Day 9
Advent Candle:
Today you will light the Prophecy Candle and then the Bethlehem Candle.

Bible Verses

Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11
Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the LORD's hand
double for all her sins.

A voice of one calling:
"In the desert prepare
the way for the LORD;
make straight in the wilderness
a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the LORD will be revealed,
and all mankind together will see it.
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken."

You who bring good tidings to Zion,
go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem,
lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
say to the towns of Judah,
"Here is your God!"
See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power,
and his arm rules for him.
See, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young. (NIV)

I have noticed that there are not many references in the Bible to John the Baptist which do not also mention Christ. Even his father Zechariah's first words after John is born speak of the coming Lord. John's life and ministry--his very purpose--are centered around Jesus. Jesus defines him. That is why he is such a wonderful example to look at, not only at Advent but all year long!

I believe that today's verses are the last from the Old Testament that we will be reading for this Advent calendar. Isaiah 40 is full of hope and promise of a coming Savior who is both gentle shepherd and mighty king, powerful and all-knowing, but also the source of peace and salvation. John the Baptist would be the herald of all that Christ was prophesied to be.

In verse 1 and 2, we see how forgiving and merciful God will be to Jerusalem. Jerusalem has paid the price and Jesus is coming with recompense (see Word to Know below). Then, Isaiah prophesies that John the Baptist will precede the Lord and call for people to "make a straight path" for Jesus! In other words, get your hearts ready! Get straight before God!

Later, in verse 9, Isaiah seems to be speaking right to John, "lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, 'Here is your God!' " Isn't that a wonderful pep talk? When John starts his ministry, we see that he is wise and discerning--he knows the Scriptures and is prepared himself with God's word. He must have repeated the charge from Isaiah 40 to himself over and over, to draw his courage from God when the Pharisees and others attacked his message of Good News.

These verses can be our charge as well to be prepared with God's word so that we can bring it to those around us!

Jesse Tree Verse: Genesis 28:10-22 Symbol: The ladder from Jacob's dream.

Make a Pathway for the Lord Living Proof Ministries

Dinnertime (or anytime!) Discussion
Isaiah says that John the Baptist will come as a messenger for the Good News of Jesus. John will remind the people to make a straight path for God. Read Isaiah 40:4. What do you think these words mean? It talks about valleys being raised up, but mountains made low. One interpretation of these verses is that John's message will be that we need to bring ourselves out of the valley of hopelessness (or complacency?). The mountains of our pride should come tumbling down! And the rough, ragged parts of our attitudes and character need to be smoothed out! I think that's a wonderful word picture. Why do you think that these things are important to do in your relationship with Jesus? How about with others?

Word to Know
In today's Scriptures, we read that Jesus is coming with His salvation and "recompense".
To compensate; to make return of an equivalent for any thing given, done or suffered; as, to recompense a person for services, for fidelity or for sacrifices of time, for loss or damages. The word is followed by the person or the service. We recompense a person for his services, or we recompense his kindness. It is usually found more easy to neglect than to recompense a favor. 2. To require; to repay; to return an equivalent; in a bad sense.
Recompense to no man evil for evil. Rom. 12.

3. To make an equivalent return in profit or produce. The labor of man is recompensed by the fruits of the earth.

4. To compensate; to make amends by any thing equivalent.

5. To make restitution or an equivalent return for. (Webster's 1828 Dictionary

In The American Heritage Dictionary, it says that "recompense", as a noun, means "Amends made, as for damage or loss. 2. Payment in return for something, such as a service." Isn't this just what Christ came to do with His death on the Cross?!

Book Suggestion
The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden. One Christmas Eve, three wishes are made: a little girl longs for a doll and a grandmother, a doll hopes to be loved by a child, and a lonely wife wishes for a child to bring into her home. You can guess the outcome of this sweet book, but that makes it such a nice message of hopes fulfilled!

Advent Extras

We have come to one of my husband's (and my) favorite painters! At the right is a painting called, simply, "St. John the Baptist" by Michelangelo Merisi Caravaggio.

Caravaggio was an artist of the Baroque era who chose religious subjects and shunned the idealistic portrayal of Biblical figures for a more natural one. He chose particularly striking moments to use in his work and employed the drama of both dark shadow and illumination. Some of his subjects are real to the extreme and include dramatic moments of surprise, realization, anguish and terror. Caravaggio painted with emotional realism his interpretations of the martyrs of saints like Matthew, the death of Mary, and the beheading of John the Baptist (much different from this earlier painting of John as a youth). But he also painted the conversion of Paul, the Nativity painting above on this page, and his famous "Supper at Emmaus".

The work of Caravaggio never fails to evoke a strong emotional response. He was condemned at times for his mastery of realism in his religious paintings (His "Madonna di Loreto" or, "Madonna With Pilgrims", was a scandal because he portrayed a gentle and sympathetic Mary looking down upon two peasants who had dirty feet!). One of his signature talents was illuminating a moment of realization, bringing the most dramatic second of an event to life. In "Supper at Emmaus", two of Jesus' apostles who have unknowingly met Jesus along the road stop to have a meal. As they are getting ready to eat, Jesus begins to break bread and they realize who He is! Caravaggio captures the moment just before Jesus disappears.

For more on Caravaggio, see The Artchive--Caravaggio. Because of subject matter, be sure to preview this artist before studying his work with young children. Although his paintings are intense and, at times, distressing, I believe they are true to what are real events and people. Not an everyday artist to enjoy, but Caravaggio's intentions are admirable in my book.

Holiday Tradition & History
History of the Salvation Army Red Kettles In December 1891, a Salvation Army captain in San Francisco had resolved to provide a free Christmas dinner to the area’s poor. But he had no idea how he pay for the food.

As the Salvation Army captain went about his daily tasks, the question stayed in his mind. Suddenly, his thoughts went back to his days as a sailor in Liverpool, England.

He remembered seeing passersby at Stage Landing place their charitable contributions into a large pot they called "Simpson's pot."

The next morning, the captain secured permission from the authorities to place a similar pot at the Oakland ferry landing, at the foot of Market Street. No time was lost in securing the pot and placing it in a conspicuous position so all those going to and from the ferryboats could see it. Also, a brass urn was placed on a stand in the waiting room for the same purpose.

Thus, Capt. Joseph McFee launched a tradition that has spread not only throughout the U.S. but throughout the world.

By Christmas 1895, kettles were used by 30 Salvation Army corps in various locations on the West Coast. The Sacramento Bee that year carried a description of the Salvation Army's Christmas activities and mentioned the contributions to street corner kettles.

Shortly after, two young Salvation Army officers who had been instrumental in the original use of the kettle, William A. McIntyre and N.J. Lewis, were transferred to the East Coast.

They took with them the idea of the Christmas kettle.

In 1897, McIntyre prepared his Christmas plans for Boston around the kettle. But his fellow officers refused to cooperate for fear of "making spectacles of themselves."

So McIntyre, his wife and sister set up three kettles at the Washington Street thoroughfare in the heart of the city. That year, the kettle effort in Boston and other locations nationwide paid for 150,000 Christmas dinners for the needy.

In 1898, the New York World hailed Salvation Army kettles as "the newest and most novel device for collecting money."

In 1901, kettle contributions in New York City provided funds for the first mammoth sit-down dinner in Madison Square Garden, a custom that continued for many years.

Today, the homeless are still invited to share holiday dinners and festivities at thousands of Salvation Army centers throughout the country while many poor families are given grocery vouchers so they can prepare their own dinners at home.

Now kettles are used in Korea, Japan, Chile and in many European countries.

Everywhere, public contributions to the kettles enable the Salvation Army to bring the spirit of Christmas to those who would otherwise be forgotten — the aged and lonely, the ill, inmates of jails and other institutions, the poor and unfortunate.

In the U.S., the Salvation Army annually aids more than 7 million Americans at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Kettles have changed since the first utilitarian cauldron set up in San Francisco. Some of the new kettles have such devices as a self-ringing bell and a booth complete with a public address system that broadcasts traditional Christmas carols.

Behind it all, though, is the same Salvation Army message, "Sharing is Caring."

*Used with permisison from SalvationArmyIndiana.org
'Round the World at Christmas
In South Africa, Christmas comes in the middle of summer! Children are on vacation from school for 5-6 weeks and families spend much of their time together outdoors. Inside the home, children make crepe paper chains to hang all around. If they are lucky enough to have fir trees nearby, they will use branches to decorate as well.

On Christmas Eve, carolers can be found strolling through the neighborhoods and along the beaches. Music and dancing continues well into the night. There are candlight celebrations with singing and special performances of all kinds, too. Children hang stockings out for Father Christmas, who will arrive by donkey to fill them with gifts. In Westernized families, children receive presents under the Christmas tree as they do in England or America. But many traditional Christian families view the feasts that are held the next day and the gathering of family and friends as gift enough! In one family tradition I learned of, a string is hung from one corner of the ceiling to another and Christmas cards are hung over top (with the string in the crease of the card) so that family members can pass underneath and reread them all season.

Early on Christmas day, Christian families attend a church service before opening their gifts. After the Christmas service young people receive special gifts such as special imported chocolate, special cookies, and special crackers. They are told that the gifts come from Father Christmas, (a carry over from the colonial days). The young may also receive new clothes and perhaps new shoes or a diary or a book.

Then, all of South Africa is outside for the traditional Christmas Braai! The Braai is South Africa's version of a barbecue. (You can use the word "braai" as a noun: Having a Christmas Braai; or as a verb: Let's braai these chicken kebobs!) Everything is thrown on the grill or over coals...meats, vegetables, fruits (grilled bananas!), and even breads. Friends visit one another and exchange boxes of food which are seen as special, personal gifts. The Braai is held as a large open-air lunch rather than a dinner and families feast on leftovers and other food gifts for days to come!

Christmas Carol or Hymn
Go Tell It on the Mountain After the Civil War, an African American choir director in Tennessee named John Wesley Work was on a mission. His goal was to preserve the Spirit-filled songs of black Americans from the years of slavery which had mostly been passed on by oral tradition. Work was one of few educated African Americans in the South and he used his knowledge and perseverance to teach the lessons of the Christian life through these old songs.

Work's music influenced a nearby black college's choir and soon its Fisk Jubilee singers were taking the Negro spirituals with them as they traveled around the country and even to England to perform for Queen Victoria. John Work's labors to revive these spiritual songs influenced his own church and family as well. His son and brother both continued the work collecting, composing and singing these traditional African American spirituals. Frederick Works, John Works' brother, is credited with bringing attention to the song "Go Tell It on the Mountain", whose author was never discovered.

Unlike many of the mournful lyrics and somber tones of the typical spiritual, "Go Tell It on the Mountain" was a joyous exclamation about the true meaning of Christmas--a subject not often put into song by slaves. John Work II and Frederick Work left the words intact, but changed the music to a more upbeat tune suitable for the Fisk Jubilee Singers to present to their audiences. In the 1880's, the Singers took "Go Tell It on the Mountain" to America and the world.

But that's not the end of the story! In 1909, the song was published in Religious Folk Songs of the Negro as Sung on the Plantations. John Work III, the third generation of the highly educated Work family, graduated from Julliard and studied history and music. He followed his father and grandfather in his devotion for documenting and preserving an important part of America's musical history. Sometimes he traveled across the country to interview elderly former slaves who had sung the spirituals themselves!

Sometime during the Great Depression, John Work III looked at "Go Tell It on the Mountain" and decided to expand upon the song. Whether he composed the new additional lyrics or found them through his research is not known, but the final product is the song we recognize today. It was published in 1940 and became more popular than ever. Through the dedication of the Work family, the words of an unknown slave were shared "over the mountain and everywhere"!

Coloring Pages, Cooking and Crafts
In South Africa, crepe paper like the rolls of holiday streamers we have here are used for decorating. Here is a fun way to use crepe paper for a special little gift:

You'll need 2-3 rolls of streamers in whatever colors you like. (Red and green are good, of course!) Also have 10-12 very small gifts such as:
quarter or fifty-cent piece
pieces of candy (nothing too soft)
small rings or temporary tattoos
small bookmarks
other small trinkets and prizes

Place the first item to be wrapped at the beginning of one streamer roll. Wrap the crepe paper around it about 8-10 times and then add another small gift and wrap it onto the first one. Continue wrapping all the gifts into a large crepe paper ball FULL of small surprises! Tape it closed and add a pretty bow! This is one of the most fun ways to open a gift. :o)

Pine Cone Christmas Tree I love this simple idea! Pine cones DO look like mini Christmas trees! (You can find pine cones at craft stores in case you don't have any in your yard.)
Holiday Coupons One of the easiest gifts to give is your TIME and service! Help your kids to see another way of giving other than with material objects by making use of these coupons--or create your own! This is a habit that should last all year!

Here's a cute little idea for a gift from a child to a special family member or friend. Find a small box and wrap it well with pretty paper. (Homemade stamped wrapping paper would be great!) Tie it up with a beautiful ribbon and write or print this message on a nice gift tag:

I took an ordinary box
As empty as can be
I filled it with a special gift
And wrapped it carefully.

But please don't ever open it
Just leave the ribbon tied
And hold it tightly near your heart
Because my love for you's inside!

If you prefer to use bows over ribbon, simply adjust the poem. Type this on pretty colored paper and cut it out with pinking shears or decorative-edged craft scissors! You can put a small photo of your child on the tag also.

Christmas Fun!
Online Crossword Puzzles Just click on the first and last letters of the word that you find! Two levels of difficulty for kids.
Hershey Holidays Games Play Holiday Hockey, Solitaire or do a Peppermint Patty slider puzzle.

Home Holiday Preparations
Today's Tips:
*Make some time to go through your home and find any unused items that you can donate to charities. Coats, clothes, shoes and boots, mittens, toys, appliances, kitchen ware, etc.
*Christmas Ornament Storage I don't know about you, but almost every year, I find another ornament that has been squished somehow in storage OR I find that my ornament container is no longer sturdy. I've been meaning for years to get some Christmas organizers! Check out the link and see some of the options for Christmas organization. Remember, these items are sometimes seasonal--although probably not so online--and you may want to purchase them soon.

Movie Time
Home Alone with Macaulay Culkin. Although the main character, 10-year old Kevin , starts out the crazed holiday season with a bad attitude and wishing his family weren't around, he learns his lesson when his wish is granted! While he is home alone, burglars begin casing the houses in the neighborhood and choose Kevin's! Our family loves the creative ways that Kevin takes a stand to keep the robbers at bay. A Christmas classic at our house. (There are some not-nice words like "jerk" and "dummy" or "stupid" but those are the worst of it.)

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