Christmas Eve/Day + Epiphany + MLK Service Day And Feast of St. Paul

Christmas Eve

-refers to the evening or entire day preceding Christmas Day, the main day of Christmas, a widely celebrated festival commemorating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth that takes place on December 25. It is a culturally significant celebration for most of the Western world and is widely observed as a full or partial holiday in anticipation of Christmas Day.

One reason celebrations occur on Christmas Eve is because the traditional Christian liturgical day starts at sunset, an inheritance from Jewish tradition. This liturgical day is followed for all days in the Eastern rite[8] and the custom of beginning Christmas celebration (as well as Sunday and the other major festivals) in the preceding evening is preserved in western Churches that have altered the liturgical day to start at midnight, for example the Roman Catholic Church. Many churches still ring their church bells and hold prayers in the evening before holidays.

Since Christian tradition holds that Jesus was born at night, Midnight Mass is celebrated on Christmas Eve, traditionally at midnight, in commemoration of his birth. The idea of Jesus being born at night is reflected in the fact that Christmas Eve is referred to as “Heilige Nacht” (“Holy Night”) in German, “Nochebuena” (“the Good Night”) in Spanish and similarly in other expressions of Christmas spirituality, such as the song “Silent Night, Holy Night”.

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Christmas Day

Christmas Day or Christmas is an annual commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ, celebrated generally on December 25 as a religious and cultural holiday by billions of people around the world.

Christmas Day is the beginning of Christmastide and the Twelve Days of Christmas (also sometimes called Twelvetide) that continues until Epiphany Eve on January 5. It is preceded by Christmas Eve which in some countries is the day of the actual Christmas celebration. In many countries it is followed by a second public holiday on December 26 that goes by different names, eg. Boxing DaySt. Stephen’s Day or “Second Christmas Day”.

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Christmastide

Christmastide (“Christmas time”), more commonly called The Twelve Days of Christmas and sometimes referred to as Twelvetide (“Twelve time”), is the festive Christmas season celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. It starts on Christmas Day, December 25, considered the “First Day of Christmas”, and ends on January 5 of the following year, on Epiphany Eve (also known as Twelfth Night).

Christmastide encompasses a number of important religious and secular celebrations, including Christmas Day on December 25, St. Stephen’s Day/Boxing Day on December 26, Childermas (or the Feast of the Holy Innocents) on December 28, New Year’s Eve on December 31, New Year’s Day on January 1, and Epiphany Eve (Twelfth Night) on the evening of January 5. However, Christmas Eve on December 24 and Epiphany on January 6 are not part of Christmastide.

Christmastide follows the Advent season and is followed by Epiphanytide (“Epiphany time”), the season of Epiphany.

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Epiphany

Epiphany is a Christian feast day celebrated annually on January 6 that is also known as Three Kings Day and Theophany. Epiphany means “manifestation” as it commemorates the first time Jesus’ divinity manifested itself through the visit of the Three Kings (also known as the Magi or Wise Men) and through his baptism in the river Jordan. It is a significant event in the church calendar as the celebration of the Baptism of Jesus.

Epiphany is the starting day of Epiphanytide (the Epiphany season), the liturgical period that follows Christmastide (the Christmas season) and continues until Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent (the Lenten season). It is preceded by Epiphany Eve on January 5.

Many churches celebrate Epiphany on the Sunday before or after, especially in countries where Epiphany is not a public holiday.

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MLK DAY OF SERVICE

Make it a Day ON, Not a Day Off! There are many ways you can participate in the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. You can join a project already planned in your community; you can develop your own project with family, friends, and neighbors; or if you work for an organization that mobilizes volunteers, you can make King Day the day you train new volunteers to be deployed throughout the year.

MLK Day of Service is a federal holiday (Celebrated in 2019 on January 21st) dedicated to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in honor of his legacy and passion for serving others.

Legislation signed in 1983 marked the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a federal holiday. In 1994, Congress designated the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday as a national day of service and charged the Corporation for National and Community Service with leading this effort. Each year, on the third Monday in January, the MLK Day of Service is observed as a “day on, not a day off.” MLK Day of Service is intended to empower individuals, strengthen communities, bridge barriers, create solutions to social problems, and move us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a “Beloved Community.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. believed in a nation of freedom and justice for all, and encouraged all citizens to live up to the purpose and potential of America by applying the principles of nonviolence. MLK Day of Service is a way to honor his life and teachings by engaging in community action that continues to solve social problems. Service breaks down barriers by bringing people from different experiences together – volunteering can unite Americans of all ages and backgrounds while building stronger communities.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a vital figure of the modern era and a pivotal figure in the Civil Rights Movement. His lectures and dialogues stirred the concern and sparked the conscience of a generation. His charismatic leadership inspired men and women, young and old, in this nation and around the world.

Following in the footsteps of his father, in February 1948, at the age of 19, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. entered the Christian ministry and was ordained at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.

In 1954, upon completion of graduate studies at Boston University, he accepted a call to serve at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. While there, he was an instrumental leader in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, made famous by the nonviolent resistance and arrest of Rosa Parks. He resigned this position in 1959 and moved back to Atlanta to direct the activities of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

From 1960 until his death in 1968, he served as co-pastor with his father at Ebenezer Baptist Church. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee and died on April 4, 1968.

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The Conversion of St. Paul

St. Paul, known as the Apostle to the Gentiles, was born in the city of Tarsus, a Roman city, thereby giving him Roman citizenship. At his circumcision, he was given the Hebrew name Saul. At a young age his parents sent him to Jerusalem to be instructed in the Mosaic Law under the greatest Rabbi of his time, Gamaliel.

Saul was an excellent student and as a Pharisee was respected for his great intellect and zeal for the Jewish faith and traditions. Because the Jews had a rule that their children should learn a trade along with their studies, Saul learned to make tents.  This is a trade that provided him with the finances he needed later in his life to travel and evangelize. Because of Saul’s great zeal for Jewish law and traditions, he was very upset about his Jewish brethren who were following the New Way, as Christianity was first called. So, thinking that he was serving God, Saul became the worst enemy of Christians. He hunted them down and dragged them out of their homes, imprisoning them and even having them killed. In fact, Saul was a witness to the stoning of the first Christian martyr, St. Stephen. Because Saul was a leader, he stood by and watched as those stoning Stephen laid their cloaks at his feet. It’s very likely that Saul ordered Stephen to be stoned.

Saint Luke’s recording of this story in his book of Acts is not merely an historical account. While drawing his last breath, Stephen called out to God to forgive those that were stoning him. St. Augustine later declared that had Stephen not prayed, the Church would have never had the great Apostle Paul. For it was Stephen’s prayer that planted the seed which later helped Saul on his path to conversion.

Saul’s conversion occurred when he was on his way to the city of Damascus. He had gone to the high priest and the Sanhedrin for a commission to allow him to go where he knew there were many new Christians, to arrest them and take them back to Jerusalem for trial. The journey to Damascus took about two days by horseback. When he and his men were very near the city, they were suddenly surrounded by a light so bright that it knocked Saul to the ground. The account of what happened then is related in the book of Acts, chapter 9. “They heard a voice from heaven that said: ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?’ And Saul said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, Whom you are persecuting; but rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.’ The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul arose from the ground and when his eyes were opened he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus.

“For three days he was without sight and neither ate nor drank. There was a disciple there named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Ananias.’ And he said, ‘Here I am, Lord.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘Rise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for a man of Tarsus named Saul; for behold, he is praying.  And he has seen a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.’ But Ananias answered, ‘Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to thy saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call upon thy name.’ But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine to carry My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of My name.’

“So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me that you may regain you sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ And immediately, something like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized, took food and was strengthened.” From that time forth, Saul went on to preach about Christ. Because he was so well-known as a Pharisee and was now evangelizing for Christ, Saul began being persecuted by his Jewish brethren in the same way he had been persecuting the Christians. At some point he decided to start using his Roman name, Paul.

After spending some time with the disciples of Christ in Damascus, God called Paul to Arabia where he spent at least two years or more in the desert. It is believed that this is where Paul had visions much like the vision St. John writes about in his book of Revelation. The Lord prepared Paul to teach the Gospel, and when Paul returned from the desert, after a short stay in Damascus, he went directly to Jerusalem where he met with Peter, our first pope, and some of the other Apostles, to receive Peter’s blessing before he started on his ministry. Paul spent the rest of his life traveling and spreading the Gospel of Jesus, establishing churches and teaching others to lead in his absence. Paul’s epistles to the churches that he established make up over one-fourth of the New Testament. He truly is the greatest missionary in Church history.

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Sources:

http://www.calendarpedia.com/when-is/christmas-day.html

https://www.nationalservice.gov/serve-your-community/mlk-day-service

www.catholicexchange.com/the-conversion-of-st-paul

Edited by: Evan Macklin