of the Greens
The Christian Church has observed the Season of Advent for at least 1500 years. This is the season we anticipate the arrival of the Messiah, The Promised One.
We invite you to use these meditations as you prepare your home for this Advent.
THE LEGEND OF THE ADVENT WREATH:
The Advent wreath is a contribution from the Lutherans of Germany. Back in the 16th century, branches of fir and spruce were intertwined in a circular shape and laid on tables in homes. On the first Sunday of Advent, an upright candle was attached to the wreath. Each Sunday another candle was added. As the light became brighter, these living flames reminded families of the approach of the day of Christ's birth. While we don’t know why our spiritual forebearers began the custom of making these wreaths, we do know that the circular shape of the wreath symbolizes both the love of God, which is without beginning or ending and the eternal joys of heaven.
THE LEGEND OF WREATHS AND GARLANDS:
The use of evergreens, cones, and fragrant herbs for making wreaths and garlands, dates to the ancient Egyptians, Hebrews, and Persians. One of the ways the Romans celebrated their mid-winter festival, called "The Saturnalia", was to cover their homes with greenery inside and out. Evergreens were considered hospitable refuges for the wood spirits, and the evergreen circle of live plants dispelled the gloom of winter. Christians first rejected this custom, but later used it, reinterpreting its meaning to express their own faith. For us, the evergreen boughs represent eternal life, and the circular wreath reminds us of the final triumph God promises over evil.
THE LEGEND OF THE CHRISTMAS TREE:
More than 400 years ago, Martin Luther was walking toward his home. Legend tells us that he took a small tree into his home on Christmas Eve. He placed lighted candles on its branches so that it would resemble the beauty of the stars shining through the branches of the trees. Whether this was the first Christmas tree, no one knows for certain, but we do know that all these years later, it is still the custom to bring trees into our homes. Many generations of faithful Christians have believed the tree represents The Tree of Life which Old Testament writers spoke.
Our tree is called a Chrismon Tree because its only ornaments are Christian symbols or CHRIST Monograms. Each of them in some fashion reminds or points to Christ or some facet of His ministry. The lights are white symbolizing Jesus' purity and perfection. The gold trim on the Chrismon’s symbolizes His kingly majesty and power. The gifts we place under the tree remind us of the gifts the wise men brought when they worshipped Jesus for His birth in Bethlehem. The giving of gifts to others is symbolic of the giving of ourselves to Christ. Jesus said, "In as much as you have done it to one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it to Me."
THE LEGEND OF THE POINSETTIAS:
Of all the symbols of Christmas with which we decorate our church, the Poinsettia Plant is the most recent and the only one of American origin. The Mexican people call it "The Flower of the Holy Night" because its leaves, either red or white, resemble the flaming Bethlehem Star. Its actual flower is the tiny yellow cluster these leaves surround. It was named after Joel R. Poinsett, who in 1925 was appointed the first United States Ambassador to Mexico, and who sent the plant which he found growing there back to this country. The story is told that the poinsettia was first associated with Christmas when a small, poor boy having no gift to place on the altar Christmas Eve, knelt outside a church window to pray. When he arose he was amazed to see a beautiful poinsettia growing on the spot. It became his gift to the Christ child.
THE LEGEND OF THE STAR:
The Wise Men followed the star. The star represented God's guiding hand. The star of Bethlehem was high above the heads of all men, but only the Wise Men followed it. If we believe in God, He will lead us. When we trust in Him, He will show us the way to Christ.
THE LEGEND OF THE CANDY CANE:
According to legend, there was a candy maker who wanted to invent a candy that was a witness to Christ. First, he used a hard candy because Christ is the rock of ages. This hard candy was shaped so that it would resemble a “J” for Jesus or, turned upside down, a shepherd’s staff. He made it white to represent the purity of Christ. A red stripe was added to represent the blood Christ shed for the sins of the world, and three thinner red stripes for the stripes He received on our behalf when the Roman soldiers whipped Him. Sometimes a green stripe is added as a reminder that Jesus is a gift from God.
Its flavor is peppermint, which is similar to hyssop. Hyssop is in the mint family and was used in the Old Testament for purification and sacrifice. Jesus is the pure Lamb of God, come to be a sacrifice for the sins of the world. So, every time you see a candy cane, remember the message of the candy maker: Jesus is the Christ!
THE LEGEND OF THE CANDLE FLAME:
The symbols we’ve shared remind us of God's loving acts toward us. There is still one other act that is the crowning symbol of all that we are as Christian disciples. Christians are the candles by which the world is made bright with hope and spiritual confidence. The candle must be lighted from another's torch. For Christians, there is no other source of light. A burning candle, while giving its light is being consumed. This says something worth remembering about Christ. He came to give us life, but He also laid down His life for us. (I John 3:16) The candle as a symbol is second only to the cross. The burning candle is used to signify Christ as the Light of the world.
Remember the meaning of all these symbols and especially that of the lighted candle. May they remind us that through the Spirit of Christ we shall illumine the world with His love. As the light of Christ has shone upon us so may we reflect it to others.