The Long Night And Meaning Of The Lights On The Tree

Recently I made the comment that I was more excited about the 21st of December than I was for the 24th or 25th. The 21st of December is the longest night of year. And, when the dawn breaks on the 22nd the light returns to planet Earth. Most people are aware of the winter solstice and how the early church decided that it was just perfect for celebrating Jesus’s birthday.

Saint John 1:4-5

4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

Simply put, the lights on a Christmas tree represent Jesus Christ as the light of the world.

The Appalachian Winter is one where we can have snow or rain or both for Christmas but the darkness of December is a constant. The steep incline of our hills and low angle of the sun makes the normally long night even longer. The darkness like sin seems to suffocate you. It brings a coldness that seeps into very core of your being. But just when you think it’s going to be dark forever the light breaks over a distant ridge and the cold night begins to retreat. The light returns and with it comes new life.

As I’ve studied the deeper meanings behind our Christmas decorations I’ve come to understand that the Christmas Tree itself is a microcosm of the Jesus experience. We can decorate the tree with all kinds of trinkets and bobbles and assign different meanings to them and make it a beautiful and artistic expression of our Christian faith but it’s when the lights are turned on that it comes to life and brings us joy.

So, that’s the meaning behind the Christmas lights. It’s the expression of new life coming into world and the exit of the long dark night.

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All About The Christmas Holly

Well by gosh by golly, tonight’s post is all about holly!

One of the more familiar icons of the Christmas season in North America holly is a direct analogy to Jesus Christ.

Obviously the red berries are said to represent the blood that was shed for the remittance of sin. Only innocent blood could break the curse of Adam.

The prickles on the leaves are in relationship to the crown of thorns. In Roman Times the highest honor a leader could receive was a crown made from the grass of the battlefield where he had just gained victory. Because the thorn is a symbol for the curse of Adam a crown of thorns could be seen as a symbol for Christ’s victory, awarded to him by the sinners who He was born to save.

Holly is evergreen representing eternal life bestowed upon us by Jesus.

The wood produced by holly is white and symbolizes purity.

On a side note, if you want to have pretty red berries on your holly tree you need two trees. Holly comes in male and female trees. Holly grows wild in my area and before I understood why I would be disappointed to see one without berries.

In addition to that, one of my Forestry instructors would tell us that “holy wood will guide you right”. The wood is very fine grained and somewhat oily. Because of this it was once used to make guide pins for saw mills.

Even though Christmas holly is evergreen there is a type of holly tree that is deciduous. It has bright red berries like it’s festive Christmas cousin but the leaves turn bright yellow in the fall and drop in winter.

The berries of all hollies are poison but beautiful to look at making them great landscaping for the drab backdrop of winter.

That’s pretty much it for holly as it relates to the Christmas season. I hope that you have enjoyed this post.

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The second picture is titled “Deciduous Holly 2018” and is also available for purchase by using the Contact Form on my website.

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About That Ivy On Your Antique Decorations

You really couldn’t find a better symbol of resilience than English Ivy. Not only is it evergreen it seems to thrive wherever it puts down roots. I had always noticed that in some older Christmas decorations that English Ivy seemed to be present but I really didn’t know why. Here in the Southern United States holly and Mistletoe are staples of Christmas decor. So much so that unless you are an active observer you might mistake the Ivy for stylized holly. But it’s not. As I started to dig a little deeper into Ivy as a Christmas symbol I learned that it’s use peaked somewhere around the year 1200 Anno Domini. Like all Christmas symbols it has roots in paganism but then if people can be converted then why not symbolism? But I digress. The Christian symbolism of Ivy at Christmas is that of the believer. Like the Ivy the believer thrives wherever he/she is planted. Like the Ivy the believer is evergreen in having eternal life. And like the Ivy the believer must have support. English Ivy must have a wall or something to hold it up in order to reach the heavens. And the believer must lean on Christ throughout his/her life.

The next time you are pulling out those antique Christmas decorations look closely at the filigree. For years what I thought was holly turned out to be English Ivy.

Hello Friends and thank you for your support of my page. If you have enjoyed the photos or the writings please let me know by commenting and sharing my work on your social media. I also want to invite you to Follow Lloyds Lens Photography on Facebook

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The Angel Story

Luke 2:10

 

“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” 
King James Version (KJV)  

By this time tomorrow most of the United States will be covered by a blanket of wrapping paper.   I can picture in my mind that the responsible member of house is standing by with a snow shovel ready to plow through a brightly colored avalanch of Christmas joy. Great care must be taken during this task lest small chilchildren be lost within an embankment paper and empty boxes.  It’s easy to be swept up in the trappings of the celebration when you are only two feet tall.  As an adult,  it’s easy to to get lost in the excitement and preperation of the season. We have a tendency to focus on the doings  and overlook the beings.  I imagine that when the angel visited the shepherds that they may not have noticed at first.  Tending livestock requires multitasking.  Hedges must be maintained, animals are constantly wandering off, adequate food and water needs to be available and sibling rivalry has to quelled. Its very much like managing a family gathering. The Herald Angel would have needed to use that trumpet to get everyone’s attention.  “HEY, OVER HERE! EVERYONE FOLLOW ME! WE’RE HEADING INTO TOWN TO SEE THE BABY JESUS!” 

When they arrive there is more chaos.  The sheep are still wondering off, the wisemen’s camel train has taken over the parking  and now the cattle are lowing. Mary would have been a nervous wreck without the grace of God.  Everybody is there to see the precious gift laying in a manger.   The noise and clamor of the inn fade away into the night as the baby opens his eyes and the true gift is realized.  

It’s easy to get lost in the excitement.  There are plenty of distractions. Everything from twenty-four hour T.V. specials to making dinner and enjoying the surprises under the tree. Take a little time to stop and let all these things fade into the background and appreciate the true gift of Christ.  

Christmas is forever 

Everyone is a child at Christmas.  Every year we all revert back to the days of excitement and wonder. Our journey in childhood is aided by colors and lights and smells of the Christmas season.  I remember when one of the special parts of Christmas was the yearly tradition of handmade decorations.  The process of transformation from everyday home into a winner wonderland had a personal touch.  The tree topper was made from a recycled cereal box that was either painted or simply covered with tinfoil (and later aluminum foil). The ornaments on the tree was sometimes hand carved from thin scraps of wood. Construction paper chains served as garland. One of my childhood friends would go out in the woods and collect acorns in the Fall and paint them for use as ornaments. Whatever the process and materials used it was the bonding of friends and family that made the memory.  Today we have projectors and lasers and inflatable Santas that are produced on an assembly line (probably by robots soon) and then sold in the stores.  Our modern plug and play Christmas provides us with a great deal of splendor but how much spirit?  Time is of great value in our busy lives.  The “Christmas Rush” is on and in a lot of lives the pressures of earning a living shows no mercy.  Time is the most valuable resource we have.  It’s a resource that we can possess but not own.  However,  I have learned that it is in fact entirely possible to freeze time.  Not through some contrivance of technology or secret of the ancient Magi but through the simple act of bonding with friends and family.  This year I encourage you to incorporate some homemade Christmas in with the technological splendor.  The time you spend with your loved ones is the greatest gift you can give.