Fri Dec 02, 2016
The Lord's Abiding Presence
"Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).
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Thu Dec 01, 2016
Thought for the Day
"To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you." (C.S. Lewis)
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Sat Nov 26, 2016
"At the birth of Christ, the manger was full - he was lying in a manger as a baby boy. At the resurrection of Christ the tomb was empty. It's not as though human nature was a costume God wore and when he was finished with it he left it behind, and went back to being God. Christ became one of us, and when he rose from the dead his human body was still with him. That's why the tomb was empty. He still stayed one of us and is still part of our family today. The child who was in that manger lives on as a human being, one of us, today. That's what we celebrate at Christmas" (Bishop Ken Untener).
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Sat Nov 19, 2016
Joy to the World !
"Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth; break into song; sing praise. Sing praise to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and melodious song. With trumpets and the sound of the horn shout with joy to the King, the Lord" (Psalm 98:4-6).
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Thu Nov 17, 2016
CHRISTMAS: THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR
By Fr. Gus G. Christo, Chaplain II
“So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.’ And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them” (Luke 2:15-20).
The first time the birth of Jesus Christ was attributed to the date December 25 was in the fourth century, according to early Roman history. Early celebrations of Christmas are thought to have derived from Roman and other European festivals that marked the end of the harvest and the winter solstice.
Christmas is both a sacred religious holiday and a worldwide cultural and commercial phenomenon. For two millennia, people around the world have been observing it with traditions and practices that are both religious and secular in nature. Christians celebrate Christmas Day as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Popular customs include exchanging gifts, decorating Christmas trees, attending church, sharing meals with family and friends and, of course, waiting for Santa Claus to arrive. December 25 – Christmas Day – has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1870.
While many in the United States believe that Christmas has come and gone on December 25, a sizable population of Christians in the world will be celebrating the holy day on January 7. The majority of the Orthodox Churches worldwide use the Julian (lunar) calendar, which was created under the reign of Julius Caesar in 45 BC, and have not adopted the Gregorian (solar) calendar proposed by Pope Gregory of Rome in 1582. There are thirteen days difference between the two calendars, the Gregorian calendar being the one long adopted by Western nations. For Orthodox Christians who have adopted the Gregorian calendar, Christmas falls on December 25 as it does for others, and January 6 marks Epiphany, which commemorates the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. For those remaining on the Julian calendar, Epiphany is celebrated on January 19. Though many Orthodox in the United States have made the switch, Slavic and Middle Eastern Churches tend towards the “Old Calendar.”
The Orthodox observance of Christmas contrasts considerably from Western customs. Although Orthodox Christians also have an Advent season, which on the Gregorian calendar goes from November 15 to December 24, it is a time of fasting and performing deeds of charity. Many people observe the forty days leading to Christmas as a way to renew their faith and relationship to God. The Christmas holiday is spread over three days and includes various fasts and services of worship. It begins with a service on Christmas Eve morning which involves reading Old Testament prophesies and New Testament passages followed by the Sacrament of Holy Communion. A fast is kept throughout the day until sunset and the appearance of the first star at evening, where a special meal called the “Holy Night Supper” is eaten. This supper involves twelve meat-free and dairy-free dishes, one for each apostle. After a blessing and reading from the Bible the meal is eaten, carols are sung, and the Nativity Vigil takes place consisting of Old Testament psalms and prophesies. On Christmas day, the faithful return to Church for a service called “The Feast of the Nativity,” which includes Holy Communion. The final day, the day after Christmas, there are Church services and celebrations honoring the Virgin Mary for her role in the Nativity Story. According to one Orthodox Church spokesman, “the Orthodox Church focuses more acutely on the aspect of the incarnation of Christ, and the cosmic salvation it has for all mankind, and there is ‘less sentimentality.’ While many of the external trappings are the same, like Christmas trees, wreaths, ribbons and gifts, there is an increased emphasis on the spiritual reality of this truly miraculous mystery of God becoming man, so that man may be united to God and each other.”
Furthermore, I believe across the board, the Christmas holiday became greatly influenced with the legend of St. Nicholas. He was a historical figure who lived in the fourth century and served as Archbishop of Myra in Lycia, which is located in current day Asia Minor/Turkey. He is considered the patron saint and protector of children, sailors, and the poor. In his honor, the Feast of St. Nicholas was marked on December 6 and gifts were given the night before. The tradition was well established in many European countries by the twelfth century. Eventually, since St. Nicholas’ Day and Christmas Day are so close together, their traditions were intermingled in the lives of the people. St. Nicholas took on different personas in different countries. For example, the Netherlands have Sinter Klass. Father Christmas gives gifts in Great Britain. Pere Noel does the same in France. In Germany, St. Nicholas has had many names including Klaasbuur, Burklaas, Rauklas, Bullerklaas, and Sunnercla, although Father Christmas is becoming more popular. In the United States, the Dutch settlers’ Sinter Klaas evolved into Santa Claus.
The Christmas Holiday Season is truly the most wonderful time of the year. We celebrate faith, family, and the tradition of giving gifts to those who have touched our lives for the better. This season brings family and friends together. It helps us appreciate the love in our lives we often take for granted. The joy of brightening other lives, bearing each other’s burdens, easing other's loads, and supplanting empty hearts and lives with generous gifts become for us the true gifts that we impart to others. During this season of giving, slow down and take time to enjoy the simple things in life. This glorious season is a time of great joy: a time for remembrance of the past and hope for the future.
My idea of this season, whether old-fashioned or modern, whether one is Christian or not, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that? It is Christmas every time we let God love others through us. Yes, it is Christmas every time we smile at our brother and offer him our hand. The message of Christmas is that we are never alone, not even when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the world seemingly most indifferent. For, this is still the time God chooses. Christmas is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it is Christmas.
May its message of love, peace, hope, joy, serenity, and prosperity fill your life and the lives of your loved ones with God’s abundant blessings throughout the coming New Year 2017. May “every good gift and every perfect gift from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17), inspire you to achieve greater works of glory in the cultivation of your relationships with your fellow-man and with Almighty God.
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Tue Nov 01, 2016
Man's Extremity is God's Opportunity
"Man's extremity is God's opportunity. The sympathy, the tenderness, and the loving kindness of God would not be fully known were it not for the days of darkness in which He draws near to succor" (The Rev. James Stalker, M.A., D.D.)
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"He who does not love does not know God, for God is love" (1 John 4:8).
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Thu Oct 06, 2016
Freely Receive, Freely Give
"God freely forgives us when we ask for mercy, and He expects us to treat others with the same kindness."
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"Faith is the best vaccine against bitterness."
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Brokeness and Health
"It is better to be broken before God and accepted than admired and rejected. God doesn't want to see our resume, rather our repentance. When we empty ourselves before Him, our Lord gladly fills us with Himself."
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Wed Sep 21, 2016
Strength in weakness
"If a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand" (Mark 3:24).
"And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said to me, my grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake. For, when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
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Tue Sep 20, 2016
Turn Worries into Prayer
Lord, in heaven, please help me to turn my worries into prayer. My problems are better in your hands than in my own.
If we do happen to sin, there is still forgiveness (1 John 2:1-2), but those who are born of God will begin to practice righteousness: "In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother" (1 John 3:10).
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Thu Aug 18, 2016
Let's Be Thankful To God!
We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us. - Abraham Lincoln in 1863
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Afternoon Thoughts . . .
There's no disappointment in Heaven,
No weariness, sorrow or pain,
No hearts that are bleeding and broken,
No song with a minor refrain.
The clouds of our earthly horizon will never appear in the sky,
For all will be sunshine and gladness,
With never a sob or a sigh.
- F.M. Lehman
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A Prayer for Church Choirs
Invocation Prayer for Choir Concert on August 16, 2016
Fr. Gus G. Christo, Chaplain II
Gracious and loving God:
Our souls are filled with the power and joy of your song of Creation.
Our hearts dance to the beat of your rhythm as we raise our voices in response to your call.
Wrapped in the arms of your sustaining and eternal Love, these people offer to you their gift of music.
In the presence of your Holy Spirit, hearts are stilled to hear, minds are stirred to action, lives may be transformed.
We pray that all who listen will hear with understanding, and open themselves to feel your presence through the joy in their voices and the passion in their hearts.
We pray that all who listen to your servants will feel their spirits touched by the wonder of your mystery, and add their own voices to the joyful noise.
May we ourselves continue to be uplifted in knowing that singing Godly hymns touches and uplifts many others in our faith community.
May we cast off the burden of impossible perfection, and let our souls soar on the wings of heavenly music.
May we sing always with hearts open to your presence and your power.
Hallelujah and Amen!
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