Midweek Advent 1 Chrismon message

Dec 5 2018 Midweek Advent 1 Chrismon message


O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree
How lovely are thy branches
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree
How lovely are thy branches

Your boughs so green in summertime
Stay bravely green in wintertime
O tannenbaum, O Christmas tree
How lovely are thy branches

For those of you who may not be familiar with a Chrismon, the decorations you see hung on our Christmas tree are called Chrismons.  It is a contraction of two words shoved together- the beginning part Chris, is short for Christ.  The second part “mon” for monogram or symbol.  So what hangs on our Christmas tree are Chrismons- symbols for Christ.

What I find interesting is that the Chrismon tree is actually a new-fangled tradition as far as Christmas decorations go.  While Christmas trees go back to Martin Luther and the reformation of the 1500’s.  Decorating a Christmas tree with symbols of Christ actually didn’t start until 1957 when a missionary daughter was so frustrated with the commercialism of Christmas that she complained to the pastor about the decorations that were going on the church Christmas tree.  To her they weren’t in the spirit of Christmas at all.  Like any wise pastor he responded,-“if you want to take over the decorating of the Christmas tree you can make the decorations anything you’d like!” Fulfilling the age-old advice “If you want to complain be ready to be put in charge.”

Frances Kipp Spencer did complain and was willing to be put in charge of the Christmas tree at that church.  She decided to make decorations that would be primarily white and gold: colors associated with the purity of Christ and Christ kingly authority.  She deigned them using the symbols of Christ that the church had used over the centuries.  This leads to another interesting item, Chrismons have Lutheran roots.  Frances Kipp Spencer was a member of Ascension Lutheran, in Danville Virginia.  Frances was a Lutheran missionary kid (don’t hear of that much anymore).  It might explain why the Greenford Lutheran church women’s group got less complaints when they wanted to change the traditional tree in the church from a Christmas tree to a “Chrismon tree” in 1966, just a scant nine years after the first one went up in Danville, VA.  It was Lutheran, and it was Christ centered. 

That would help it catch on here.  Being Christ centered and be noncommercial is also why I believe this has caught on in many churches.  Having a Christ centered decoration as a focal point in your worship center during Christmas season makes sense.

But why hasn’t it caught on more?  Why don’t you see aisles of Chrismons in Walmart and Home Depot? Three main reasons:  The first is Chrismons are copyrighted by Ascension Lutheran in Danville VA.  Since it was to be a witness against the commercialism of Christmas, their copyright stipulates that Chrismons are not to be mass produced or store bought.  They are to be handmade, hopefully lovingly hand made and gifted not bought and sold. 

The second hurdle is a follow up to the first (copyrighted noncommercial) being hand made makes them delightful and disgusting!! Some people make any craft look great- others (like myself) should never be let near a glue gun or beads!  The inconsistency of the product known as Chrismons can be a problem, not to mention finding the right combination of talented folks with the time to produce good Chrismons.

The final hurdle is something I’d like to touch on tonight.  A symbol is only meaningful if you know what it stands for (Lots of Love or laugh out loud)

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If I show you (golden arches) you’ve been trained by 100’s of commercials to associate this with McDonald’s golden arches- but they’ve stopped making you think of this (clown) because of the bad press clowns have gotten in the past 20 years. 

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So that’s why I wanted to take some time this advent to give some meaning to these ornate decorations.  To encourage you to come up close and contemplate the time and talent poured into these lovingly created Christmas decorations of our congregation by our congregation some generations ago. 

Take time to think about what it meant to them, why it was important to share these symbols and beat back and in some small way stem the tide of the commercialism of Christmas and invite people to think on and appreciate the meaning of Christmas and the reason for this season.

How bout this one I talked about on Sunday?  God rules, God reigns.  It’s okay God’s got this.  He’s got the whole world in his hand.  Isn’t that a powerful message of care and love during this Christmas season that can be filled with such chaos and conflict?  Now, back up a little and look at all these symbols waiting to tell you a message of Christmas that can warm your heart, center your soul, calm your spirit, and restore your joy this Christmas.

There are so many differing handmade designs of Chrismons here I doubt we’ll be able to highlight the meaning of each one let alone let it become so familiar that we automatic recognition response to each symbol like we have to the sight of the golden arches.  Yet that’s okay, if a Chrismon gives us a glimpse of Christ this Christmas that’s more than many people get.  If a Chrismon grants us a moment to contemplate Christ that’s more than many take at Christmas.  If a vision of a Chrismon’s lingers throughout our day that can positively change the entire way we look at that day.  Who knows what a Chrismon can do for you this season? whether it’s a glimpse of Christ, a moment with Christ or a vision of Christ… its truly a gift and that’s not commercialism but Christianity at its best.  Amen.