Advent – The Christ Candle

Over time, many Western traditions added a fifth candle to the Advent Wreath— The Christ Candle. One solitary candle, in white, surrounded by the other four in the center of the wreath. This candle represented the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ on Christmas Day.

  Mary, having just given birth, probably did not feel like  celebrating; and the mid-night visit from the shepherds seemed a bit confusing, and unexpected. Joseph must have been even more bewildered, not to mention exhausted, at these astonishing events.

  Significant variations of the celebration of Jesus’ birth have evolved over geographies and centuries. In this world pandemic era we are challenged with even more issues.

1.       Now, we are discouraged from gathering together in large groups.

2.       Now, we are encouraged to wear face masks… while trying to sing.

3.       Travel is discouraged because of COVID Omicron.

4.       Lodging is always a challenge. … not to mention the price has gone up.

5.       And Jesus is just as hard to find today as He was then.

      Add to these rough considerations the reality that you might contract COVID and not be here in February. Intriguing times.

      Nonetheless, we must light the Christ Candle on Christmas Day. For us, it is a declaration that all the ills of this world cannot diminish, tarnish, or stain the incredible significance of this historical occurrence. The Lord God of the Universe chose to humble Himself and become one of us. I’ve never quite grasped the magnitude of this life changing incident. How could our Father have ever come up with this course of action?!?

      Consider all the world-changing events that have taken place throughout history. What solution would you have designed to solve the estrangement between God and His creation? Creative doesn’t begin to describe this incredible unconventional solution. ‘Tells you something about the nature of God, doesn’t it!?!

      “Our God is an awesome God, He reigns from heaven above… .”

      This Christmas Day, try to find some time where you can sit and ponder this marvelous revelation— the sacrifice of God to draw us back to Himself. The entrance of the Son of God into this earthly realm. Jesus.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

As Jesus Christ was sent into this world to redeem us, so now He sends us into this world,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— New Year’s Resolutions— What were they last year? Hummmm?

Advent – Candle of Faith

The Second Candle in Advent represents FAITH. So few people have faith in anything these days. Faith in government is shot, faith in marriage vows has all but vanished, faith in a God who has our best interests at heart has failed all over the globe. We have truly descended to become a faithless generation.

Well, except for faith in money. We truly believe that money, lots of it, more of it, will save us. At one of the URBANA Mission Conferences I recall Rev. John R.W. Stott, then chaplain to the Queen, recounted a story of officiating at the funeral of a wealthy English Lord. A friend of his, a Dowager, leaned into him to ask, Vicar, how much did he leave? Rev. Dr. Stott wisely responded My Ladyship, he left it all!

Faith in money is foolish.

  In my cancer treatments, I am putting a lot of faith in my doctors. [I think I have four at present.] I am out of my element when it comes to radiation therapy. I have little choice but to put my faith in their training and treatment plan.

  It is much like that with Christian faith. There is little we can do to save ourselves. That was left to the Son of God as He poured out His life on a Roman cross. People often ask me if I am assured of my salvation. My response is that I do not have to be…, that rests in my Father’s hands. For the most part I enjoy being a Christian and living by the principles and precepts Jesus has laid out for us in Scripture. But then there are times when living the Christian life becomes quite difficult, especially inside the Christian community. Other believers can be so unforgiving and judgmental at times.

  So faith, our faith, needs the context of personal trial and error, where it has been tried and tested and proven under fire. Personally, I wish it were not so, but it is.  “   for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” [James 1:3 ESV] And I’ve never been good at tests.

  Danish Theologian Søren Kierkegaard [1813-1855] proposed that faith is like throwing yourself back into the darkness and finding that there is a God there to catch you. Well, I’m not so sure that is a great definition of faith. We have too much verifiable evidence from historical accounts and subjective validation that our faith has been proven over and over again.

  Can faith be explained away by skeptical and “rational” argument? Well, yes. But not without prejudice. Can the miracles of our faith be challenged? Of course. But they are not so easily dismissed. Too many eye-witnesses.

  Can the internal validation of faith be brought into question? Absolutely! But you would be hard pressed to argue with millions and millions of Christ-followers spanning 2,000 years of history that they were WRONG.

  So when you question your faith, or have doubts, remember the myriads of believers who went before you. They were beaten, tortured, burned alive, banished from their homes, their communities, judged and exiled from their homes and countries, and, more so in our era, ignored. Yet I have often found in my life that people are hungry for what Starr and I have— an abiding peace in times of uncertainty, a stability they cannot attribute to financial security, and a life-joy that drives them crazy.
  So get an Advent wreath and light ‘er up! Consider where your faith lies.


  MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Loving God, loving people…, & bringing the two together

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— the Shephard’s Candle— JOY

Advent – Candle of Hope

 Advent Candles & wreaths are meant to draw our thoughts to the coming of the Christ child. Traditionally, they are four candles, representing Hope, Faith, Joy, and Peace. Sometimes a fifth candle is added, the Christ Candle, placed in the center, to commemorate the coming of our Lord Jesus.

      In these COVID19, racially tense, Capital Riots, school shooting and economic inflationary times, not to mention our political oppositionalism, these five candles can draw us apart from the immediate concerns of this world and give us some Godly perspective on everything going on.

      The first candle, the Hope candle is also known as the Prophets candle. Those who prophesied the Coming Christ who would draw all men to His salvation and new life. In these present days there doesn’t seem to be that much hope floating around. Too many people I see are in some level of depression, deep within their own agony with little hope of ever recovering. Others despair over the plagues covering our globe or attacking their own

families. And still others struggle with borderline poverty, broken relationships, sickness, and family deaths. Could it get any worse?!?

      Well, yes…, especially for those who follow Christ. Genuine Christians have always been marginalized and singled out for social and governmental discrimination. Why? Our principles for living go against the powers that be in almost all societies. We can accommodate, blend, acquiesce, concede our place in history to deconstructionism, or live under ideological intimidation; but we can never back off from our commitment and resolution to love and honor Jesus Christ.

      To do so would disavow our faith, bring shame on His works, and deny that we have any hope in these convoluted days.

      So, how do we have hope in these troubling days? Psalm 42 comes to mind first…—

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvationand my God.

My soul is cast down within me; therefore, I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me,    a prayer to the God of my life. I say to God, my rock:
 “Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10 As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”

11 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.
 [ESV]

        Hope is as close as our bended knees.

      MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Loving God, loving people…, & bringing the two together

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Faith in Uncertain Times

After There’s Nothing Left: An Intermission – ’twas the Night before Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas,

when all thro’ the house,
Not a creature was stirring,

not even a mouse;

      This past Sunday we celebrated the fourth Sunday in Advent by lighting the Peace candle on our dining room table.

      This tradition is a good reminder that Christ came into this world to bring peace to all. In a very real sense He has passed that privilege on to us. So as we sit around a Christmas tree of sing Christmas Carols, let us all re-commit ourselves to being peacemakers in this world. Christmas is not about us, even though we give wonderful gifts to one another. It’s about the Lord God of the universe coming to this planet to inaugurate a new beginning for us all.

      So remember, the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house, not a creature was stirring, it’s probably because we are all so dead tired from decorating, cooking, baking, shopping, or remembering that one thing we forgot. We need to take a breather and quietly reflect before our Christmas trees what is the reason for the season.

  • It is walking within our world because He came to do the same.
  • It is genuinely loving the people around us because He first loved us.
  • It is committing to sacrifice…, again.
  • It is giving to the homeless, the sick, the elderly, and those less blessed than us, like He did.
  • It is bringing hopefaithjoypeace…, and Christ to those who do not have a clue.

      The night before Christmas could be a time of recommitment to those things that should truly matter in your life. It should be a time to count your blessings and to bless others. It should be a time when you finally shut down, take a deep breath, a sip on some eggnog, and thank God for the life you have lived thus far.

      We will be doing so; come join us…, wherever you live.

      For there certainly is more to come.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon[a] his shoulder,
and his name shall be called[b]
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
~Isaiah 9:6

Merry Christmas, & peace on the earth,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— INTERMISSION— the space between us

After There’s Nothing Left: An Intermission – Adventures in Advent

First three of five candles lit on an advent wreath

      Adventures in Advent! Wow!?! Where to start? Mary & Josephs’ journey from Egypt. No place at a guest house to stay…, except in the attached stable. Angels singing! Shepherds showing up. More Angels! Milk from a cow?!? Probably not.

      Moving along. Getting through 2020. Surviving COVID (sadly, not for all.). A “fascinating” Presidential election; which is now over…, right?!? Holiday traffic. More or less. Flying. In an airplane. Restaurants. “Business as usual.” NOT. Our booming economy! [Or have I spoken too soon.] Christmas Shopping. Making Jeff Bezos excessively wealthier.

      Whoa, partner. This is flustering even me as I write. Let’s get off the horse for a moment.

      Around our ranch we try to slow things down by using an Advent Wreath and Candles. I’ll reference a great link to their story Here. But here’s a quick synopsis of what the candles represent.

  • The first candle symbolizes hope and is called the “Prophet’s Candle.” The prophets of the Old Testament, especially Isaiah, waited in hope for the Messiah’s arrival. The purple color symbolizes royalty, repentance, and fasting.  
  • The second candle represents faith and is called “Bethlehem’s Candle.” Micah had foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, which is also the birthplace of King David. The second candle is also purple to symbolism preparation for the coming king.
  • The third candle symbolizes joy and is called the “Shepherd’s Candle.” To the shepherd’s great joy, the angels announced that Jesus came for humble, unimportant people like them, too. In liturgy, the color rose signifies joy. This candle is colored pink to represent joyfulness and rejoicing.
  • The fourth candle represents peace and is called the “Angel’s Candle.” The angels announced that Jesus came to bring peace— He came to bring people close to God and to each other again. This color is also purple to represent the culmination of love through the Messiah.
  • The (optional) fifth candle represents light and purity and is called “Christ’s candle.” It is placed in the middle and is lit on Christmas Day. This candle is white to represent pure light and victory.1

Maybe it’s time we reconsidered all the hustle and bustle around this Christmas season and focused our attention on the grand scheme of the Incarnation— of the Lord God of the Universe coming to our planet to draw it from its disastrous path of self-destruction and back to its roots— God the Father.

Merry Christmas, & peace on the earth,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— INTERMISSION— ‘twas the night before Christmas  

Why Jesus became human

 nativity, Jesus, love, lightThis is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. ~ Matthew 1:18-24

This historical description of the events surrounding Jesus’ birth have been recorded in the Christian Bible for anyone to read. But the WHY of Christmas is a much more panoramic story. It starts with the beginning of time itself. Time, along with this fantastic universe were brought into being for us. That’s right—us. And the Lord God Creator said it was good.

In the early days of our livelihood, life was idyllic, if not busy. God had set our ancestors with the task of naming the animals; a.k.a.- imbuing them with their core characteristics. Busy, busy. Then there was that first garden to plant, till, and harvest. More busy. Forget about clothes. Who had the time anyway!

We did, however, find the time to cross the one line God had drawn in the sand—Do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The rest is history.

Why did Jesus become human? To become one of us. To suffer the punishment we deserved for crossing the line with God. And in so doing we can be reinstated in a relationship with our Creator.

Why is it this way? I don’t know. Make something up. Most people don’t even believe this much. So we’ve turned the celebration of Jesus’ birth into a cultural economic bonanza for marketing and consumerism. Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas celebrations. I love giving gifts. [Ok, I love receiving them too.]

So I will celebrate in the Christmas spirit right alongside the rest of our culture! But I will also celebrate a more quiet one (or maybe not so quiet), remembering the great gift that God the Creator gave us, Jesus Christ: the way back to Him.

Merry Christmas!
  Gary  &  Starr

Christmas Future Past

chrstmas future pastChristmastime changes as we grow up. My childhood Christmas’ were filled with model cars, trains, wooden airplanes, & cookies! My mom could make the bestest Christmas cookies ever!

As I approached my teens took on the shapes of bikes, guests around the dinner table, and spending Christmas day with friends of my parents, or relatives who were terrified of children. They were the days when I felt like an afterthought.

My College days remedied that as I would spend much of Christmas at home, but not with my parents. Rather, with my own friends. As I look back, this was quite selfish and insensitive of me.

Marrying Starr was probably the best gift God ever gave me. We built a home together and then celebrated Christmas after Christmas in lavish insanity! They were wonderful days of cutting down our own tree (which we still do), hiding presents at neighbor’s homes, and, of course, baking more cookies. I would never have imagined that my wife could outbake my mother; but she did.

Now, our children are growing their own Christmas traditions with families of their own. They “visit” us at Christmas. It feels weird. We who shared so much together as a family are divided between Christmas Past, and Christmas Future. Letting go is hard to do. Starr and I miss our traditions and our times together. But all of us go through this, don’t we.

So now we are turning the page to a new saga of Christmases in our lives. New times shared, multiple Christmases, blending and separating new & old traditions, celebrating together sometimes; mostly, with all our children somewhere else on the map. Back to just us again…, but different.

So as you celebrate this Christmas season, enjoy the memories of the past. But keep your pen on the paper to write new customs to celebrate Christmas in the future. God gave us this time of year so we could shift gears from the everyday routine of living, to be with family, families, friends, past & future, and to thank God for giving us a baby who would change the world forever.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

  Gary

My Apologies to Howard Schultz & STARBUCKS Baristas

starbucks, coffee, christmas, christian, gary, davisDear Howard Schultz (CEO), & Starbucks Baristas everywhere,

By now most of you have heard of the RANTFever that is sweeping our land over your attempt to de-Christianize Christmas on your bright RED holiday cups. I truly am sorry for all this hubbub. It’s just wrong.  “Christians are being persecuted,” some Christians cry! One man, Paul Matthew Turner, on returning from India to the US, remarked somewhat incredulously over all the fuss over the Starbucks stuff. I’ll just quote one of his less vitriol reactions here— “what a shallow, disgusting, and completely moronic portrayal of “faith” this is!” You can read more here—https://www.facebook.com/MPTAuthor?fref=ts

Josh Feuerstein, a Christian protagonist (read Idiot), offers us a more inappropriate response in his simple RANT on his Facebook page—https://www.facebook.com/joshua.feuerstein.5/videos/689569711145714/ Really, watch it to see what NOT to do! And read the first link as well.

What amazes me is that anyone is so surprised in 21st Century America that Starbucks is not overtly “Christian” on its holiday coffee cups! Why should they be? Since when have we been a Christian nation, or Starbucks a Christian business?!? One ABC news commentator (whom I have a secret crush on so will not reveal her name) actually said, “If you want the Starbucks cup to be more Christmasy draw a snowman on it.”

During this Holiday Season, do I expect my Volvo mechanic to stamp my bill with a manger-scene— in red & green? Do I expect my doctor to wish me Merry Christmas; he’s Jewish. (He did anyway. Go figure.) Nor do I expect St. Nick to slide down my chimney. He’d get his butt fried.

I do expect people, at this time of year, to be more joyful, loving, suicidal (I do counseling.), sacrificial, and considerate. I even expect (some) drivers to let me to cut into their lane when I use my turn-signal. It’s just “the Season.”

For Christians everywhere, genuine Christians, not the whatever-they-are Christians, take this Season of the year to honor your neighbors. DO NOT give them a fruit-cake. Don’t be one either. Invite them for Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas dinner, a New Year’s party! Learn to make Wassail together. DRINK Wassail together (hic). Share your family’s celebrations together.

So, dearest Howard Schultz & Starbucks Baristas, THANK YOU for your Red Cups this Season! They’re bright & cheery! I need that. Honestly, I need your coffee just as much. Especially the Gram Latte’s! They’re great! Thank you very much for them.

And, not to be offensive in any way, Merry Christmas to all of you at Starbucks! You’re doing a great job of encouraging a lot of people at this time of year. Particularly me.

…and a Happy New Year, too,

  Gary

Uncovering Christians at Christmas

Dr, Gary, Davis, Christmas, Christian, Clueless, faith            It is becoming more and more difficult find real Christians. We have been supplanted by the massive dismissal of genuine Christian and Biblical beliefs. Replaced, seemingly, by a preference for anything else. But this begs a question—  Why do we need to identify the genuine Christians in culture?

I’m not sure that we do need to identify other Christians in our culture. BUT…, genuine Christians should standout, in some positive way, more than our normal citizens. Some of the things my wife and I have done over the years are—

1.      Gathered our agnostic & atheists friends to join us in neighborhood caroling. Then we gather back at our home for good cookies, wassail, & hot cider,

2.      Distribute our excellent Christmas cookies to friends, of course, but also to the local businesses with whom we do business. If they are in retail, nothing beats a delivered pizza or salad.

3.      Sweeping off the snow & scraping the ice off cars of fellow employees at the end of the day.

4.      Shovel neighbors’ driveways. (note. This is not possible in southern Cal or Florida.)

5.      Providing child care, free of charge, for couples that need to escape for a while.

6.      Take $100, break it into $20s, and give it to random people. No reason.

7.      Give someone the gift of a creative teenager who can help wrap their Christmas gifts. (OK, we haven’t actually done this one yet, but we will. Promise!)

8.      Give hand-warmers to everyone!

9.      Distribute fine bottles of wine randomly; decoratively wrapped.

10.  Or eggnog.

Now, please note. Are any of these ideas especially Christian? No, not really. But we have found that these simple acts of Christmas kindness give rise to the question, “Who are these people?” A simple act that opens a window for a relationship of faith & trust.

So what do you do that is particularly Christian at Christmas?

For what it’s worth,

  Gary

Christmas Eves Past

Christmas Eves Past

My earliest memory of Christmas Eve is when I was nine years old. We visited a small Methodist church in the Maryland countryside. Snow blanketed the fields and roads outside, warm bodies and overcoats squished tight together in the pews inside. The sanctuary heat was cranking. My parents squeezed us into the fourth row from the back, on the left; it was tight.

The Christmas Eve meditation wasn’t all that appealing to this nine year old. But following the message, each child in the congregation was called forward, by name, to receive a Christmas gift. But I was an unknown visitor; who was I? No one knew I was even there.

Imagine my surprise when the guy upfront called my name “Is there a Gary Davis here?” I made my way forward wondering how anyone here knew my name, let alone could have bought me a gift. I returned to my seat and opened my gift; it was something I had actually wanted. WOW!

That was the first time God truly grabbed my attention.

We’ve had many Christmas Eves since then. Like the one where I could hear my dad struggling to assemble my first bike ($@&*%!); or the lavish late night dinners at Miller Brothers’ or Haussner’s Restaurant in Baltimore. They are wonderful memories.

Later, my wife Starr and I created Christmas Eve miracles and magic for our family. Many persist to this day, filled with light, graciousness, and blessing to all. But we would always hang onto a few moments of silence for just us, and the Christ Child. But it all started, for me, in that little country church when I was nine.

Throughout my life God has captured my attention in many ways. I have never become used to it. It is always unexpected and amazing. To this day I am still surprised by God for the everyday provisions He drops in my lap, let alone for the miraculous and the magical.

What have your Christmas Eves held for you? Mine have not all been so memorable; some have been terrible, truly terrible. Maybe yours have been like that too; but not all. Some have been truly wonderful.

This Christmas Eve, be open to God grabbing your attention, surprising you. It may be something you need to.

Merry Christmas,

Gary