Thursday, December 20, 2012

A look at some Christmas traditions

A Devotional by Margot Ciocco

Psalm 63:1-5

O God, you are my God, I seek you,
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands and call on your name.

I am reading a book called Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas by Ace Collins.
In our Cinnamon Bear story they have made it to the land of ice and snow to find a guy named Nikki Froodle who takes them to meet Santa Clause.  So it seemed fitting to talk about the origins of some of the Christmas traditions that are part of how we now celebrate Christmas. Heres your link to today's episode of the Cinnamon Bear

Did you know that the church frowned on the use of carols and for the longest time. It is not until 129 AD that a song called Angels Hymn wA sung as part of a Christmas service.  A year later the church allowed the use of Gloria in Excelsis Deo. Which means Glory to God in the Highest in Latin, in case you ever wondered.

The singing of Carols started in 1223 when Francis of Assisi put a nativity scene outside of his church and taught children songs in there own language to sing about the birth of Jesus. I guess his displays and songs became more elaborate each year. The idea became popular and made its way all over Europe. So the pat on the back for giving us carols to sing in our services goes to Francis of Assisi.

Painting by Margot Cioccio
So now before you get all religious about how secular or pagan Christmas has become consider this quote by Ace Collins. "Only in relatively recent times, the past two hundred years has Christmas even been celebrated by most Christians. Up until the 1800's, the day recognized as Christ's birthday was largely a pagan celebration. Those who bemoan the lack of religious zeal in modern Christmases would have been appalled at the way people in early America celebrated the day. For a majority of people who embraced Christmas throughout history, Christ wasn't a part of the day at all. In most of the world, especially in England and America, Christmas was not a time of worship, prayer and reflection; rather it was a day set aside to sing bawdy songs, drink rum and riot in the streets. " I guess you might want to think twice about wishing people you know an old fashioned Christmas.

I think about the campaign to keep Christ in Christmas and the idea that the early church did not really even mark it as anything but an ordinary day. I have to think about how cool it is that for generations now people have found ways to tell the story of Christ during this season using candy canes and holly leaves to teach un believing people about the Jesus story.
There are many legends surrounding holly as a decoration and it goes way back before the birth of Christ. "Today, Christians consider holly symbolic of Jesus Christ in two ways. The red berries represent the blood that Jesus shed on the cross on the day he was crucified. Legend states that holly berries were originally white, but that the blood Christ shed for the sins of humankind stained the berries forever red. A holly's pointed leaves symbolize the crown of thorns placed on Jesus' head before he died on the cross."~ according to Why do we decorate with holly at Christmas? by Sam Abramson. Heres a little more from the same article. "Holly is known as christdorn in German, meaning "Christ thorn." Both of these symbols are meant to serve as a reminder to Christians of Jesus' suffering, but they aren't the only stories tying holly to Jesus. One claims that the cross on which Jesus was crucified was constructed of holly."

Well to keep this shorter I will have to save other symbols for other days.

Prayer: I pray that the Lord will help you to enjoy this season and to see many ways to share his story with the people that you love and the people that you meet. I pray that you would remember that you are His ambassador and that your life would show forth his love and grace in this season.

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