One of my a cappella chorus’s favorite Christmas songs is titled “CHRISTmas.”
No, we don’t actually pronounce it that way, but the emphatic spelling does help explain what the song is about and why it’s first up on all of Piney Hills Harmony’s holiday sing-outs this year.
Our script introduces it like this:
“Have you ever felt that Christmas has come and gone – and you never thought to worship at the manger? If we don’t pay attention, the miracle of Christmas will get buried in gift receipts and wrapping paper – and our chance to truly celebrate Christ’s birth and give thanks to God will be gone. Is this the year we make Christmas about Christ first?”
Then, in one and one-half minutes in four-part harmony, we tell the story of Jesus’ birth, his lying in a manger, the star and the Wise Men. The last two lines counsel us “to honor Him … (and) keep Christ in your Christmas this year.”
The song is quite lovely and, if its message is heeded, quite meaningful.
As the chorus has been singing this song recently, it struck me that meaning can be found in almost every aspect of our Christmas traditions and that, instead of merely rushing around willy-nilly in holiday busyness, it would be good to contemplate such things.
With that in mind, I decided to come up with my own list of what certain traditions might signify. Not what theologians or historians or those in the know might say. Just things that come to my own mind when I contemplate Christmas customs and how they might have more significance in my life.
Now, granted, maybe some of my own “original” thinking may overlap with others’ thoughts – maybe even with yours – and maybe I’m remembering something I’ve already heard – but as I’m typing, I don’t really know any of that because at this time I have not yet researched the topic.
As I imagine an old-fashioned Christmas tree from top to bottom, here’s a short list of what comes to mind when I consider certain things associated with it:
– The tree’s evergreen nature. Unquestionably, thoughts of God and Jesus’s eternal love surface. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” – Lamentations 3:22-23.
– The star. How could this not symbolize the Star of Bethlehem? Not only did it provide the Wise Men guidance, it can do the same for us. Think of the words from the song “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem”: “Give us a lamp to light the way unto the land of perfect day.” Not only that, but the song ends with: “Jesus is now the star divine; brighter and brighter He will shine; O beautiful star of Bethlehem, shine on.”
– Candy canes. Red and white intermingled. Jesus’ blood that makes us pure. “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light … the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” – 1 John 1:7. Of course, the shape of the cane can symbolize the staff of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
– Gingerbread ornaments. The Bread of Life and the sweetness of God’s words. “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to me will not hunger, and he who believes in me will never thirst’ – John 6:35. And “How sweet are your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” – Psalm 119:103.
– Gifts. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” – John 3:16.
So contemplation of the baby ends up with contemplation of the man – the Son of God – who truly was the gift of love.
Sallie Rose Hollis lives in Ruston and retired from Louisiana Tech as an associate professor of journalism and the assistant director of the News Bureau. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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