Visitors to St Andrew’s this Advent may have noticed something odd about our Christmas tree this year. That’s because this isn’t just a Christmas Tree (no, it’s not an M&S tree either), it’s a tree with a difference – a Chrismon Tree. All its decorations tell something of the life and nature of Jesus – a reminder that it is his birth we celebrate and his life example we try to follow.
The word ‘Chrismon’ comes from a shortened version of ‘monograms-of-Christ’, or, put simply, pictures of Jesus. Our Chrismon Tree will speak the message of those who made it. It is a way of stating what we believe. It shows that we understand the message of Christ, especially in a season where other messages can dominate.
The idea for totally decorating the traditional Christmas tree in Christian symbols comes from the Lutheran Church in Virginia, USA in the 1950’s. One member, who was an artist, thought their ordinary Christmas tree in church seemed so meaningless, so came up with something different which talks of our faith and new symbols are added to the tree as a sign of our growing faith.
Each Sunday of Advent we make and add a different symbol to the tree:
- The star guides the magi and is a reminder that our faith is a journey. The star is a symbol for Christ, the light of the world and is a reminder that we are called to be like lights for the world.
- The angel plays the part of the messenger. They brought good news and this is the challenge to us, to bring good news to our communities today.
- The crown is a symbol of Christ as king – the God who comes for all the world, whose kingdom is to replace this world’s unjust and warring kingdoms.
- The crib scene takes us to the heart of the Christmas story and asks us a question: Are we ready to welcome Jesus?
With the exception of the first week, our congregation are asked to make these symbols at home (not buy!) in any way they like, to hang on our tree. No two Chrismon trees will ever be the same! The purpose of making of the Chrismons is to encourage each of us to find our own way to creatively express our faith and to share it during the season of Advent.
Rev Tim Lowe, St Andrew’s URC, Roundhay