Thursday, December 3

advent 2009

I have to begin by admitting that I did not really have any idea of what a Chrismon was until I began attending First Baptist Church. After my first Christmas at FBC, I had some vague understanding that the ornaments on the trees in the sanctuary were all symbols of Christ or of his life and ministry. When I first began thinking about what to write for the Advent booklet celebrating the symbolism of Chrismons, I wanted to make sure that my understanding of what these ornaments represent was true. I found this definition on www.umcs.org:

Chrismons are a type of Christmas tree decoration used in many churches and often in the homes of Christians. The symbols used represent a variety of biblical and theological concepts that are well known among most believers. Often, if the ornaments on a Christmas tree are comprised mostly of Christian symbols, the tree is known as a "Chrismon tree." Chrismons are white with gold decorations of beads, ribbon, glitter, etc. It is common, however, to see these ancient Christian designs in other colors than white and gold. These would not be Chrismons, however, but simply Christian symbols – and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But what does this really mean? I found online a paper written by Frances Kipps Spencer and published by The Lutheran Church of the Ascension in Danville, Virginia. This paper had this to say:

It began as an offering to God. God blessed the offering and it became a song of praise and thanksgiving to him. It continues as a witness to his love and his glory, as a proclamation of his holy name through his Son, Jesus, the Christ, our Lord.

What I did not realize is that the Chrismon tree is a fairly new tradition and came into use only in the last century. I have found the meaning of several of the ornaments – the wreath as an ancient symbol of victory, symbolizing the victory of Jesus over sin and death; the circle symbolizing eternal life; the seashell as a symbol for Christian baptism or the baptism of Jesus.

As meaningful as all of this information is to me, and I am going to look at these ornaments differently in the future, the most significant thing to me is that Chrismon trees and their ornaments are usually made by the congregation. When I look at our Chrismon trees, what I see are the women and men who spent so much time and effort in making the ornaments that are hung year after year. I also see the commitment of the members of the church who each year come and put the trees up and then lovingly pack the ornaments away after Christmas. That is a symbol of love and devotion and is a tradition that I hope I can be a part of for many years to come.

- Bridget Browne

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