Christmas and its Symbols

It’s Christmas!  Imagine “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” played on an uptempo French horn and a crackling fire.  That’s how I imagine Christmas morning—like a 1970s Christmas variety show.

In all seriousness, it’s truly the most wonderful time of the year.  Christ is born!  It’s a day for celebrating His Birth with family and friends.  Just like the Wise Men of yore, we exchange presents to celebrate (and to stimulate the economy).

Just in case you’re not in the spirit yet, here’s another glorious French horn piece, a medley of Christmas tunes, performed by an ostentatious octet of horns!

On Christmas Eve, Daily Encouraging Word, a daily e-mail devotional, featured this wonderful little piece, “Christmas Symbols.”  I couldn’t find a way to view it as a webpage, so I’ve reproduced the entire devotional here:

CHRISTMAS SYMBOLS

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” Eph 1:7 NKJV Today, some people are trying to remove any public mention of Christ at Christmas, while others seem bent on secularizing it completely. So let’s look at the meaning of some of the Christmas symbols. The small holly berries are thought to have originally reminded Christians of the drops of Christ’s blood caused by the crown of thorns He wore on Calvary. The evergreen trees speak of the promise of never-ending life resulting from His resurrection. The Celtic cross has a circle surrounding the intersection of the vertical and horizontal axis of the cross. Some believe it originated with St. Patrick, who, upon seeing a round symbol of the moon goddess, drew a Christian cross over it—changing a Druid symbol into a new symbol for Irish Christianity. In the same way that St. Patrick adopted a pagan circle and gave it a new meaning, so other Christians adopted the evergreen wreath and gave it a new meaning. When early Christians changed the Roman winter solstice of the rebirth of the sun (originally on December 21), to a celebration of the birth of the “Son of Righteousness,” the evergreen wreath was adopted. Instead of simply being a garland, the round Christmas wreath now speaks of the never-ending unity and fellowship we have with God through Christ. So when you hang a wreath on your door or over your fireplace this Christmas, remind yourself that nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ro 8:39 NKJV).

Symbols are powerful—something we evangelical Protestants tend to forget, but that our Catholic and High Church Protestant brothers and sisters understand.  Every tin-pot atheist and modern-day Puritan (they didn’t like Christmas because they thought it was a Papist invention) points to the pagan observances that fall on or around Christian holidays as “proof” that either a.) Christianity is invalid or b.) that we’re all secretly worshiping the Winter Solstice and Sol Invictus.

Gimme a break.  As the DEW devotional demonstrates so simply, Christianity reinvented and re-purposed those symbols.  Like Saint Patrick superimposing the Cross on the symbol of the Celtic moon goddess—demonstrating Christ’s all-conquering power over principalities—Christians have adapted Christ’s message in a way that different peoples in different places and times can hear and understand it.

A colleague of mine tells me that the Vikings ultimately converted to Christianity because they were impressed that missionaries kept dying—eagerly!—to spread the Gospel to them.  A bloody form of conversion, but that conviction impressed the deeply pagan pirates so much, they converted.  I’m sure the nitty-gritty details are far more complicated, but the gist of that little vignette rings true.

Regardless, today is a day to give thanks to Our Savior for coming to us those 2000 years ago.  Let that be the motivation behind all of our yuletide merriment.

Merry Christmas!

—TPP

18 thoughts on “Christmas and its Symbols

  1. Love French horn! Canadian Brass does a wonderful Christmas album, very warm and Christmas-y as you say.

    Christmas symbols are deeper and more meaningful with some background information, much like life. God created such wonder and variety it cannot be plumbed without a little effort and this is a great time of year to expend such effort. A wonderful Christmas post. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Excellent article, I’ve been almost entirely off-grid last week and so the delayed response. The depth of the symbolism in Christianity, is so very deep, that you, we and the real scholars of it barely scratch the surface. But then we’ve spent 2000 years developing it, and doing so with God’s Grace. Happy New Year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, NEO! Glad you enjoyed it. Happy New Year to you, too.

      Yes, it always annoys me when some pipsqueak pseudo-intellectual will try to denounce all of Christianity over a handful of perceived inconsistencies. The Bible is hugely complex—as the inspired Word of God would be!—and it’s useful to remember that we perceive but through a glass, darkly. The richness and depths of God’s Word continually astound me. I need to get back into a regular schedule of daily Scripture readings again.

      Liked by 1 person

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