Some people use three purple candles and one pink, the three purple signifying the liturgical color of penitence, and the one pink, the "joyful" candle used on the third Sunday because Advent is half over. (Soon he is coming!) Sometimes all white candles are used. We often decorate our Advent wreath with cuttings of yew or pine or spruce, adding to its beauty. These sprigs can be changed for fresh cuttings as they dry out.
During the first week of Advent, each evening after dinner, one candle is lit just before the family devotional time together. At the beginning of each week, another candle is lit. On Christmas Day, the candles may be very short, so white candles for the next twelve days of Christmas and Epiphany may replace the used ones.
Books for meditation and prayers for each day of Advent are available. Or, you might like to use the following list of readings, which were printed in The Banner some years ago. We have used these readings during many Advent seasons and found them helpful in drawing our hearts and minds away from the harried commercialism of the season, and toward the coming of the King.
First Week
Sun   The Savior would be seed of a woman, Gen 3:1-15; Gal 4:4,5

Mon   Promised seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Gen 12:1-3; Matt 1:1,2; Gen
              17:15-22; Luke 3:34; Gen 28:10-15

Tues   Would come from the root of Jesse, Isa 11:1-10; Rom 15:1-13

Wed    Would be heir to David’s throne, Ps 89:1-4; 19-29; Luke 1:32, 33

Thurs  Christ’s birth and kingdom foretold, Isa 9:6, 7; Phil 2:5-11

Fri      To be born of a virgin, Isa 7:14; Matt 1:22, 23
           To be born in Bethlehem, Mic 5:2; Matt 2:1-6

Sat      A light unto the Gentiles, Isa 9:1, 2; Matt 4:12-17; Isa 60:1-3; Luke 2:25-32
Second Week
Sun    Christ to be a servant, Isa 42:1-4; Matt 12:9-21

Mon   Christ the shepherd, Isa 40:9-11; John 10:1-11

Tues   Marks of Christ’s ministry, Isa 61:1, 2; Luke 4:16-21

Wed   Christ to be a prophet, Deut 18:18, 19; Matt 21:10, 11; Acts 3:19-23

Thurs Triumphal entry foretold, Zech 9:9; Isa 62: 10, 11; Matt 21:1-9

Fri     Christ would be rejected, a Man of Sorrows, Isa 53:1-6; Luke 17:25; Matt 8:17

Sat     Christ the atoning Lamb, the Sin-Bearer, Isa 53:7-12; John 1:29; Heb 9:28
Third Week
Sun    Christ would conquer death and hell, Ps 16:7-10; Matt 16:21; Isa 25:8;
              Acts 2:22-27

Mon   Would ascend and intercede for his people, Ps 110:1-4; Ps 68:18; Acts 2:32-36

Tues   Christ will come again as Judge, Dan 7:13, 14; Matt 25:31-46

Wed   Christ, the King of Glory, Ps 24; Rev 5:11-14

Thurs We seek mercy and pardon, Ps 25

Fri     A forerunner promised; another Elijah, Mal 4:5, 6; Matt 11:7-15;
            Mal 3:1; Luke 3:1-6

Sat    John’s message of repentance, Isa 40:1-8; Matt 3:1-12; John 1:19-23

Fourth Week
Sun    The angel appears to Zacharias, Luke 1:15-25

Mon   Birth of John the Baptist; song of Zacharias, Luke 1:57-80

Tues   The annunciation to Mary by the angel Gabriel, Luke 1:39-56

Wed   Mary visits Elizabeth; her "Magnificat," Luke 1:39-56

Thurs The angel appears to Joseph, Matt 1:18-25

Fri     The birth of Jesus Christ, Luke 2:1-20

—Lois Sibley

Friday, November 16, 2012

Father of the English Reformation

God Truly Worshipped, Thomas Cranmer and His Writings, ed. by Jonathan Dean and published by Canterbury Press is available in U.S. through WestminsterJohnKnox (
Cranmer was a scholar and teacher at Cambridge, and a Fellow of Jesus College for some years before he was caught up in discussions on ways to help King Henry VIII solve his problem of divorce from Catherine of Aragon. Cranmer mentioned casually to friends that the universities of Europe should be canvassed to see if they had ideas on how to solve the King’s "Great Matter." So Cranmer was sent to Europe to gather ideas and opinions and bring them back.

Cranmer was one of those who believed that the King was the supreme head of both the church and his kingdom, not the Pope. Cranmer held to his belief that this "supremacy was the vital theological foundation upon which the English Reformation" would be based. The supremacy of the King over the church, plus restoring the Scriptures as the central authority in the church became the two main focuses of Cranmer’s career.
After his return from Europe and as a reward for his efforts, Cranmer was given "the living" of a small church in Worcestershire. But, in 1532, after the death of Archbishop Warham of Canterbury, King Henry nominated Cranmer as successor. Once installed, and because of the supremacy factor, Cranmer granted the King the divorce he wanted from Catherine in order to marry Anne Boleyn.
Editor Jonathan Dean, who is Assistant Professor of Religion and a Fellow of the Wackerlin Center for Faith and Action at Aurora University, Aurora, Ill., wrote of Cranmer, "No-one has ever written prayers like him; no-one has ever had a better grasp of the flow and beauty of a good liturgy. No-one has ever eclipsed him in shaping the vocabulary of the English speaking world, save perhaps Shakespeare."
This story of Cranmer’s life and ministry includes quotes from his written words; papers; letters; and excerpts from his book, Defences..., on his eucharistic theology, which was "eloquently expressed" and lives on in his most influential work, The Book of Common Prayer (1549 ff.).
After King Henry VIII died in January 1547, his son, Edward VI, was king for six years. Then Mary, the King’s daughter with Queen Catherine, and a Roman Catholic, came to the throne, turning everything back to the Pope’s rule of the church. During Mary’s reign, Cranmer was imprisoned, tortured, and forced to recant his beliefs. Many others also suffered, and were killed, usually by burning at the stake. Cranmer, after two years of vile treatment, was burned at the stake. He took back his recantation and said that the hand that signed those papers would burn first, and on March 21, 1556, he held his right hand into the fire first, as he had said he would.
—Lois Sibley

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Holiday Gift Book Ideas

Even in these busy days of multi-media opportunities, a gift book is always welcome. Here are some new books on the market that would be good choices for gift-giving.

My First Hymn Book
by Clare Simpson and from Paraclete ( is colorful, full of pictures of children singing and playing together, and it’s just the right size for small hands. It includes words of 11 favorite children’s hymns as well as I Sing a Song of the Saints of God and He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.
     Star of Wonder written by Mary Lee Wile and illustrated by Sage Stossel is from Forward Movement Publications ( and tells the story of Jesse, a shepherd boy who sees the star in the night sky while he is watching his father’s sheep. When the wise men come following the star, Jesse leads them to the baby in the manger.
     Click 2 Save
by Elizabeth Drescher and Keith Anderson, from Morehouse/Church Publishing ( claims that "social media have re-mapped the world" and they offer many ideas of how people and especially people in churches can get into new ways of sharing the Good News. If you know folks who love to tell the story, this book will help them learn to do it in various kinds of digital ministry.
     Lent for Everyone, Luke, Year C
by N. T. Wright is from WestminsterJohnKnox ( and continues Wright’s new series on devotional books for Lent. This one could be used by individuals or groups. Includes Wright’s own translation of the Scripture stories with a brief reflection and prayers to guide readers in applying Scripture to their own lives. I liked and reviewed his Lenten book on Year B in the March 2012 issue of Episcopal Journal.
     The Food and Feasts of Jesus
by Douglas E. Neel and Joel A. Pugh, from Rowman & Littlefield ( would be a great gift for someone who is interested in food, cooking, and how it was done in the villages and towns where Jesus walked. Includes menus and recipes as well as much interesting information on First Century cultures.
     The Path of Celtic Prayer, an Ancient Way to Everyday Joy
by Calvin Miller is now in paperback from IVPress ( Miller is fascinated by Celtic history and he shares what he has learned about their practical ways of prayer.
     The Bible Challenge
, edited by Marek Zabriskie and new from Forward Movement ( offers readers the challenge of reading the Bible in a year. There are more than 100 authors, each of whom was given a segment of three days of the calendar year to provide Scripture, meditations, questions, and prayers. Foreword is by Frank Griswold, our 25th presiding bishop. Give this book to someone who will enjoy the challenge!

—Lois Sibley