Though the word “Xmas” has receded in our annual lexicon to a large degree there still remains a vacuum in the hearts of man related to the spiritual aspects of this special holiday season. Replaced by Santa and presents, it’s important to reflect on the true “reason for the season”. Below are 15 Christmas symbols. Of course, some have their roots in pagan or non-religious traditions. However, they still act as reminders of God and Jesus when viewed through the lens of a Biblical Christian worldview. Much of the credit for the actual list came from an article recently published in Parade.com.
Christmas Tree – Typically evergreen, it reminds us of the eternal nature of God. These trees are triangular in shape symbolizing the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit). Further, evergreens seem to point toward Heaven as the source of Creation, representing our connection with divinity.
The Star – Often found at the top of the Christmas tree, but also as part of a Nativity scene. It represents that faithful star which shown as a beacon leading the wise men (the three kings or magi) to the town of Bethlehem and to Jesus to worship Him. The star has traditionally been a symbol of hope and peace.
Candles – A single candle also represents the Star of Bethlehem as well as symbolizing the light of wisdom that has come from the teachings of Jesus. It is this light that challenges all Christians not to hide their faith under a rock, but to let it shine with the Good News to all who will listen (Matthew 5:14-16).
Tinsel – Placed on the Christmas tree, tinsel reflects and enhances the light from candles and/or bulbs. This reminds us of the brightness and warmth, of the holiday season. As it reflects the tree lights, we, as believers, need to reflect the light of Christ to all who will listen.
Bells – The sound of bells during the season represents the announcement of Christ’s birth. Symbolized by the ringing of bells used by herders to corral wayward sheep back into the fold, or placed around the neck of cows in transit from seasonal pastures, they are to remind us that Jesus is always watching over us (Luke 15:4).
Candy Canes – In the shape of the shepherd’s staff, they remind us of the shepherds in the field, guarding their flocks when an angel of the Lord appeared announcing the Messiah was born that day (Luke 2:8-20). Further, Jesus, as an adult, referred to Himself as “the Good Shepherd” who lays down His life for the sheep (John 10:11-18).
Wreaths – Representing a circle, with no beginning and no end, the wreath is a picture of Christ’s unmerited love for us, the circle of life, from birth to death, followed by an eternal supernatural rebirth. Further, they are shaped and thorny, similar to the crown of thorns placed on Jesus’ head prior to His death on the cross.
Gingerbread Man – Standing alone, created like the Potter (God) forms the clay (man) in Rom. 9:21, it is a reminder of the first man, Adam, the beginning of all of humanity.
The Colors Red and Green – Crimson red symbolizes the crucifixion, the body and blood of Christ, sacrificed for our sins while He was without sin. Green is the color of the evergreens, again representing the permanence of God through time.
Gifts Adorned with a Bow – These remind us of the gifts brought by the magi of gold, frankincense and myrrh (Matt. 2:11). Gold represented Christ’s kingship, frankincense His priestly role, and myrrh (an anointing oil), a vision of His eventual death for our sins.
Angels – Of course, angels are found in many forms of decorations at Christmas, but especially topping the tree. They are a reminder of supernatural angels who do God’s bidding (Psalm 91:11), typically, but not always, out of the sight of man. On the night of Jesus’ birth, they appeared to the shepherds announcing good news of great joy (Luke 2:9-14)!
Poinsettia – Like the evergreen Christmas tree, poinsettias can be kept alive all year long. The flower shape can remind us of the star, and the red color of Christ’s blood shed for us, while the white poinsettias are a symbol of purity and good cheer.
Holly – Also an evergreen, holly, with its sharp, pointed leaves, is a reminder of the crown of thorns worn by Jesus near the time of His death. The red berries hint of Jesus’ blood shed on the cross.
The Dove – Christians see the Dove as a symbol of peace, freedom, purity, and love. More specifically, it also represents the Holy Spirit as referenced in the gospels (ex. Mark 1:10).
The Nativity – Finally, the three-dimensional representation of the birth of Christ, the nativity brings together the animal stall located adjacent to the inn, the manger where the baby Jesus was placed, the star which the shepherds saw in the fields, and angels announcing His birth. Often, three wiseman are depicted bearing gifts for the King. Of course, there is dispute on timing of some of these elements surrounding the birth of Christ. However, the focus should be on worship and as a reminder of the lowly setting where the ministry of Christianity was born.
These are some of the elements that are reminders of the true meaning of the Christmas season.
POSTSCRIPT… A reader noted that the X in Xmas that I referenced in the first line of this post has historical roots as an abbreviation for Christ occasionally used by early Greek scribes (details here). Though this clarification is both enlightening and appreciated, the contemporary use of the shortened version, I believe, is more about removing Christ from Christmas than the application of Greek shorthand by ancient scribes.