Wednesday, October 18, 2017

What are Chrismons?

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Chrismons
An Advent Meditation
On Christian Symbols

 

Dedicated in celebration of
Eleanor Phillips - for her inspiring
artistic gifts that she willingly
shares with the congregation of
the London First United Methodist Church

 

Introduction

 

Chrismons are usually handmade Christmas tree ornaments with various symbols of Christianity. The name “Chrismons” comes from a combination of CHRIST and MONOGRAM  and many of the Chrismons you will see in this meditation are composed of various combinations of letters of the name of Christ or titles for Jesus. Throughout the ages, symbols have served as visual representations of spiritual truths, and they also provide a means of teaching the great doctrines and events of the Bible.

Chrismons are a recent innovative way to use these ancient symbols at Christmas. They originated from a Mrs. Frances Spencer, who began creating them in the late 1940s when she was asked to create ornaments for her church’s Christmas tree. Rather than making the typical secular styles of ornaments, she decided to use the traditional symbols of Christianity in the main liturgical colors of Christmas, white and gold. The practice of using Chrismons has spread and is becoming an increasingly popular way for churches and families to retain a sense of the sacred during Christmas.

Take time to read and learn, and to meditate on these symbols during the Advent and Christmas seasons.


Dove With Olive Branch

In Genesis 8:11, the scriptures record: “And the dove came in to Him (Noah) in the evening, and lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf…….so Noah knew that the waters were abated from the earth”.

Since that time, the dove with her olive branch has symbolized peace, safety, and God’s desire for reconciliation with all people.

During this holy season let us pray for God’s divine guidance as we strive for peace for all people. 


The Anchor

A symbol of hope, the anchor is one of the most ancient of all Christian symbols, and is based upon Paul’s words in Hebrews 6:19 – “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast.”

It is one of the oldest inscriptions to be found in the catacombs, dating back to the second century. During time of persecution, the anchor also took on the shape of a cross to those who knew its hidden meaning.

Let us constantly look to our heavenly Father for the hope of our salvation and trust in his steadfast love; for he is our anchor in all of life’s journeys.


The Butterfly

The butterfly has long been a symbol of life after death. The remarkable transformation that takes place during the metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly beautifully illustrates the promise found in

I Corinthians 15:52- “The dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”

The butterfly reminds us of Christ’s resurrection and the hope of eternal life.

Meditate on the amazing transformation that Christ has made and continues to make in your life and give thanks.


The Ship

Deep within the ancient catacombs are to be found drawings of a ship riding through troubled waters, the cross emblazoned on its sail. As a symbol of the church, the ship reminded early Christians that in spite of persecution from without and heresy within, the  church of Christ and those faithful to her would safely reach their heavenly home.

Think back and remember the importance of the church in your life. How has it nurtured and guided you? Give thanks and rejoice for all that Christ’s church means to you.


The Triquetra

By the time of the Middle Ages, the three interwoven arcs of the Triquetra had come to serve as a beautiful symbol of the Trinity…….the Father, Son, and Holy  Spirit. Identical in shape, the three arcs represent the equality of the Trinity. The continuous form of this symbol also shows the unity and eternal nature of the Divine God-Head.

“Holy, Holy Holy! Lord God Almighty! Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee, Holy, Holy, Holy! Merciful and mighty God in three persons, blessed Trinity.”

Celebrate the mystery of the eternal Trinity this holy season and worship the Unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.


IOTA  ETA  SIGMA

These three Greek characters are the first letters in the name “Jesus” [IHSOUO].

The ETA is the same as our letter “H”)

In ancient times, this became a widely recognized monogram of the Christ. Although many traditions have arisen, giving various other meanings to these three letters, most Church historians hold to this original and most simple of explanations.

Meditate on the name and power of Jesus’ name by exercising this breath prayer…..

(breathe in) “Lord Jesus Christ,”
(breathe out) “have mercy on me.”

Take 5 minutes out of your busy day to pray this prayer.


ALPHA and OMEGA

As the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, the Alpha and Omega represent the One in whom creation began and by whom it will one day end. Its usage as an early Christian symbol is based upon Revelation 1:8-

“I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.”

Begin your time of meditation by thanking the God of all time, and all things, for his creative powers and for all he created in you.


The Angel

The symbol of an angel blowing a trumpet is primarily used to represent the second coming of Christ….

“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God”. (I Thessalonians 4:16) It also signifies the announcement of the birth of Christ to the shepherds watching their flocks in the hills outside Bethlehem.

During the Advent and Christmas season, be mindful of how Christ comes into your life anew everyday through various people and events.


The Celtic Cross

This cross (also known as the Irish Cross) was used by the ancient Celtic Christians who lived in what is now the British Isles. It owes its unusual shape to the fact that such crosses were originally carved from a single piece of stone. Because of this, the circle served not only as an emblem of eternity, but also provided the support needed to keep the arms of the cross from breaking off.

In thinking and meditating on this symbol, in what ways does Jesus the Christ encircle you with his arms of love? How are you supported by knowing him as your Lord and Savior?


CHI  RHO

In the original Greek, the word, “Christ” was written

XRISTOS. The letters Chi (X) and RHO (R or P) were combined into one of the earliest known Christian symbols, being found inscribed on the walls of the Roman catacombs as early as the second century. In Hebrew, the word “Christ” is translated “Messiah”, which means, “the anointed one”.

There are many names or titles used to identify Jesus; Messiah is just one. What names do you find the most comforting and familiar? Look through the Bible and through a hymnal to identify the many names of Jesus. Meditate on his name that speaks to you the most.


The Cross

The cross is undoubtedly the most well known of all Christian symbols. As a result of Christ’s death upon a cross, this cruel instrument of execution has become, to the believer, a beautiful statement of faith and hope. Even as the Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 6:14-

“God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Because of Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection we, as believers, have eternal hope. Let us live out that hope each and everyday, always being mindful of the great price that was paid for our salvation.


The Crown

A crown has always been a visible symbol of a ruler’s power and authority. For Christians, the crown symbolizes the ultimate sovereignty and majesty due the Son of God. At his return, Jesus will be crowned with “many crowns” and will reign as

“King of Kings and Lord of Lord’s”.

(Revelation 19:12, 16)

The shepherds knew that the baby they visited in the manger was a child to be worshiped and later in the nativity story –the Magi understood it as well.

In our faith journey, we too, come to know Christ as

“King of Kings and Lord of Lords” of our lives. Let us come and adore him everyday.

Take time and listen to Handel’s “Messiah”-especially the “Hallelujah Chorus” and “For Unto Us. Listen to the words of adoration to our sovereign King.


Descending Dove

The use of a descending dove to represent the Holy Spirit is based upon the account of Jesus’ baptism found in Luke 3:22- “and the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in Thee I am well pleased.”

Legend has it that in the stable rafters a dove cooed the baby Jesus to sleep. That same symbol for peace came to also represent acknowledgement from God the Father, of who Jesus was and is.


The Fish

In its early years, Christianity was an illegal religion. Because of this, the Sign of the Fish became a universal symbol that secretly identified believers to one another. The Greek word for “fish” is IXOYS. These five letters were also the first letters (in Greek) of the words: JESUS CHRIST, GOD’S SON, SAVIOR. By drawing the Sign of the Fish, Christians revealed both their identity and the basis of their faith

As the season of Advent progresses think about how you live out your identity as a Christian.

In what ways, do you live out your faith everyday-so that our lives echo the song… “and they’ll know we are Christians by our love………”


The Harp

The harp was the favorite instrument of King David. In I Chronicles 13:8 it is recorded: “And David and all Israel played before God with all their might, and with singing, and with harps.”

Harps are also mentioned by John in his description of the music of heaven. (Revelation 5:8, 14:2, 15:2)

For Christians, the harp symbolizes all music which is sung or played to the glory of God.

It is said that- “….those who sing, pray twice….”

Look through the hymnal and find your favorite Advent hymn or Christmas carol and meditate on the words.  As the words drift through your mind and into your heart-pause on the phrase that speaks to you and let the message of this sacred season bless you.


IOTA  CHI

In the original Greek, “Jesus Christ” is written –

IHSOUS  XRISTOS.

From earliest times these two letters have been combined into a beautiful symbol of the Christian’s faith that Jesus is “the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the Living God.”

(Matthew 16:16)

In the hymn, “He Lives” the writer reminds us that we serve a “risen Savior” who is in the world in many real and meaningful ways. He says that he clearly sees the Savior in his merciful ways, and in words of encouragement, just to name a few. He finishes the chorus by writing, “He lives within my heart.”

Where are the places that you see, feel, or know that Jesus is the Son of the living God? Where do you experience a fully living faith?


The Keys

When Jesus said to Peter, “I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 16:19), he was referring to the Apostle’s privilege of opening the kingdom (Church) to both Jew and Gentile. The Jews received the Gospel when Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). The first Gentiles to accept Christ were those of the household of Cornelius (Acts 10) The keys therefore, symbolize that all people are welcome in Christ’s Church.

Often, we also talk about how we “give the keys to our heart” to someone. In the Christians experience- the keys to our hearts belong to Christ when we open our whole selves to his love and grace.

Meditate on the many ways in which His love and grace have been manifested in your life.


The Lamb

The symbolic “Lamb of God” is often known by its Latin name Agnes Dei. This use is based upon the statement of John the Baptist who said, upon seeing Jesus: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world.” (John 1:29)

The lamb, pure and fautless, was often used for sacrifice in the Old Testament, but only Jesus could be the truly “perfect sacrifice” for the sins of the world.

The word “Behold” means to look, to pay attention, to place a steady and intentional gaze upon the subject. John the Baptist wanted the people of that time and for us- to pay special intentional-attention to the One who would sacrifice everything for the love of us all.

Pray a prayer of thanksgiving to the “Lamb of God” for His complete and sacrificial love for us.


The Lamp

The Psalmist wrote, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

In ancient times, an oil lamp provided the most common illumination available to those who traveled after dark. Symbolically, the Bible provides all of us  with the only reliable source of true Spiritual light.

 

What is your favorite scripture? Go to it now and read it over slowly and intentionally. How does this Holy Scripture illumine your way in the Christian journey?

Praise God for His Holy Word.


The Star

This familiar symbol is best known at Christmas because of its appearance to the Wise Men at the birth of Christ. Matthew records: “And lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.”

(Matthew 2:9-10)

May the Star-Child of Bethlehem guide you through your Christian journey just like the star guided the Wise Men.


The Star and the Cross

The origin of the six-pointed Star of David is not clear, but it has been representative of the Jewish people for centuries. With the Cross of Christ at its center, the star symbolizes the statement of Jesus found in Revelation 22:16- “I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.”

The cross and the star help us to remember that Jesus was from heaven (true God/the star) and was human as well (true man/the cross). In the Advent hymn-

“Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” the writer says just that……..”true man yet very God, from sin and death now save us, and share our every load.”