Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.|
Central Methodist Weekday School teacher Donna Stallions tells her class the meaning of the various ornaments on the Chrismon tree at the Decatur church. From left are Carter Borden, Charlie Moores, Thomas Lee, Florence Bowman and Matthew Smith. The children are the in the 3- and 4-year-old group.
O Chrismon tree, O Chrismon tree . . .
Christmas newcomer has ornaments depicting ancient symbols of Christianity
Unlike the Christmas tree, which traces its origin to pagan roots, the Chrismon tree is a Christian newcomer.
Its handmade ornaments depict ancient symbols of Christianity. Some of these are monograms. IHS is the first three letters of Jesus’ name in Greek. The primary color of Chrismons is the litigural colors of Christmas — white or silver and gold—to symbolize the purity and majesty of Jesus.
Chrismons were first used to decorate a tree at Ascension Lutheran Church in Danville, Va., in the 1940s. Frances Kipps Spencer made the first Chrismons. She made the name a trademark in 1957 and began the Chrismon ministry that the church continues today.
Chrismons on the Chrismon tree at Central United Methodist Church include:
Rose and Star: The rose symbolizes the Lord’s birth and denotes his human nature. The Epiphany star refers to the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God; thus, the two incorporated into one portray the two natures of Christ: true God and true man.
IHS: The early Christians formed this symbol of the first three letters of Jesus’ name in the Greek, which was the language of the known world at that time. Therefore, the familiar IHS is actually a monogram of his earthly given name.
Chi Rho: The name “Christ” was the title for the Messiah whom God had promised to send to redeem his people. The Greek monogram of the first two letters of Christ, Chi Rho, was the most widely used symbol in the early Christian church.
Star within a circle: This star is a sacred cipher, which combines the first letter of the Lord’s given name, Jesus, with the first letter of his title, Christ. The endless circle is a symbol for eternity. It is also a symbol for God, for only he is eternal.
Crown: The crown is symbolic of the kingship of the Lord, Jesus Christ. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Prince of Peace. The crown signifies the place of Christ at the right hand of God, the father of all mankind.
Cross with Alpha and Omega: The man who hung on the cross was the Eternal One, symbolized by the beautiful Jerusalem cross with the Greek letters alpha and omega, which signify the beginning and the end, just as our lives begin and end in the love of Christ.
Butterfly: The sinless one conquered evil and death. Just as the lowly caterpillar spins a cocoon and lies encased in a seemingly dead shell only to emerge as a beautiful butterfly, the Lord lay in the tomb only to vanquish sin and death for us.
Cross Triumphant: Artists have often pictured Christ as holding an orb upon which rests a cross to signify his dominion over all the earth. Again, a symbol to show the kingship of the Lord and his rightful role as ruler of our lives eternally.
The Fish: Early Christians used the fish, probably the most ancient symbol for the Lord, as an easily made and recognized secret sign. The Greek word for fish (IXOYC), is an acrostic on the first letters of the phrase “Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior.”
Cross in Circle: By the resurrection (butterfly) of the Christ (X) from the death on the cross, we may look to eternal life (O) with him who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God (three balls for the Trinity) in a world without end.
Shepherd’s Staff with alpha and omega: A number of symbols for our Lord are in this simple design: The shepherd’s crook is hung with the alpha and omega to show references to the Good Shepherd and the Eternal One. The XP and the cross are also apparent, as is the Tau Rho.
Serpent on Tau Cross: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the son of man be lifted up” (John 3:14).
Seven-Tongued Flame: Seven flames represent the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost when “the tongues of fire” rested upon the followers of Christ and “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.”
The Triquetra and Circle: This Chrismon interlocks the Trinity in eternity, showing the Roman triquetra intertwined with the endless symbol of eternity. Another geometric figure of three absolute parts, the triquetra is a graceful foil for the circle depicting God, the Eternal One.
Source: Ascension Lutheran Church; Central United Methodist Church
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