Taking the secular to celebrate the Holy
I know the things we see at Christmas originated from other cultures and beliefs. Today we are going to see what they mean today for believers as we celebrate Christmas. The first item is the ever present Christmas tree taking center place in living rooms. Pagans used the fir trees centuries ago, but around the 1500’s Europeans started decorating trees with paper, cookies, and sweets. As the tradition started the top was adorned with Baby Jesus but changed to an angel who told the shepherds and finally the star which led the wise men.
During the Victorian era, candles were used representing stars. With the risk of fire Christmas tree lights were invented by Ralph Morris in 1895. After a hospital burned down because of candles and with pressure from insurance companies, people started using electrical sets of lights for the tree. (whychristmas.com)
Singing from the secular to the sacred
Again, the earliest carols were taken from the pagans who sang for the Winter Solstice. They sang and danced around stone structures and the word carol refers to dancing. The early Christian carols were written in Latin so the common person did not understand and by the 1200’s most people stopped celebrating Christmas. Centuries later carols and public singing became popular during the Victorian era and so many of today’s carols were written during this period.
One such song, Silent Night, was written by Father Joseph Mohr in 1816 and the music added two years later by Franz Gruber. It was sung by the two on Christmas eve 1818 at midnight mass. (whychristmas.com) Over the years carols spread across Europe. During World War I, carols led to a temporary truce among the death and destruction of the war. It is attested by two soldiers, Pvt. Albert Moren of the Second Queens Regiment and Graham Williams of the Fifth London Rifle Brigade.
“First the Germans would sing one of their carols and then we would sing one of ours, until when we started up ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’ the Germans immediately joined in singing the same hymn to the Latin words Adeste Fideles. And I thought, well, this is really a most extraordinary thing – two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war.” (time.com Christmas Truce 1914)
O Holy Night…
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:8-14 NIV (Biblegateway.com)
Never believe the most simple and common things cannot be used by God to point to his Son–even us.