Day 4 of Keeping Christ in Christmas – Christmas Trees

Let’s continue relating the familiar objects of Christmas to the coming of our Savior!

 

In 16th-century Germany fir trees were decorated, both indoors and out, with apples, roses, gilded candies, and colored paper. In a popular religious play in the Middle Ages about Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden, a fir tree was decorated with apples and used to symbolize the Garden of Eden, the Paradise Tree. The play ended with the prophecy of a savior coming, and so was often performed during the Advent season.

It is held that Protestant reformer Martin Luther first adorned trees with light. One December evening, the beauty of the stars shining through the branches of a fir tree inspired him to recreate the effect by placing candles on the branches of a small fir tree inside his home.

The Christmas Tree was brought to England by Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert from his native Germany. The famous Illustrated News etching in 1848, featuring the Royal Family gathered around a Christmas tree in Windsor Castle, popularized the tree throughout Victorian England. The Christmas tree was brought to America by the Pennsylvania Germans and became popular by the late 19th century.

So how do we transform this to make it a reminder of the birth of Jesus Christ?

When putting up your tree, remember the Tree in the Garden of Eden and the sin that took place there. This brought about the need for a Savior to be born.

The fact that the fir tree is an evergreen can remind us of our Savior’s everlasting love for us.

When you look at your decorated tree, remember God did His best work on a tree when He gave His Son to die on a Cross for all of us! 

A very good children’s book related to how God used trees in Christ’s life is The Tale of Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale by Angela Elwell Hunt.

Day 3 of Keeping Christ in Christmas – Christmas Lights

The history of Christmas lights dates back to 17th century Germany when candles were fastened to the tree branches by wax or pins. However, the candles melted quickly and were a fire hazard. In 1882, just three years after Thomas Edison’s light bulb invention, Edward Johnson, an associate of Mr. Edison, first lit up a Christmas tree by eighty electric bulbs. The red white and the blue bulbs of 6/8 of an inch in diameter were hand wired and wound round the trees like the beads of a string for a beautiful, sparkling effect.

Still out of range for most American families to purchase, Edison’s Christmas tree lights did not immediately catch on. It would take decades for affordable lighting to become available to most Americans. However, just after President Grover Cleveland commissioned a lighted White House tree in 1895, members of “high society” started hosting Christmas Tree parties. 

Smaller and less expensive battery-operated lighting strings were decorating the trees of those adventurous enough to do the wiring. In fact, an article in Popular Electricity Magazine had a piece for children, explaining how to light the family tree with battery-powered electric lights. The back pages had instructions on ordering the necessary wire, sockets and light bulbs.

In 1903, The General Electric Company offered pre-assembled lighting outfits called festoons. They consisted of eight green porcelain sockets; eight Edison miniature based colored glass lamps and a handy serve in plug. The cost of General Electric’s first offering of Christmas lights was $12.00 for a set of 24 lights, enough to light a medium sized table-top tree. This was considered extremely expensive in 1903, as the average wage for the time was a mere 22¢ per hour, which equaled a weekly paycheck of about $13.20. Since the cost of purchasing the lights was expensive, they could be rented for the whole Christmas season. Later several companies began offering lamp sets and in this way the Christmas lighting industry began.

So how do we transform this to make it a reminder of the birth of Jesus Christ?

Each day that you turn on the lights of Christmas, tell your children that Jesus came to be light in our darkness. Israel had a yearly celebration called Festival of Lights. It was a happy celebration time and the whole city was lit up.   On the last day of the celebration,  it was sad to see the lights go out.  One year, at the moment the lights were put out, Jesus stepped from the shadows and pronounced,  “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life. (John 8:12) 

Then consider that the purpose of a follower of Jesus is to also be light in the world.  “That you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” (Philippians 2:15 )

Pray this verse each night when you turn on your Christmas lights:
Lord, you have brought light to my life; my God, you light up my darkness. Psalm 18:28 

Day 2 of Keeping Christ in Christmas – Christmas Stocking

Remember – we are trying to use the tangible, traditional symbols of Christmas to teach our children the intangible, true meaning of the season.  As you hang your stockings, relate this story.  You can read about this in the book by Harold Myra called Santa, Are You For Real? Click on the name to see this available at Amazon.com.

 

The tradition of hanging Christmas stockings began with a story in ancient days about a kind man who had three daughters. In those days a dowry or money had to be given before a girl could marry.  When these girls fell in love and wanted to marry, the poor father could not afford their dowries.

A teenage boy named Nicholas, whose parents had died when he was nine, heard about the plight of the daughters.  Because Nicholas loved Jesus so much, he wanted to give as Jesus did; one night Nick secretly put a bag of gold in each of the daughters’ stockings that were hung out to dry. The next morning the family found the gold bags and the daughters were married and lived happily ever after. Since then, children have been hanging Christmas stockings. (Nicholas was later made a saint by the church  because of his continued giving.)

So how do we transform this to make it a reminder of the birth of Jesus Christ?

The origin of the Christmas stocking shows us how these young girls went from being poor and destitute to being rich.  When you look at the Christmas stockings, think about

2 Corinthians 8:9 – For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.

Jesus left the riches of heaven in order to give His life on the Cross for us, so we can have the gift of abundant life. This is the greatest message of Christmas!

Day 1 of Keeping Christ in Christmas – Mistletoe

Take the tangible images and traditions of Christmas and use them to teach the intangible, concepts concerning Christmas. For the next 25 days, this blog will be relating the real meaning of Christmas with traditional seasonal objects so that you and your children can keep Christ in Christmas.

 

History of Mistletoe:

  • Mistletoe was used by Druid priests in their winter celebrations 200 years before the birth of Christ . They revered the plant because it remained green during the cold months of winter. 
  • The ancient Celtics believed mistletoe to have magical healing powers and used it as an antidote for poison, infertility, and to ward off evil spirits.
  • The plant was also seen as a symbol of peace, and it is said that among Romans, enemies who met under mistletoe would lay down their weapons and embrace. 
  • Scandinavians associated the plant with Frigga, their goddess of love, and it may be from this that we derive the custom of kissing under the mistletoe.  Those who kissed under the mistletoe had the promise of happiness and good luck in the following year.

So how do we transform this to make it a reminder of the birth of Jesus Christ?

First of all, since mistletoe was a symbol of peace in ancient days, it should remind us of the Prince of Peace who was born at Christmas.

Secondly, mistletoe today is the place for a kiss.  A kiss has been used in various ways through history:

  • Among the Arabs, the women and children kiss the beards of their husbands or fathers. The husband or father returns their salute by a kiss on the forehead.
  • In Egypt, an inferior kisses the hand of a superior, generally on the back, but sometimes, as a special favor, on the palm also.
  • To testify abject submission, and in asking favors, the feet are often kissed instead of the hand. 
  • In Scripture, we have the kiss of Judas as he betrayed Jesus in the garden.
  • Also in Scrpture is the penitent woman who kissed the feet of Jesus.
  • And there was the greeting given in the early church of a ‘holy kiss’.

This Christmas when you see the mistletoe, think about two verses of scripture:

Psalm 2:12 Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him. That is, embrace the Son; depend upon Him in all your ways as your Sovereign. To make peace with the Father, kiss the Son.

Song 1:2 Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth–for your love is better than wine. The Divine kiss is a metaphor of intimacy with Jesus and the ‘kisses of his mouth’ refers to the ‘words of Jesus’ which is the Word of God. 

Let the mistletoe remind you that God is pursuing an intimate relationship with you that is developed as we embrace the Word of God! This is why Jesus was born!

Also be reminded to greet others with love:

1 Peter 5:14 Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to you all who are in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Why Do We Use Pagan Traditions to Celebrate Christmas?

Many of the symbols associated with Christmas are derived from the traditional pagan celebrations. The decorating of Christmas trees, the eating of ham, the hanging of wreaths, holly, mistletoe, etc. are all historically pagan practices associated with Yule or winter solace.

So why have we been using these pagan traditions in our Christian celebration?

An old English historical writing helps us understand how this came about.  It contains a letter from Pope Gregory to Saint Mellitus, who was then on his way to England to conduct missionary work among the pagan Anglo-Saxons.

Pope Gregory suggested that converting heathens would go easier if they were allowed to retain the outward forms of their traditional pagan practices and traditions, while reinterpreting those traditions spiritually towards the Christian God instead of to their pagan “devils”: “to the end that, whilst some gratifications are outwardly permitted them, they may the more easily consent to the inward consolations of the grace of God”.

Enjoy the traditional practices of Christmas.  As Christians let’s not be so different from the world that the world wouldn’t want what we have. Listen to what Pope Gregory said and rather than condemn the pagan traditions, give them Spiritual meaning.  We should try to use these dark traditions to spread the “Light” into the darkness. (John 8:12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”)

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