Chrismon 2

God’s Fire

Moses, wandering after his self-exile from Egypt, is tending sheep on Mount Horeb (Exodus 3). An angel of the Lord appears to him “in flames of fire from within a bush”. When Moses investigates, God speaks to him: “I am the God of your Father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” God has heard his people “crying out because of their slave drivers,” and He will rescue them and restore them to a place flowing with milk and honey—and Moses will be the means.

Moses is the redeemer of the early Old Testament. Christ is the redeemer of all.

The Burning Bush Chrismon (second row, far right) and the second verse in “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” commemorate Moses as a harbinger of Christ the Redeemer who saves us from the slave drivers of sins.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might / Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height / In ancient times didst give the law (to Moses, with tablets) / In cloud and majesty and awe.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel / Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Chrismon 1

What is a Chrismon?

That was my question, the first time I heard the word Chrismon. I’ve seen Christmas trees in churches and admired the ones decorated with Christian ornaments, but I never knew the tree and its ornaments had a special name.

The denomination of my formative Christian years didn’t celebrate the church year. We had Easter and Christmas, but those two Sundays were the only ones devoted to special events of the church: Sunrise Service and Gift-Giving for the Poor. All the other Sundays were a ceaseless progression of one sermon to the next.

Gradually, I encountered elements of the church year. Lent was mentioned because my high school French class celebrated Mardi Gras. All Hallow’s Eve was followed by All Hallow’s Day on an almanac calendar. Epiphany and Pentecost were Christian words; while I knew them, I didn’t understand their importance.

The Chrismon is another new encounter for me. Even people who belong to denominations that follow the church year may know the word but not its origin.

A Chrismon is a symbol associated with Christ or with his ministry: angel, star, fish, dove descending, shepherd’s crook, chalice, and others. These ornaments, typically of white and gold, along with clear lights decorate the evergreen tree placed in a church. Like the Advent wreath, the Chrismon tree offers an opportunity to focus on all that Christ has done for us. The idea of the Chrismon tree began in the late 1950s and spread to other denominations, all as part of the “hanging of the greens” to decorate for the Christmas season.

The Chrismon symbols tell snippets of events of Christ. Our symbol for today, the first day, is the Bible, which is the source of those events, the voice of God to us, our guidebook for the revelation of Christ and our connection to him.

More :: Advent ~ 1st Sunday

public domain image

There. Do you see it? The little cross hiding among the boughs of the Christmas tree. Without sparkling glitter. Barely visible with all the abundance of other Christmas gaiety.

In the crowded holidays, dashing between Thanksgiving and Christmas parties, does the real Christmas hide among the sparkling glittery abundance? Do we forget the great festival of the season is not giving gifts but receiving the greatest gift to us all?

What is Advent?

Advent, which means “coming” in Latin, is the four celebratory Sundays that precede Christmas Day. On these Sundays and all the days before Christmas, we anticipate the coming of the Christ child, the harbinger of salvation for all. This season is the beginning of the church year.

In all of the worldwide churches that observe Advent, the first candle of the wreath was lit, the candle representing hope. As we anticipate the birth, we prepare our minds and hearts for the great feast of Christmas. This first candle, like the second and fourth, is purple, the color that represents Christ’s heavenly blue connection blended with the red of his earthly sacrifice. Blue candles may replace the purple ones, for blue symbolizes hope, the theme of today.

Whether we light the first candle in our Advent wreath or open 25 little doors in an Advent calendar, this first Sunday looks with hope to the birth of Christ, as this 12th century song of first Advent tells us:

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, / And ransom captive Israel / That mourns in lonely exile here / Until the son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel / Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Reading for the First Sunday of Advent ~ Isaiah 9:2 and 6-7 (Amplified)

2 The people who walked in the darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of intense darkness and the shadow of death, upon them has the light shined.

6 For to us a Child is born, a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulders, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

7 Of the increase of His government and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David and over his kingdom, to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from the latter time forth, even forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform this.