Saturday, December 19
The Lost Symbols
By your symbols (words) you shall be justified, and by your symbols (words) you shall be condemned. (Matthew 12:37)
We have had our Chrismon trees for 35 years. With my “low” Baptist background for most of my life, I had no idea what such a tree was! Now I know that the word itself is a monogram formed of the first Greek letters in the Greek word for Christ – that is, the Chi Rho. And, I know now that the tree is decorated at Christmas with many Christian symbols.
It is correct to say, using the plural title of a recent book, that many of the meanings of these symbols have been lost. I would also remind myself that words themselves are symbols and that good meanings are often lost in our usage. The peace sign and the fish symbol are two that are usually lost as to meaning. When pax (the Latin word for “peace”) is used in our circles, it means that I wish you complete wholeness in Christ. The fish symbol is really a confession of faith (“symbolics” can actually refer to creeds and confessions), for the Greek letters in Ichthus (Greek word for “fish”) stand for “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.” The meaning of these and other symbols on the tree are often lost. Let us be reminded of the deeper meaning beyond the beauty of the tree.
Finally, let us be keenly aware that words themselves are symbols and that Jesus himself taught that we are accountable for these millions of words that come tumbling out of our mouths. What tremendous instruments, these streams of “symbols” which gush forth from all of us. They give a person assurance of friendship and love or stab in the back like a knife; they quell the fears of a child and give comfort or they cut a person to shreads; they tell the wonders of God or pass on a malicious and often untrue tale (like the current bitter talk show hosts of right and left); they lend encouragement and strength or drive a person deeper into despair and defeat. Talk is not cheap! It reflects the kind of persons we really are. During this Advent season may we be reminded by our gorgeous trees to speak gorgeous “symbols,” for by their use we are carefully judged by God.
– George Shriver