Anticipation of the Birth of Jesus

We always begin the Advent season with a tradition that is very special to our family. Our Advent season does not begin until we have put up our Nativity Scene which has been passed down through the generations of the Hoffman Family. You see, we are blessed to own a family heirloom that has been in our family for 83 years. My grandmother made it with her dad when she was only 10 years old.


The stable is made from the cottonwood tree that was in their front yard. The mat for the bottom of the stable was sewn together on a pedal sewing machine by her mother. The original light that shines down on the empty manger was a tail light from their family car. The original figurines still have their price of $.26 stamped on the bottom of their feet. All original! My grandmother inherited the nativity scene when her mother died in 1979. Our family has enjoyed the tradition since 2006 when it was passed down to us.

And of course, we all anticipate Christmas morning when Baby Jesus is placed in the manger.

The Caton Family wishes everyone a very blessed Christmas

The Family Tree

Growing up I never had the pleasure of having a real, live Christmas tree. The first year we were married, Jon and I went and picked out a real one. We have been getting a live tree every year and plan to cut down one this year at a farm!

I know that a Christmas tree can mean so many things to different people but for jenn-soellner-christmas-treeme it symbolizes one thing: family. Just as the ancient Tree of Jesse bore a new Adam, our family tree bridges the old with the new. The fresh, aromatic, evergreen tree that we pick out every year is adorned with the past – heirloom ornaments and treasures made by little hands. Your Christmas memories come back to life to blend with new ones. The bittersweet pang of remembering long ago holidays with departed loved ones intermingle with the anticipation and hopes for the Christmas seasons to come. Have a blessed Christmas with your family creating beautiful memories and enjoying remembrances of Christmas past.

Ever changing, ever timeless. Evergreen.

Jennifer Soellner is a Cantor in the St. Andrew Choir and the wife of Jon Soellner, St. Andrew Businessjen-soellner Manager.      


Third Sunday of Advent – We Believe!

I remember as a child the night before Christmas. I was filled with incredible excitement and anticipation that Santa would be there the next morning. It was a wonderful feeling that I do not believe I have felt since but it is ever present in my memory. I also remember the weeks before I was especially good as I wanted to be on Santa’s good list. Advent is a time of joyful anticipation waiting, preparing, and praying for the coming of Jesus. Today, Guadete Sunday, we rejoice as our wait is almost over. Yes, our wait for the birth of Jesus is near the end. We should be filled with this same excitement and anticipation that I am sure many experienced on the Christmas Eves of our youth. The excitement is for our God who comes as an innocent and vulnerable baby child who becomes human, like all of us, and brings us into the divine with God, our Father. No event in the history of our world compares or has had such impact. WOW!

We see in today’s reading this anticipation of the messiah, Jesus Christ.  In Matthew’s gospel we must sift through some of the detail to see the anticipation and expectations for our loving God. While the Christmas birth of Jesus is not yet here in our calendar we jump ahead to hear what to expect with the birth of this God-child. John the Baptist sends his disciples to talk with Jesus to find out who he really is. I suspect that John already knew being there for the baptism of Jesus. Perhaps his actions are to introduce his disciples, and us today, to Jesus so that they and we could see firsthand the wonders of him, believe and follow. When they ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” Jesus replies in no uncertain terms. He tells them not to listen to his words but look to his actions. These are the actions the prophets spoke of in the Old Testament about the messiah to come and as we know so well today, actions speak louder than words. This I can only assume sent a feeling of joy through John’s disciples making them believers and followers of the Son of God.

two-children-walkingNow that we have this glimpse into the future are we prepared for Jesus’ coming?   Are we on the good list? If not, there is still time as we wait and pray in joyous anticipation.   All we have to do is accept and then like Jesus use our actions and not just our words to show we believe. Rejoice all you Disciples of Christ!


Jesus hold me, Jesus coddle me, Jesus guide me, Jesus guard me, Jesus help me, Jesus keep me, Jesus love me.

Wishing all of you a Blessed and Holy Christmas!  Mike and Pam

Mike Hazard 

Third Sunday of Advent – The Promise

Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10

The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song. The glory of Lebanon will be given to them, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God. Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing. Those whom the Lord has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; they will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee.

pictures-for-monicas-readingThis beautiful reading, full of poetic imagery and symbolism, speaks not only to the state of the world at the time, but also to the restlessness and loneliness of our hearts, as well as what we perceive as the barrenness of our world and its culture of greed and oppression, bigotry and exclusion, war and poverty. But more importantly, this reading is about God’s promise to our Hebrew ancestors and to us today: a promise of abundant life, freedom, joy, healing, redemption, and a road home to Him. This is the Advent message “as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ,” and it is this hope that keeps us from despair, urges us to be compassionate and loving to each other, and encourages us to have faith in the promise and meaning of the Nativity.


God of hope, who brought love into this world, be the love that dwells between us.

      God of hope, who brought peace into this world, be the peace that dwells between us.

God of hope, who brought joy into this world, be the joy that dwells between us.

      God of hope, the rock we stand upon, be the center and focus of our lives always,

and especially at this Advent time.

Monica Clark Monica


Advent and The Jesse Tree

The word Advent means ‘coming’. It refers to the coming of Jesus, the promised Messiah. The use of a Jesse Tree during the Advent season is a great way to ‘show and tell’ the redemption story and the ‘coming’ of the promised Savior!

img_1397What is a Jesse Tree? It is a small tree decorated with symbols portraying Jesus’ spiritual heritage. Jesse was the father of King David. The idea of the Jesse Tree comes from Isaiah 11:1-9, where God promises a discouraged nation that the glory they remember from David’s time will come again. They will have another king from Jesse’s family, in whose reign the whole earth will know God. We see that promise fulfilled in Jesus, and so we use a Jesse Tree and decorate it with reminders of how God prepared the world for that kingdom.

My husband and I started the tradition years ago of giving a Jesse tree ornament and the corresponding bible verse to each of our Children and Godchildren for Christmas. Each year we pick an Old Testament story and then find a symbol that represents the story. For instance a whale for the story of Jonah, an arc for the story of Noah, an apple for the fall of Adam and Eve, or a lion for the story of Daniel. We make or purchase a small ornament for each person, inscribe the Bible verse on it along with the date. They keep a notebook with their Jesse tree consisting of all the Bible verses that are hanging on their tree.

It is my hope that you can start a new Christ- centered family tradition and that you will be blessed by all you learn.

Kathy Bitzer, Parish Religious Education Program (PREP)



Second Sunday in Advent – The Promise of Peace


The Old Testament and the New Testament, the prophets of old and the gospel writers, all speak to us as faith lessons.  In the second week of Advent readings Isaiah tells of the promise of the coming of the Messiah and Matthew, the fulfillment of that promise.

How rich the promise!  It is like poetry, full of wonder, knowledge and the fear of the Lord.  A learned Jewish friend explained to me why the Jews do not believe the Messiah has come.  She mentions the foretelling of peace and we see the 20th century as the bloodiest in history, where is peace?

Jesus brings us a personal peace, within our heart, mind and soul.  When He comes again He will fulfill worldly peace where the predator sleeps with the prey.  The Our Father, which comes from the Old Testament, speaks to us in the promise “thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.’’

The old becomes new, baptized not with water, but with the Holy Spirit and fire.  We are washed clean and filled with the Holy Spirit, with the power and the life He offers us. Advent always makes me think that the door upon which we have been knocking all our lives that at last will open.

Shirley Cochran  IMG_1334