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Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. You may have noticed people with a smudged, black cross on their foreheads. Those are ashes from the Ash Wednesday service. The ashes symbolize our grief for the things we’ve done wrong and the resulting division of imperfect people from a perfect God.

Maundy Thursday is the day before Good Friday. It commemorates the night before Jesus died, when He shared the Passover meal with His closest friends and followers.

Good Friday is the day Christians remember Jesus’ death. The “Good” reflects how Jesus’ death was a sacrifice on our behalf so we can receive God’s forgiveness for our wrongs, or sins.

Easter Sunday is the joyful celebration of Jesus rising from the dead to give us the opportunity of eternal life. While people still die, Jesus made the way for people to have a relationship with God in this life and to spend eternity with Him in heaven.


WHAT IS THE EPIPHANY OF OUR LORD?
The Epiphany of our Lord is the wonderful liturgical festival observed on January 6. (SUPPOSEDLY the day the Wisemen found Jesus) Epiphany is also a season that lasts until the beginning of Lent. It culminates with the TRANSFIGURATION, a wonderful revelation or Epiphany when Jesus' full glory was revealed.
WHAT DOES THE WORD “EPIPHANY” MEAN?
The word epiphany comes from the Greek noun which means “shining forth,” “manifestation,” or “revelation.” The Epiphany celebrates the many ways through signs (such as the star the Magi followed), miracles, and preaching that Jesus revealed Himself to the world as the Christ, God incarnate.
WHAT DOES THE CHURCH COMMEMORATE DURING EPIPHANY?
The Festival of the Epiphany of our Lord originally commemorated three incidents that revealed the mission and divinity of Christ: the visit of the Magi , the baptism of Jesus, and the miracle at Cana. Nowadays, most churches emphasize the visit of the Magi on January 6th and celebrate Christ’s baptism on the first Sunday after the 6th. And then all the things which Jesus said and did which revealed or were epiphanies of who He was and what he had come to do. Epiphany, as I said earlier, culminates with the great epiphany,The TRANSFIGURATION.
WHY IS EPIPHANY SUCH A SPECIAL DAY AND SEASON?
Epiphany is one of the most important festivals of the liturgical year because it shows the church how God comes to His people. We are so full of sin and deserving God's punishment that we cannot hope to approach God. Knowing that we cannot come to Him, God took the initiative and came to us by becoming one of us. The most holy and almighty God was willing to take on human flesh in order to reveal His salvation to the world.

Christmas Question: Why Bethlehem?
Where was Jesus born? Bethlehem. Everybody knows that! But why? Why was Jesus born in Bethlehem? You’d expect that Bethlehem was where Mary and Joseph lived, but it wasn’t. Remember where they lived? Nazareth. You might think that Bethlehem was the capital of Israel, but it wasn’t. That was Jerusalem. Bethlehem was just a little town in the country. Why was Jesus born in Bethlehem?
Because God had said so, and God always keeps his promises. About 700 years before Jesus was born, God made this promise through the prophet Micah: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2). Long before Jesus was born, God told his people exactly where the Savior was going to be born: In little Bethlehem.
But why? Even before the time of Micah, God had made another promise. He had promised King David that one of David’s descendants would reign forever (see 2 Samuel 7). Do you know what David’s hometown was? Bethlehem! 1,000 years after David died, the town of Bethlehem was still known as the “town of David” (Luke 2:11). Mary and Joseph were descendants of David. It took 1,000 years for one prophecy and 700 years for the other, but God always keeps his promises. Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
Do your upbringings seem small or insignificant? Jesus’ were! Does it seem like God takes a long time to keep his promises? Know that God always does. Just remember the little town of Bethlehem.

Christmas Question: Why "Jesus"?
Why did Joseph and Mary name Mary’s baby Jesus? It wasn’t a unique name in those days. In fact, there were probably a lot of Jewish men named Jesus. That’s because “Jesus” is the Greek way to say the Hebrew name “Joshua.” Joshua was one of the great heroes of the Old Testament. Just like there are a lot of Joshuas today, there would have been many little boys named “Jesus / Joshua” 2,000 years ago.
But Jesus wasn’t simply named after a hero of faith from the Old Testament. He was given his name because of what it means. The name Joshua—or Jesus—means “the Lord saves.” That’s the perfect name for Jesus, isn’t it? The angel explained it like this to Joseph: “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” (Matthew 1:21).
He is Jesus, because he saves us from our sins. What a great name! Every time you see your sins, every time you feel guilty for what you’ve done or thought or said, remember this name: Jesus—“the Lord saves.” In fact, he already has. Jesus saved you and me by dying for our sins and rising from the dead. To any sinner, “Jesus” is the most beautiful name in the world, because he has saved his people from our sins.
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Christmas Question: Why a Virgin?
Jesus’ mother Mary was a virgin. Why is that such a big deal? Does it sound strange at Christmas time for Christians to emphasize that Jesus’ mother hadn’t had sex with anyone yet? Who cares?
Actually, it’s a big deal. According to the Bible, we sinful human beings pass on our sin to our children. That’s called “original sin.” God tells us that we’re sinful from birth (Psalm 51:5). Jesus himself explained it like this, “Flesh gives birth to flesh” (John 3:6). Two sinful people can’t produce a perfect child. Flesh gives birth to flesh. Sin gives birth to sin. That means that if Mary and Joseph were Jesus’ parents, what would Jesus be born with? Sin. Then he couldn’t save us. He would need a savior for himself!
But Jesus wasn’t the son of Mary and Joseph. Here was God’s promise: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). Mary was a virgin. No human father was involved. So Jesus was the Son of Mary and the Son of God. That’s a miracle. We can’t explain it.
But here’s the result: Jesus is the perfect Savior we need. He’s a human being just like me and you. He knows what it’s like to be tempted and to suffer. He lived in our place and died for our sins. But he’s also God. 100% true God who has existed from eternity. He kept all of God’s laws perfectly, and when he died, he paid for the sins of the whole world. Mary was a virgin, so Jesus could be the perfect Son of God! That’s why the name given to the virgin’s Son fits so well: Immanuel = God with us!

Christmas Question: Who Was Caesar Augustus?
“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world…” (Luke 2:1). Most of us memorized those words for our children’s Christmas programs. The first person mentioned in the Christmas story isn’t Jesus. It isn’t even Mary or Joseph. It’s Caesar Augustus.
Who was Caesar Augustus? He was the most powerful man in the world. Unlike a legend or a myth, the Bible is a real history book that records real events in real places. Caesar Augustus is one of the most important people in world history. You can look him up in any history book. Augustus became the Roman emperor in 27 B.C. and ruled with almost total power over most of the known world until his death in 14 A.D. In Jesus’ day, Israel was just a small part of the big Roman empire.
But don’t miss this detail about Caesar Augustus: In reality, he was just one little piece in God’s grand plan to save us. Augustus issued a decree to take a census. What greater way to show how great he was than to count how many people he ruled? But God used Caesar’s census to get Mary to Bethlehem so that Jesus could be born right where God promised. As great as Augustus thought he was, there was someone way greater—Jesus! As powerful as Augustus was, he wasn’t controlling the world. God was!
And God still is. We have our share of rulers and leaders today who boast about their power. Don’t worry: God can and will use anybody to carry out his plans to save us. Want proof? Just remember those words you memorized so long ago: “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree…”

Christmas Question: When Did the Wise Men Come?
Do you have a manger scene at your house? I hope you do. Setting out a manger scene—or nativity—is a great reminder for kids and adults of the joy of Jesus’ birth. Most manger scenes have Jesus, Mary, Joseph, shepherds, an angel, sheep, a donkey or cow or two, the Wise Men, camels… But there’s a problem with that. Know what it is? The Wise Men weren’t there. As popular as it is for the Wise Men to be part of the Christmas scene, they didn’t visit Jesus at Christmas. So when did the Wise Men come?
The Bible tells us, “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him’” (Matthew 2:1-2). We don’t know how many Wise Men there were. We don’t know if they rode on camels. All we know is that they came “from the east.”
So where’s the “east”? Well, “Magi” were wise men in ancient Persia. The Persian Empire covered areas like Iraq and Iran today. In the Bible, people like Daniel sound a lot like the Magi. Daniel was a wise man in both the Babylonian and Persian empires. So, the Wise Men in Jesus day had to travel a long way to worship him. How long? In the Bible, Jewish exiles in Babylon were allowed to return to Israel. We’re told that the group traveling with Ezra took four months to make it to Jerusalem (Ezra 7:9). A long time!
That’s fits with what we hear about the Wise Men’s visit in the Bible. We’re told that, “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him” (Matthew 2:11). Catch something interesting in that verse? “The house.” By the time the Wise Men got there, Jesus wasn’t lying in a manger. He and his family were living in a house in Bethlehem. They were probably waiting for Jesus to get older and stronger before traveling back to Nazareth. So there at the house, the Wise Men bowed down and worshipped Jesus with their special gifts.
So, when you set up your manger scene, put the Wise Men off in another room. They were still traveling! More importantly, remember this: Jesus came to be the Savior of all nations. That’s great news for you and me. We’re not Jewish by birth. Our homes are even farther away from Bethlehem than Babylon or Persia were. But Jesus came to save us from our sins and bring us God’s salvation. It’s worth it to travel to worship him. Just like the Wise Men, oh come let us adore him, Christ the Lord!


Christmas Question: What about the stable?
I’ve searched the Scriptures, and I can’t find it. Know what? A stable. When we imagine Jesus’ birth, we picture him in a stable, right? I’d invite you to search the Bible too, but you won’t find that word. The Bible doesn’t specifically mention a stable or donkeys or oxen. It says: “She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them” (Luke 2:7).
The idea of a stable comes from that other word—“manger.” The shepherds were told, “You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12). “So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger” (Luke 2:16). When Jesus was born, Mary laid him in a manger. So what’s a manger? A manger is a feed box for animals. It was filled with hay or grain. From that one word, we fill in the picture of what that nativity scene must have looked like. If there was a manger, there were animals. If there were animals, there was probably some sort of stable or cave…
Here’s what’s absolutely true: Jesus’ birth was a very humble birth. His first home was a very humble home. That’s not what we would expect for the King of the universe, but it fits perfectly what who our upside-down Savior really is. Jesus described his life like this: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). From the manger to the cross, the King of the universe—the Son of God—lived and died and rose for you and me. What a God we have!