Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Thoughts of Christmas

Thoughts of Christmas 22 December 2015 Christmas is here, and it seems appropriate to consider for a moment, some of the traditions we use to celebrate at this season of the year. We use the colors red and green for Christmas. They both represent life; red, the color of blood, to represent human life, and specifically the life of Christ which he lived here on earth, and which he gave for us; green, the color of plant life, is the color of the tree that we decorate as one of the primary symbols of Christmas. The tree represents life, and because we celebrate Christmas at the winter solstice, it also stands for the renewal of life that will come with the Spring. Not just any tree will do, however – it must be an evergreen tree – so it represents not only life and the renewal of life, but also eternal life, just as the tree is eternally green. In Europe, no building is ever erected without an evergreen tree being fastened at the topmost portion of the building as it is under construction. It is not removed until the building is complete. This tree represents the wishes of the builders for a blessing on the building, for a long and useful life for the building itself. We also use white at Christmas, the color that represents cleanliness and purity. We imagine that angels are dressed in white, for example, and we want the earth to be covered in snow at Christmastime so that the earth is blanketed in white and appears clean and pure. We place either a star or an angel at the top of the tree, recalling the star that guided the wise men to the child, or the angels that visited the shepherds to announce to them the birth. We place lights on the tree to remember the lights that appeared in the heavens at the time of his birth, and we place gifts under the tree to remember the gifts of the wise men, and to celebrate the gift that God gave to us. In recent decades, Christmas has become heavily commercialized and we are bombarded with advertisements to buy, buy, buy – gifts not only for our families and others but also for ourselves at this holiday season, but notwithstanding such efforts, the idea of spending our resources to be able to give to others is still at the heart of this season, and we still remember the gift of His son that God gave to us. We gather our families around us at Christmas time. Schools take a vacation so students can travel home for the holidays. We feel an increased love toward our family members, mirroring the love that God had for us and the whole world in sending his son to live among us, even knowing that he would be persecuted and murdered at the end. We decorate the tree with ornaments, lights, and other decorations. We want the tree to look as beautiful as possible. We do this because in some way, the tree becomes a symbol of Christ himself, and we honor him by doing everything we can to honor and beautify the tree that represents him. We sing hymns to remember the hymns that the angels sang when they came to the shepherds. Those angels sang for joy at the birth of the son, and we also sing for the same joy, in celebration of the happiness we feel because of the gospel that Christ gave us. In Christ the old law was fulfilled, and a new law was given – a higher law designed to raise the quality of life; to bring about a better civilization; and to enable us to become better individuals; and to improve our very manner of thought. Moses said, “Thou shalt not commit adultery”, for example, but Christ said, in effect, “Don’t even think about it.” Moses focused on actions; Christ focused on attitudes. Even though the secular world holds these symbols in derision, they are still powerful reminders of why we celebrate this season of the year. They are uniquely and intensely Christian in nature, and represent an immensely potent mythology that has vitalized people for a very long time. They still speak to us today. We still use them to remember and celebrate that Christ came to earth and lived a life among us, providing for us a long, continuous, living revelation of what God Himself is like. This is why he said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father”, and “The Father and I are one.”