People love to decorate for Christmas, even if they don’t believe God came to man in the baby Jesus that first Christmas. Trees, lights and gifts give us a happy feeling. But many of the traditional decorations symbolize something quite significant. They’re not just decorations.
Many of us have heard about the candy maker who incorporated several symbols into his cane-shaped candy:
- the cane shape to symbolize the name of Jesus and the Shepherd’s staff
- the white to symbolize the virgin birth and sinless nature of Christ
- the red stripes to represent Jesus’ blood shed by which we receive eternal life
- even the hardness of the candy symbolizes the solid rock foundation of Christ and the firmness of the promises of God
But what about all the other decorations? Perhaps we could use a refresher course in a world that’s gotten so far from the true meaning of Christmas. Here’s eight of the most familiar and what they symbolize:
Just as lost sheep are guided to safety by the sound of a bell, bells remind us to follow the Shepherd. When the Shepherd can hear the bells on the sheep, He knows they’re close and safe. When a sheep is lost, the shepherd searches until he finds it, then joyfully puts it on his shoulders and carries it home (Luke 15:4-6).
Exchanging gifts reminds us of God’s greatest gift of love to us – our Savior Jesus Christ (John 3:16). It also represents the Magi who brought gifts to Jesus at His birth (Matthew 2:11).
The prickly thorns of holly and its bright red berries are the symbol of the crown of thorns and drops of blood of our Savior on the cross (Isaiah 53:5).
We all love Christmas lights, don’t we? The ambience of stringed lights warms the heart like a flickering fire. What light is to the earth, Christ is to men. Lights remind us that Christ is the “light of the world” (John 8:12) and a light unto our path (Psalm 119:105).
Mistletoe is known for the charming custom of kissing under its bough. It symbolizes the love and good will Christ’s coming brings. In addition, long ago the plant was believed to possess healing ability, which reminds us of the “Great Physician,” who came to give His healing balm for our sin-sick souls (Matthew 9:12-13).
The star comes directly from Scripture. Just as the star in the east led the wise men to search to find Jesus and worship Him (Matthew 2:2), the star reminds us to seek Him and worship Him. Seek and you will find (Matthew 7:7-8). “Wise men still seek Him.”
The Christmas tree is full of deep meaning. The Evergreen thriving in the dead of winter gives hope and symbolizes eternal life. The cut tree symbolizes Christ’s death. Bringing the tree into our home gives it new life, and decorating it gives it greater glory. The red ornaments hung on the tree symbolize Jesus’ blood shed for us. Furthermore, the tree’s triangle shape symbolizes the Trinity. The tip at the top of the tree points to heaven, ever reminding us that Jesus came to give us eternal life with Him in heaven. We may search for the perfect tree at Christmas, but Jesus hung on the perfect tree at Easter. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds we have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).
The wreath’s circle with no beginning or end reminds us of life unending. Its fresh evergreens remind us of the eternal life that is ours because Christ our Savior was born. In ancient times, the wreath was a symbol of victory. “Death is swallowed up in victory!” (Isaiah 25:8). “Thank God! He gave us victory over Satan, sin and death through the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).
God came to man to give him the free gift of salvation. Will you accept the perfect gift He has for you, His gift of mercy and grace, of abundant and eternal life in his Son Jesus?
It’s the gift our world needs most.
By Penny Cook
Used by Permission
• A Wonderful Christmas Morning
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