Three Kings Day 2016 (January 6)

“Isn’t it overwhelming that even Jesus’ jubilant birth with the magi offering him awesome gifts prophetically points to his somber death on the cross which is Jesus’ gift to us?”- Haven Caylor

 

3 kings

The “yonder star” guides us to Jesus, the “perfect light”

Not being raised Roman Catholic, you can imagine my riveted 13 year old attention to the story of Spain’s Three Kings Day December 1979. 1979-1980 was my first school year to study the Spanish language, and with the language Hispanic culture.

This Varnell, Georgia, country boy, Protestant-Christian had never heard of Three Kings Day. Yes, the Roman Catholics had Santa Claus, but they also had the Three Kings who left presents for children on January 6 . The holiday with its best title as Epiphany has been around the Christian world for over 1,600 years. Many modern scholars say that the magi arrived in Bethlehem and gave Jesus his gifts on January 6.

The Magi (Ancient Astronomers probably from Babylon) followed the Star of Bethlehem to the place where Jesus was. The Jewish nation had been exiled into Babylon (returned to the Holy Land 70 years later) in approximately 600 B. C., and scholarly, Babylonian men had documented and studied the Jewish prophecies concerning the coming Messiah. These Magi were the 1st Gentile believers in Jesus Christ.

Of course we have no idea how many magi came to adore and worship the baby Jesus, but with the Bible mentioning gold, frankincense and myrrh, people say 3 Kings.

Here is a short explanation of the meaning of the three gifts from http://www.gotquestions.org/gold-frankincense-myrrh.html#ixzz2pcptzSE9:

Gold is a precious metal and as such was a very valuable commodity. Its value could very well have financed Joseph and Mary’s trip to Egypt. The Bible does not tell us any other significance to these three gifts; however, tradition has it that there is a deeper meaning for each of the three. Gold is a symbol of divinity and is mentioned throughout the Bible. Pagan idols were often made from gold and the Ark of the Covenant was overlaid with gold (Exodus 25:10-17). The gift of gold to the Christ child was symbolic of His divinity—God in flesh.

Frankincense is a white resin or gum. It is obtained from a tree by making incisions in the bark and allowing the gum to flow out. It is highly fragrant when burned and was therefore used in worship, where it was burned as a pleasant offering to God (Exodus 30:34). Frankincense is a symbol of holiness and righteousness. The gift of frankincense to the Christ child was symbolic of His willingness to become a sacrifice, wholly giving Himself up, analogous to a burnt offering.

Myrrh was also a product of Arabia, and was obtained from a tree in the same manner as frankincense. It was a spice and was used in embalming. It was also sometimes mingled with wine to form an article of drink. Such a drink was given to our Savior when He was about to be crucified, as a stupefying potion (Mark 15:23). In other words, it would make his body numb. Matthew 27:34 refers to it as “gall.” Myrrh symbolizes bitterness, suffering, and affliction.

The baby Jesus would grow to suffer greatly as a man and would pay the ultimate price when He gave His life on the cross for all who would believe in Him.
Our remarkable savior refused the gall (Matthew 27:33 – 34). He loved us enough to take on our sins FULL FORCE! Isn’t it overwhelming that even Jesus’ jubilant birth with the magi offering him awesome gifts prophetically points to his somber death on the cross which is Jesus’ gift to us?

Okay, there is a very brief explanation of the Three Kings (LOL). I absolutely LOVE the hymn “We Three Kings”. The key and the harmony are perfect, and it always sends chills down my spine and puts tears in my eyes when I hear/sing about the birth of Jesus the Christ child. Enjoy!

Advertisements

Gray Christmas

Gray Christmas

From the first moment I hear the song “ White Christmas” between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve it gets my hopes up. Now that we have the Oldies Christmas satellite channel in our vehicle, I hear it even more! Am I dreaming of a white Christmas? Possibly. I love the fantasy of a white Christmas: six inches of snow on the ground, Christmas lights on all the houses and store fronts reflected on the white-blanketed earth. If I stretch my thoughts to the countryside, I can see miles and miles of snow-covered rolling hills, evergreens laden with snow on their branches, and, yes, a one-horse, open sleigh with a family going to grandmother’s house for Christmas dinner a painting right out of Currier and Ives! All that in Southeast Tennessee? No, not on your life. Here in the Southeast we get cheated on our Christmas snow! However, I learned a life lesson several years ago when my children were only six weeks old: be thankful for whatever your situation might be.

For several years I have kept a journal. On January 1, I list hopes and prayers for the coming year. When it comes to the weather for Christmas Eve and the following day, I always include “ 28 degrees, snow on Christmas Eve, and plenty of snow on the ground on Christmas day.”

In 1969 (I was 3 years old so I cannot remember much), it snowed several inches on Christmas. I remember my green Tonka® pick- up truck and farm set with those awesome black and white Holstein milking cows I received from Santa Claus.

I wanted to take those cows out in the snow, and I also took them to my Mamaw’s (a name for a grandmother here in the South) house that afternoon. We had a four- wheel drive jeep, and we took it to see my grandparents who lived some 15 miles away. I remember playing with those cows as we went. Old-timers such as my Nanny (my father’s mother) said the Christmas snow of 1969 was the only real accumulation of snow she had ever seen on Christmas day, and the meteorologist’s archives say the same.

In 1976 on Christmas day, my sister and I played television-tennis on our new Atari (dinosaur predecessor of X-Box® and the Wii®…you people over 40 remember) and watched a light dusting of snow fall in the woods behind our house.

We had wonderful, sliding glass doors, and we could see that precious, coveted, white precipitation fall. We kept hoping that it would accumulate so we could go out and play in the snow…on Christmas day, but it wasn’t meant to be! It was at least 36 degrees, and by 3 p. m., the white dust had melted.

The third and final snow I remember on Christmas was in 1989. It was my first year out of college, and I was teaching Spanish in a North Georgia middle school. We awoke to about an inch of snow on the ground. Our front yard was blanketed in beautiful white snow and huge snowflakes were showering down upon it. I had such high hopes! I looked forward to playing in the snow with my 8 year old niece who had never seen a white Christmas. My niece and her parents would be over for Christmas lunch, and I envisioned snow men, snow angels, and snowball fights. After the outside activities, we would go in to drink some hot chocolate, eat our lunch, and open presents as we gazed out the living room window into the snow-coated front yard with those snow men waving to the passers by’s on the road. But as usual by the afternoon, the snow was all gone. There were no snow angels, no snowmen, nor snowball fights; however, Christmas lunch with my family was delicious.

I really wanted a white Christmas in 2008.  My husband Sean and I had been married for four years. We had our religious wedding on September 3, 2004, and we had our “legal” civil marriage in San Diego, California on August 22, 2008. The following Christmas our children were 6 weeks old. They are kind of twins. They have the same, anonymous, egg-donor mother, but our son, Carter, was fertilized by Sean, and Ammon, our daughter, was fertilized by me. Carter and Ammon each had their own surrogate. Though Dr. David Smotrich the owner of the La Jolla IVF Clinic said we could have one surrogate with both Ammon and Carter being implanted in her, we did not want any twin “complications” in the womb or at birth. Our experiences with both Dr. Smotrich and Extraordinary Conceptions (our Surrogacy/Egg Donor agency) were beautiful blessings. In the end, we recruited two surrogates who delivered two healthy babies one in San Diego, California and the other in Mission Viejo, California. Carter and Ammon were born six days apart.

The new babies came just in time for the Christmas season. Sean and I were adjusting to our new life. Sean is a medical doctor, and I am a doctor of education. I quit my job in the regular classroom, and I began teaching online for a state university here in Tennessee, which turned into a blessing. During the work-week, I had decided that the babies and I would sleep in our living room which is connected to our bedroom. Sean slept in our bed, I slept on our couch, and the babies slept nearby in their bassinets. That way Sean would not be disturbed, and he could wake up fresh for work. We would feed the babies around 10:30 at night, and put them down to sleep. Around 2:30 a.m., one of the two hungry babies would make a peep, and I would dash off of the couch, grab the baby, change it, feed it, rock it back to sleep, get it back in the bassinet, and whether it was awake or not, do the same for the other baby (parenting at this age is all about the routine!) During the day in between feeding babies, changing babies, washing bottles, doing laundry,  and doing other chores, etc., I was able to “work” online with my students. I was so thankful to have job teaching online, so I could dedicate the majority of my time to our children.

Aside from the fact that I had spent the Christmas season as a decently functioning somnambulist, it had been a true blessing and joy. First of all, Sean and I had two, healthy and beautiful children. Second, as a family, we four lit the joy candle on our church’s Advent wreath. As Sean and Carter read the liturgy, Ammon and I lit the candle (I can still see Carter in his red and white argyle sweater, white shirt, and black, corduroy pants, and Ammon in her red and green plaid dress with its red ribbon and red tights….ah, cute little baby clothes). That event had been special because many members of our mainstream, open and affirming, Protestant denomination were so kind and congratulatory of our new family and our special, holiday moment we had experienced. Third, I had done quite a bit of shopping online, but Carter, Ammon, and I had also spent a whole morning and afternoon buying gifts at our local mall. It was the first time we three had been out by ourselves. It was a challenge, but we did it! I was sleepy and had two, six week old babies, but the Christmas season was going nicely; however, I was waiting for my white Christmas.

Wednesday December 24, 2008

On January 1, 2008, I had asked for the 28 degrees and snow on Christmas Eve. It was now December 24th, and it was 45 degrees, gray, humid, and cloudy; typical for a Southeast Tennessee Christmas Eve. Because it was Carter and Ammon’s first Christmas, they needed, nay, deserved a white Christmas!

We were looking forward to the church’s Christmas Eve candlelight service, but both of the babies had the sniffles, so we stayed home. Staying at home kept the babies from getting out in the elements, and it gave me time to clean more in the house, wrap my last presents, and prepare some Christmas day foods for the following day when we would be hosting the Christmas lunch for our families.

For several years, Sean and I have jogged in the evenings on a track we keep mowed around our 6 acre field at the base of a low-lying mountain behind our house. We always jogged together, but since the birth of the babies, we had to take turns while one of us attended to them. On this Christmas Eve, Sean jogged first. When he came in, I took my turn. When I jog alone, I plan the rest of the day’s activities, pray, sing, or simply admire my surroundings. This evening wasn’t any different, and as I jogged, I watched the gray clouds roll over the house and the field, and I talked to God about a white Christmas. I joked and smiled that He did not answer my prayer about a white Christmas yet again for another year. At the top of the field, I tried to envision our house, our red barn, the field, and the rolling hills in the distance all blanketed in six inches of snow. I made a huge sigh of disappointment.

I was finishing my last lap, and as I reached the summit of the field where I always go from a jog to a walk, a gust of cool wind surprised me and compelled me to fix myself on our house. It was the gloaming of a cold-steel colored evening, but I could still see everything well. I gazed at our house. Our living room, which is in the back of the house, has two huge windows, and I could see the lights of our Christmas tree. The gloomy disappointment I had experienced a few moments before gave way to an illumination of joy and thanksgiving. Inside that house were my two blessed children and my husband who loves me, and in my heart was Jesus Christ, the real reason for Christmas not snow. It may have been a gray, Tennessee Christmas Eve outside but everything, even the cloud-covered, humid evening was perfect. I didn’t need snow or one-horse open sleighs! I smiled and tears unexpectedly ran down my cheek.   I went down on my knees and thanked God for all my blessings and for a perfect, gray Christmas.

Haven, Ammon, Carter, & Sean “Gray Christmas” 2008

Christmas 2014

Sean, Ammon, Haven, & Carter Christmas 2014

Autumn 2014

img_2146

Our Autumn Mantel is set. Our harvest angels have graced our home for several years now. During the autumn, they flank our Lladró figurine of Jesus Christ, The Master Teacher. As I turned their faces toward the figure of Christ, I couldn’t help but think of Dantes Paradiso XXIII 43-45

Then her eyes turned to the eternal Light

Into whose depth we may believe the eyes

45 Of no other creature penetrates more clearly.

When there are angelic figures or human figures on our mantel, I try to position them where their eyes are fixed on the Eternal Light, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Happy Autumn Everyone, and God bless you all.

Good Friday: Thoughts

[Christ] himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.
– 1 Peter 2:24 (NRSV)

Jesus’ crucifixion had probably begun the 6th hour of the day as Apostle John records, and that would have been 6:00 in the morning. Jesus was so popular (remember his triumphant entry just a few days before there in Jerusalem), and the arrest, the trumped up charges in the “Jewish court”, the beatings and the questionings had been done in the early morning hours so the general public would have no idea Jesus was on trial. Jesus’ followers probably would have revolted, but it all happened according to God’s plan.

Imagine Jesus’ garments had been divided, Jesus had been taken down from the cross, and he had been placed in a tomb bought for him by Joseph of Arimathea. What a bleak and sad Friday for Jesus, his family, and his friends.  However, as we know, and as we should always remember, it is our “Good Friday”: the day our Jesus (the sacrificial lamb without sin) took on our sins so we could stand before our God cleansed, sinless, and as white as snow.

The Last Supper: Holy Week

Last Supper/communion/Eucharist

Matthew 26: 17-29; Mark 14: 12-25; Luke 22:7-19; John 13 & 14

Jesus instituted communion the night before his crucifixion, and it is has been a part of Christian worship ever since. I have met several, wonderful Jewish people, and one Holy Week in the future, I hope and pray Carter, Ammon, Sean, I can sit and partake of one and think of Jesus and the 12 Apostles eating in fellowship. Passover Seder

Being a Christian/a follower of Jesus Christ and partaking of the bread that represents his body on the cross and sipping the fruit of the vine that represents his blood that was shed for me and all the billions of people on the earth for the remission of our sins is what puts my heart and soul in “communion” with all the billions of saints who are partaking of the Lord’s supper with me. That is a powerful component of Christian worship

I know everyone doesn’t take communion every Sunday, and I kinda wish we would like the Christians of the New Testament (all it takes is a little research of first century Christian worship to understand they took it every Sunday), but in the scheme of things, it doesn’t matter. However, it’s a part of worship in remembering the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. The next time you partake of the Lord’s supper, think of all the billions of Christians you are communing with as well. It’s a pretty awesome thought.

Jesus Washes Feet: Holy Week

John 13: 3-30

If you knew you would be dead in the next 24 hours, would you take time to wash your friends and family’s feet? Wouldn’t that be a bizarre act? Well, that is one thing Jesus did KNOWING he was going to die. Jesus wanted the 12 disciples to know that he did not think he was any better than they. He was their master yet he wanted to serve them. The serving wasn’t to stop there but to continue with them serving others.

I’ve often thought of Jesus washing dirty, stinking, calloused feet of his friends. Here is the son of God that came down from heaven and all of its glory sitting on the floor of an upper room in some home in Jerusalem almost 2,000 years ago, humbly and gently washing 12 burly men’s feet.

During the Holy Week, the main idea is that Jesus was crucified and while being crucified took on the sins of the world. However, we sometimes skip over the fact that the one of the last things he taught just hours before his death was to love and serve others.

To answer my own opening question, I’m not sure how and where I would fit serving others in, but, yes, I would serve others in fullest capacity I could in those last hours. However, I can do it HERE and NOW without waiting….that is what Jesus wants us to place in our hearts and act upon immediately. Have a blessed day, friends.