LEWISTOWN - Amid the presents and parties, cookie baking and shopping, reminders of Christ's birth still surround us.
Stop. Take a moment and look around you at the decorations - many of them are symbols, reminders of God's greatest gift to his children through the birth of his son.
Chrismons, or ornaments with Christian symbols, are a common way that churches decorate a tree for the season. These small decorations are almost like a library of Christian symbols - some familiar, some uncommon.
Sentinel photo by BUFFIE BOYER
A chrismon tree stands at Grove Memorial United Methodist Church in Lewistown. The chrismons are symbols to remind Christians of Jesus’ birth.
The word Chrismon itself is a melding of the words "Christ" and "monogram." Typically, the ornaments are white, representing Jesus' purity, and gold to represent his sovereignty, according to an article from beliefnet.com.
The practice of having a chrismon tree began with Lutheran pastor George Pass in 1940 in Virginia. He began making decorations for his own Christmas tree that were symbols about Jesus Christ and the meaning of Christmas, instead of the usual pretty but meaningless shiny balls, Santa Clauses and reindeer. The practice soon caught on with other Christians, and today chrismons are a common sight all over the United States.
Here are a few of the common symbols:
The very first chrismon was the Chi Rho, a combination of the first two Greek letters of "Cristos," or Christ. The symbol looks like an X (chi) superimposed on a P (rho). It dates back to the time of Constantine, who said God told him to put the symbol on his soldier's shields for "by this you shall conquer."
A king's crown is the symbol of royal power and authority. It symbolizes Jesus as King of the Jews, in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, as well as the exalted Christ as king of kings.
A single white candle symbolizes the Christ. The golden glow of the candle recalls the halo of light called a nimbus that symbolized divinity and power in medieval paintings.
In John 8:12, Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
Dove and seashell
Some of the symbols are reminders of later events in Christ's life. The dove is the reminder of Jesus baptism in Luke 2:21-22 - "heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in the bodily form like a dove. ..."
The seashell or scallop is a symbol for Christian baptism or the baptism of Jesus. It is also a symbol for pilgrimage and the spread of the Gospel to the world.
Grapes and butterfly
A reminder of Communion, grapes represent the blood that Christ shed on the cross. The butterfly is a symbol of Jesus' resurrection.
Stylized crosses, symbols of the trinity, the Greek letters alpha and omega, stars and lambs are common chrismons. Chrismon symbols and their explanations are on www.cresourcei.org/symbols/ornaments.