Telling the Whole Story

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Greetings, fellow disciples of Jesus,
I read recently, “Christ is not a part of the Christmas story. Christmas is a part of the Christ story.” In a season where we focus so intently—and rightly so—on Jesus’ pre-natal life, birth and infancy, we can forget that there is a whole lot going on in this story. This miracle baby grew to be a man, as babies are wont to do. That man’s life—His interactions with the poor and downtrodden, His proclamation of the nearness of the reign of God, and especially His death and resurrection from the dead—is why we celebrate His birth.

That greater Story gets lost sometimes in our celebrations of this season. The presents, the decorations, the feasts can distract us from the main event—the point of it all. We need corrective reminders that will point us to the fullness of what is happening here.

Thankfully, in 1957 The Lutheran Church of the Ascension in Danville, Virginia developed a way of telling the whole story of Christ in the midst of the Christmas season: Chrismons. These are white and gold ornaments for a Christmas tree which, by their symbolism, point to Christ and His work.

Not too long after Chrismons were developed in Virginia, St. John’s, Stony Ridge adopted the practice of making and displaying Chrismons for our congregation. A team of members here crafted these symbols—some ornate, some simple—to tell the whole story of Christ. For over fifty years, they have reminded the worshippers at St. John’s that there is more to the story of Christ than Christmas.

Here are just a few of the dozens of Chrismons that adorn our tree in St. John’s sanctuary:

The hand is configured in a sign of blessing, a symbol of God the Father, who created all things.

Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises to His people. For instance, Jesus said, “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15). In referencing this event from Israel’s past (Numbers 21:4-9), Jesus also points to His own death by which we are saved, healed.

The symbol of the open book with the letters VDMA (Latin abbreviation for Verbum Dei Maet in Aeternum: “The Word of the Lord Endures Forever”) points to Christ Jesus, the Word made flesh. The seven-pointed star symbolizes the Holy Spirit who inspired the authors of the Holy Scriptures–both Old and New Testaments.

The cross with the crown of thorns reminds us that the babe in the manger is the King of the Jews, and that His crucifixion will serve as His coronation. The crown is a symbol of our Lord Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

The butterfly which emerges from the chrysalis is a symbol of our Lord’s resurrection from the dead. It is placed over a cross, by which our Lord died for our sins. The circle, which is endless, symbolizes eternal life which is ours now in Christ.

The fiery chariot of Elijah (see 2 Kings 2:11) is a symbol of our Lord’s ascension. Jesus–God made flesh–ascended bodily into heaven, and so will all who are in Him!

The chalice and host represent the Lord’s Supper, at which our crucified, risen, and ascended Lord Jesus is present with us, forgiving our sins.

Do you have a favorite symbol of Christ or His Church? Did you or someone you know have a hand in making these beautiful Chrismons for St. John’s?
Trying to tell the whole story,
Pastor Mike

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