For many families, the Christmas season officially begins with the Christmas Tree. Whether using a real or artificial tree, there are few symbols today that say "Christmas" more than a beautiful pine tree bedecked in tinsel, lights, and ornaments. There are often many fond memories of Christmases gone by where the entire family works together to turn an ordinary plant into the cornerstone decoration of the season. To a lesser degree, many families look at the bright red and green of the Holly plant is an essential part of Christmas.
Like many of our Christmas traditions, these three symbols can trace their origins before Christians adapted them to the celebration of Christ's birth. Even so, as we celebrate Christmas, we should see how the symbolism today reflects the Good News of Christ's birth.
The Evergreen tree has long symbolized new birth and everlasting life. Even in the midst of a hard winter, their evergreen nature reminds us that in darkness and through death we endure through the blood of Christ. Take a moment this week to talk with your family and loved ones about how John 3:16 and Romans 8:11 are Christmas verses!
The Holly has symbolism both in its colors and in the plant itself. Some countries call the Holly the "Christ Crown" because of the symbolism in the thorns on the leaves - reminding us of the crown of thorns Jesus wore on the cross. The red berries remind us of the blood shed for us, so that we may have life! This Christmas season, read Isaiah 53 and talk with your friends and loved ones how we celebrate not only the babe of Bethlehem, but the suffering servant. Lord of all creation, pierced for our sins.
Christmas is certainly upon us! With this year’s shorter Holiday season, many families have gone into overdrive as the weeks are filled with Christmas parties, concerts, and any assortment of family traditions that fill our time and energy at this time of year.
Few things symbolize Christmas for the world as much as the cheery figure of Santa Clause. His image is printed on wrapping paper, Christmas cards, promotional material, and even the napkins at many Christmas parties. “The Night Before Christmas,” written during the 19th century, has influenced pop culture’s understanding of this holiday in such a way that often has crowded out reason we celebrate this holiday at all – the arrival of the promised messiah in the small town of Bethlehem 2000 years ago. Santa Clause’s origin isn’t in a poem or children’s story, however, but rather is rooted in the history of a real person, St. Nikolas.
Many families still celebrate Saint Nicholas day even today, where they remember the story of a prominent Greek believer who exhibited extreme generosity for those around him – moved by God’s generosity to be generous himself. For the families that celebrate this day, it is a time for them to remind their children that the reason we give gifts to each other this season isn’t because of a marketing scheme by retailers, but rather because we remember the gift given to us – not just in the manger of Bethlehem, but on the cross of Calvary.
This Christmas, as you chuckle at the dancing Santa dolls, get in long lines with your kids or grandkids at the mall, or as we gather around the family television to watch Miracle on 34th Street, take the time to remember why this figure is such a part of our celebrations – it is a reminder of what God has given us.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” -John 3:16