Tiny twinkling lights that shine through hues of red and green, glimmering off gossamer garland that gently flows in and out of branches adorned with glittering ornaments, and shining from the apex a star seeming to call us all home. Christmas trees seem to bring us so much pleasure and enjoyment during the holiday season. They fill our homes with a warm glow and decorate our lives with beautiful memories and love. Isn’t it interesting how our rooms seem to be so full before we place the tree in our midst, and yet when it is removed in a few short weeks the room seems empty? But where did this tradition begin and what does the tree symbolize?
The tradition of using an evergreen tree as a Christmas tree is thought to have begun nearly a thousand years ago. Though at that time the trees would have been suspended upside down from the ceiling (I’m quite thankful that tradition has long since passed…). However, the idea of bringing a tree into your home is thought to have originated with the 16th century German preacher Martin Luther. He is said to have been walking through the woods at night when he observed the stars shining through the tree branches. This sight reminded him of Christ who left the heavenly stars to come to earth at Christmas.
Another Christmas tree tradition stems from St. Boniface of Crediton. He rescued a young boy from the clutches of his captors, by cutting down a large oak tree to prevent the boy’s ritual sacrifice. From the roots of the oak tree, there emerged a small fir tree. St. Boniface’s followers then decorated the tree with candles allowing him to preach at night, and further the message of Jesus Christ.
Our Christmas trees today hold a whole host of symbols of our faith. The tree’s triangular shape is a symbol of the Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Being an evergreen tree, it reminds us both of our new and everlasting life in Christ, and of His eternal love for each of us. We often top it with a star commemorating the star of Bethlehem which shown above the manger where Christ was born and was followed by the wisemen to lead them on a journey of hope to the King of Kings. Others may top their tree with an angel, which symbolizes the angel that appeared to the shepherds in the fields to announce the birth of Christ. The ornaments used to decorate our trees represent the fruit from the Tree of Life, through the memories and pleasure they evoke we are reminded to ensure that our lives are bearing good fruit in the service of our Lord. Lastly, the lights in which we wrap our tree bring light and warmth, this reminds us that Christ is the light of the world, and He will guide us through the darkness.
So, as we adorn our homes with these beautiful decorations, let us always keep present in our minds the reason for the season, the birth of Jesus Christ. May His peace and joy be ever present for your family this Christmas and may you have a blessed and Happy New Year.
School Year Program Director
Advent invites us to slow down, to prepare, to anticipate one of the most holy days in the church calendar. I have known this for years and our family has many traditions to honor this season of love and giving. The advent calendar and activities surrounding them have not been a part of our tradition. Advent calendars were not something I was exposed to in my childhood, so it did not become a part of the traditions we incorporated into our family.
Recently, one of my kiddos wanted an advent calendar of their very own and I took notice. After a quick online search, I discovered that on one site alone there are sixty-two different advent calendars. Sixty-two. Calendars that include the traditional chocolate, but also Lego, wine, hot sauce, make-up, pet food (because your pets definitely need to participate), hot wheels and more.
Clearly, either I am missing out, missing the point, or am seeing a super-sized commercialization of the season.
At the risk of being a scrooge or at the very least a skeptical newbie on the advent calendar scene I must ask, “Why so many?” This question led me to a second online search for the history and true intention behind the advent calendar.
“While many outside the Christian tradition enjoy their yearly countdown calendar (and its hidden treats), the meaning behind the Advent calendar remains steeped in religious themes. More than just a countdown, marking the days of Advent serves as a time of spiritual reflection and preparation. Advent is a season of waiting, calling to mind the longing and anticipation of God’s people who, for centuries, awaited the coming Messiah.
Counting down the days of Advent can help us consider what it must have been like waiting for the promised Messiah, generation after generation. It gives us an opportunity to lament the reason we needed a savior to come in the first place—our sin—and also to remember God’s past faithfulness to us. On this side of the cross, we know that Israel’s long season of expectation culminated in the birth of Jesus Christ. Likewise, our yearly season of Advent culminates in the celebration of Christmas; but first we walk through a season in which we prepare for the feast.
In addition to commemorating God’s faithfulness in the past, keeping Advent also helps us look ahead with hopeful anticipation. Advent puts us in the habit of watching and waiting, which is a helpful practice because Christians still live in a state of anticipation: We are waiting for Christ’s return. By looking back at His first Advent, we prepare ourselves to live in joyful expectation of His second Advent. By keeping these themes in mind, something as simple as an Advent calendar can help ready our hearts to celebrate the gift of God’s Son.”
The crux is that advent calendars are an intentional way to count down the days until the birth of Jesus and a way to bring awareness to that at least once a day. Okay, the meaning of Christmas is right there. I can get behind that. And the hidden treats are perhaps that external motivation we sometimes need to create accountability. I get it and realize now that there are plentiful options (sixty-two and counting) to choose from because we are all into different things and we can all use a daily treat.
I know just the calendar that would be perfect for me.
Opening a little box everyday with a poem would keep me coming back, back to the calendar and back to this season of preparation for the celebration. A third online search brought me to the one I plan to start using as soon as it arrives. Better late than never.
Whether you are a fan of advent calendars or not, I hope you find a daily connection to this season of love and giving from the heart as we prepare for the birth of Jesus Christ.
CYO Camp Co-director
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