In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary.
The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.
But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."
"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"
The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God."
"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.
At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah's home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!"
And Mary said: "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me-- holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers."
Luke 1: 26-55
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.
And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.
An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Luke 2: 1-20
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,
"Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him."
When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.
They said to him, In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: "And you, Bethelem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; for out of you shall come forth a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel."
Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared.
And he sent them to Bethlehem and said,"Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him."
After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was.
When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshipped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.
Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him." So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt.
Matthew 2: 1-14
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The celebration of a victory--and a miracle. Jewish people celebrate the holiday of Hanukkah (one of many spellings for the word) in memory of the victory of Judah the Maccabee over the Greeks. Judah actually inherited the leadership of a small group of fighters from his father, Mattathias, who was an elderly Jewish priest. When the empire of Alexander the Great was divided following his death, the Greeks came into possession of Israel. One of their first edicts was to banish all Jewish rituals and celebrations.
The Greeks came to the village of Modi'in and built an altar to worship their gods. They demanded a pig to sacrifice, but Mattathias became so enraged when he saw a fellow Jew about to oblige the Greeks that he slew him. Mattathias took his family and some followers to the hills around the village, from where they waged an annoying guerilla war against the Greeks. When Mattathias died, the leadership of the small army passed to Judah.
Judah and his troops vanquished every army the Greeks sent against them, finally liberating Jerusulem and cleansing the Jewish temple. However, once inside the temple, Judah and his followers could find only one "cruse" of oil--enough to keep the temple's menorah burning for one day. Yet, miraculously, the menorah burned for eight days.
|Called the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah lasts for eight days
to symbolize the number of days the miracle menorah burned on one
day's worth of oil.
On the first night of Hanukkah, only one candle is lit--on the furthest right side of the menorah. On the second night, two candles are lit, again working from the right to the left.
A blessing is said each evening as the candles are lit, divided into three parts the first night and two on the subsequent nights.
The first part thanks God for the commandment to light the menorah candles. It is said prior to lighting the candles.
Ba-ruch a-ta A-do-nai, E-lo-hei-nu me-lech ha-olam, a-sher kid-sha-nu be-mitz-vo-tav ve-tzi-va-nu le-had-lik ner shel cha-nu-kah.
(Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with his commandments and commanded us to kindle the lights of Hanukkah.)
The second part praises God for the miracle and is said while lighting the candles.
Ba-ruch a-ta A-do-nai, E-lo-hei-nu me-lech ha-olam, she-a-sa ni-sim la- avo-tei-nu ba-ya-mim ha-hem ba-zman ha-zeh.
(Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who performed miracles for our ancestors, at this season, in days past.)
On the first night of Hanukkah, another blessing is offered commemorating the first candle lit during that year's celebration.
Ba-ruch a-ta A-do-nai, E-lo-hei-nu me-lech ha-olam, she-he-chi-yanu ve-kiy'manu ve-higi-anu la'zman ha'zeh
(Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who gave us life and kept us and delivered us to this time.)
The candles are lit at nightfall and are allowed to burn for at least one-half hour. In all, 44 candles are used during the holiday.
(Thanks to the Jewish Communications Network for providing this information.)
Take a Hanukkah Quiz and see if you can light all the Menorah Candles!
Kwanzaa is a relatively new holiday, created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Ron Karenga for African Americans. It's aim is to celebrate the African American heritage as well as to inspire family unity. It is not aligned with any organized religion.
The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa
There are seven principles--Nguzo Saba--of Kwanzaa, mostly aimed at family and racial unity. They are:
1. Umoja (unity) (oo-MOE-jah) - To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.
2. Kujichagulia(self-determination) (koo-jee-cha-goo-LEE-ah) - To define oneself, name oneself, create for oneself and speak for oneself.
3. Ujima (collective work and responsibility) (oo-JEE-mah) - To build and maintain a community together and to make one's brothers' and sisters' problems one's problems and to solve them together.
4. Ujamaa (cooperative economics) (oo-JAH-mah) - To build and maintain one's own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit together from them.
5. Nia (purpose) (nee-AH) - To make one collective vocation the building and developing of a community in order to restore one's people to their traditional greatness.
6. Kuumba (creativity) (koo-OOM-bah) - To do always as much as one can, in the way that one can, in order to leave one's community more beautiful and beneficial than when one inherited it.
7. Imani (faith) (ee-MAH-nee) - To believe with all one's heart in one's parents, teachers, leaders, people and the righteousness and victory of one's struggle.
The Symbols of Kwanzaa
1. Mkeka (M-kay-cah) - The Mkeka is a straw mat upon which all the other items are placed, symbolizing the foundation of all things.
2. Kinara (Kee-nah-rah) - The Kinara is a candle holder for seven candles. It represents the original stalk from which all comes.
3. Mshumaa (Mee-shoo-maah) - The seven candles which represent the seven principles.
4. Muhindi (Moo-heen-dee) - An ear of corn, which the product of the stalk.
5. Kikombe Cha Umoja (Kee-coam-bay chah-oo-moe-jah)- a unity cup, which symbolizes the first principle of Kwanzaa.
6. Zawadu (Sah-wah-dee) - The gifts which represent the fruits of the parents and the rewards of the children.
7. Karamu - The feast, a gathering of the community, which is held on December 31.
The Colors of Kwanzaa
The Red symbolizes blood.
The Black symbolizes man.
The Green symbolizes the earth.
We hoped that you enjoyed our look at the reasons for celebrations during the h oliday season. Now, if you'd like a good, Christmas book to read over the holidays, may we suggest...
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