Christmas Traditions – What’s It All Mean?
Several years ago, my friend Karen gave me a gift that has certainly kept on giving. It was a box full of Christmas items with descriptions attached to each – things we decorate with and their meanings. I have recreated /rewritten that gift and given it many times over the years, and this year, I’d like to share it with you in a blog.
The following was printed on the box with the items that follow inside. You may want to make one of your own to keep on your coffee table to share with your family and for others to see, or even make it for others. It makes a very meaningful gift. I have even included the written version in Christmas cards.
No other season of the year so inspires us to decorate our homes, streets, stores and businesses. Some may wonder why Christmas has become so obscured by things seemingly unrelated to the birth of Christ – bells, lights, candy canes – what do these have to do with the Christ of Christmas? A study of the origin of these things can reveal meaningful truths and be used to remind us and teach our children and tell others of the sacredness of the season.
Just as lost sheep are guided to safety by the sound of a bell, bells remind us to follow the Shepherd. When a sheep is lost, the shepherd searches for it until he finds it. And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and brings it home. (Luke 15:4-6) The tinkling of tiny bells and the chimes of the great tower bells are also a “joyful noise unto the Lord,” (Psalm 95:1) as we praise Him during the celebration of His birth.
The candy cane may seem to be a meaningless decoration, but it’s origin holds much meaning. A candy maker incorporated several symbols to signify Christ’s life. First, the hard candy symbolizes the solid rock foundation of Christ and the firmness of the promises of God. (Matthew 7:24) The J shape represents the precious Name of Jesus (Philippians 2:9) and also the staff of the “Good Shepherd” (John 10:14) who reaches down into the ditches of the world to lift out the fallen lambs who, like sheep, have gone astray (Isaiah 53:6). The white symbolizes the virgin birth Matthew 1:23) and sinless nature of Christ 1 Peter 2:22). The red stripes represent the scourging Jesus received and the blood shed by which we receive eternal life. (1 Peter 2:24)
Inspired by the gifts of the Magi to Christ, the exchange of gifts has become one of the most beautiful ways of sharing the joy of Christmas. But above all, we should remember that the greatest gift of all was God’s gift of love, the Savior to the world. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
The prickly thorns of holly and its bright red berries are the symbol of the crown of thorns and drops of blood of our Savior on the cross. “He was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)
Lights are the most lavish of all symbols. What light is to the earth, Christ is to men. Lights remind us that Christ is the “light of the world” (John 8:12) and a light unto our path (Psalm 119:105).
Mistletoe has become known for the delightful custom of kissing under its bough. It can symbolize the love and goodwill that Christ’s coming should bring. Also, centuries ago, it was claimed that this plant possessed healing ability. Although belief in its medicinal merits has long since passed, it can remind us of the Great Physician, Christ, who came at Christmas to give His healing balm for our sin-sick souls. “Jesus…went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil.” (Acts 10:38)
“It is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick…I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:12&13)
Snowmen have become a very popular Christmas decoration. The perfect white color of a snowman can represent the cleansing of our sins by Christ’s death on the cross. “Though our sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” (Isaiah 1:18) The smiling face on the snowman can remind us of the joy that is ours when the burden of our sin is removed. “…you believe in Him and are filled with inexpressible joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8&9)
The star comes directly from the scriptures. As the star in the east led the Wise men to make their long pilgrimage so they could find Jesus and “worship Him” (Matthew 2:2), so may this symbol remind us to seek Him and come to Him in adoration and worship. His spirit is a light that leads and guides our lives into the truth and plan for our lives. “Ask and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7&8) “Wise men still seek Him.”
The wreath of fresh evergreens reminds us of the eternal life that is ours because Christ was born to be our Savior. It’s circular shape with no beginning and no end and its ever-green color remind us of life unending. From ancient times, the wreath was also a symbol of victory. “Death is swallowed up in victory!” (Isaiah 25:8) “Thank God! He gave us victory over Satan, sin and death through the Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57)
Will you accept the perfect gift God has given you on Christmas, the gift of abundant life in his Son and the eternal life he came to give you?