My skin felt the cold tingle as gentle snowflakes of new white snow fell against my face, while others created a glistening collar on my shoulders. Escaping from the noisy pre-Christmas crowds and the visual barrage of tinsel in the shopping center, I breathed a sigh of relief as I finally reached my car.
A feeling of anger and frustration filled me most of the trip home. Why had this most beautiful of Christian seasons been so obscured by things completely unrelated to the birth of Christ our Lord? Christmas specials were to be seen everywhere, as were Santa Clauses, bells, lights, candy canes, and bright packages, but there was hardly any evidence of the Christ of Christmas.
Then, quietly and gently, the Holy Spirit made me aware of the words Joseph spoke to his brothers who had sold him as a slave into Egypt, "God turned into good what you meant for evil." (Gen.50:20 The Living Bible).As I thought about these words, I felt God was showing me that I should look deeper into the possibility of seeing Jesus in all those things that had upset me, yes, even those that have their origin in paganism.
Over the next few days, amid the aroma of Christmas cookies baking, I could hardly wait to find quiet moments alone with God and my Bible, so I could begin to uncover the revelation I was sure awaited me. Some Christmas symbols were much easier for me to unfold than others. Joy filled my heart and replaced the anger of previous days as the Holy Spirit helped me to see Christ where I had not been able to see Him before. Piece by piece the mystery unfolded before me.
The Christmas wreath, made of evergreens, should cause us to think of eternal life that is our sin Christ Jesus our Lord. From ancient times a wreath always symbolized a glorious victory. What could be a more glorious victory than Christ's defeat of Satan, sin and death? 1 Corinthians 15:45 states, "Death is swallowed up in victory."
Hearing Christmas bells, we can consider Psalm 100:1, "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands." There is little in Scripture about bells. One beautiful picture is given in Exodus 28:33-35 in the description of the elaborate pattern for the priest's robes which was to have many golden bells sewn around the hem so that the priest could be heard as he was ministering for the people in the Holy of Holies. Christmas bells could well serve to remind us of Christ, our High Priest. "He came as a High Priest...and once for all [entered] into that inner room, the Holy of Holies...and ...made sure of our eternal salvation" (Hebrews 9:11-12 The Living Bible).
When we see a candy cane we can think of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Let it's shape remind us of a shepherd's crook and the words of Jesus, "I am the Good Shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine" (John 10:14). As the white color of the body of the cane causes us to think of the purity of Jesus, let the red stripes help us remember the blood of His sacrifice,"...with His stripes we are healed (Isa.53:5). The fragrance of peppermint is symbolic of hyssop, a bushy herb used in purification rites. David asks God, "Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow" (Psalm 51:7). As we break and share a candy cane, recall His words, "This is my body, which is broken for you" (1 Cor. 11:24).
We should try not to let Christmas gifts obscure Jesus, the best of all gifts . "For God so loved the world, that He sent His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16). The gift giver: the Heavenly Father. The gift: His Son, Jesus, Saviour. The recipient: anyone who accepts in faith the promise of His love and obeys His voice. As we wrap each of our gifts we can spend that time in prayer for the one who will receive it, that he might be led to a deeper relationship with Jesus.
Christmas lights are perhaps the most plentiful of all symbols. When we see these, let us remember in our hearts the words of Jesus as recorded in John 8:12, "I am the Light of the world: he that followeth me shall have the light of life!" As we receive this illumination from Him, we are commissioned to share it with each other, for Matthew 5:14 records that, "Ye are the light of the world."
The Christmas star is perhaps the purest object in all our Christmas symbolism, coming very directly from the Christmas story. "Where is He that is born King of the Jews? We have seen His star in the East and are come to worship Him" (Matt, 2:2). Did you ever really notice that they didn't just come to visit, to see, but they came to worship? Let a star cause us to think beyond this star of Bethlehem to the words of Rev. 22:16, "I Jesus...am the root and offspring of David, and the Bright and Morning Star."
Holly, with it's prickly thorns and bright red berries can serve as a vivid reminder of the crown of thorns our Saviour wore, with drops of His red blood where the berries grow. From there we can focus our thoughts on one of the crowns. He has promised His followers: "And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away" (1 Pet.5:4).
God used these applied symbols to teach and heal me of my angry, negative feelings, and replace them with joy. I was filled with excitement as I began to make plans for our family Christmas celebration. We daily used one of these "new" thoughts in an after-dinner time of sharing with our family. Dark-haired thirteen-year-old Kimberly lit a candle as she read about Jesus, the light of the world. Quiet, sensitive seventeen-year-old Larry unwrapped a candy cane as he shared with the family its symbolism. Our active, athletic sixteen-year-old David rang a bell for sound effects as he read to us about Christ, our high priest.
God is so wonderful. What I felt was meant for evil, He has indeed "turned into good".