Advent Wreath – History, Meaning, and Celebration

Information, celebration, and a devotional on the coming of Jesus Christ for families, Bible study groups, and anyone else who wants to add truth and richness to the Christmas season.

By Mark D. Harris

Advent (Latin adventus) refers to the coming of Jesus Christ. On the first Sunday of Advent, we remember God’s love for us, exemplified in the first candle…hope. We also reflect on the symbolism of the wreath itself. On the second Sunday, we think about the peace that He gives us, especially in this season, through His Son. On the third Sunday of Advent, we consider the third candle, joy. On the fourth Sunday, we focus on love. Finally, on Christmas Eve, the Christ candle reminds us of how Jesus Christ is the source of each of these.

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Yes, Virginia, and mankind, there really is a Santa Claus

The Western World has largely discarded Christmas as the story of God becoming man to save humanity and all creation. In our historical ignorance we forget Saint Nicholas, and in our skepticism we deny Santa Claus. All that is left is warm feelings, decorations, and presents. Isn’t there something more?

By Mark D. Harris

My father was driving me to Hadley Preschool on a chilly December morning when I declared, “Daddy, there just can’t be a Santa Claus. He couldn’t fly all over all over the world in one night.” My father looked at me, smiled and said, “Your mommy and I knew that you would soon figure it out.” My discovery of the absence of Santa Claus didn’t bother me, it was just a fact, cushioned by the reality that presents kept coming even without Jolly Old Nick.

The Predecessors of Santa Claus

Years later, I discovered Saint Nicholas (AD 270-343), a Christian Bishop in the Eastern Roman Empire city of Myra, in the Antalya province of modern Turkey. Nicholas was born to a wealthy Greek family and was famed for his generosity. One story recounts that St. Nicholas secretly gave gold coins for the dowry of three daughters of a poor man in his parish. He dropped the coins down the chimney, and the coins landed in the girls’ stockings, which had been left to dry by the fire. Had Nicholas not done so, the girls would have been unable to marry and thereafter forced into prostitution to earn their living. Nicolas was reputed to have performed many other acts of great kindness and even miracles.

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Invictus at Christmas

A Christian look at William Ernest Henley’s famous poem, Invictus.

By Mark D. Harris

Julie fumbled with the lock of her dorm room. Laying her purse, nursing notebook, deli croissant sandwich, and coffee on the floor in the hall, she finally opened the door. My biology quiz didn’t go well this morning, and my anatomy project is late. At least I’ll get English right. I’ve got 30 minutes before I have to leave for work.

Sitting at her desk a few moments later, Julie began reading the poem her English professor was expecting an analysis of on Monday morning.


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

William Ernest Henley, Britain, 1875

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A Witness Carol

Christians do not walk alone in the race of life. We run with our contemporaries and are supported by a cloud of witnesses. We live in a web of relationships with other saints, and we love, support, encourage, and often forgive, each other. Thank God, for life is too hard to be lived alone.  

By Mark D. Harris

In his famous work, A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens told the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly businessman who learned the true meaning of Christmas. Three important characters in the transformation of Scrooge from sinner to saint were the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Future.

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