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This program is easy to adapt for any size congregation. Assign groups of people of all ages to place decorations on the tree as various persons read what the symbol means. The pastor can conclude the program with a message or devotion on Christmas.
HANGING OF THE GREEN
Compiled by Ann Pounds
The Meaning of the Service
Tonight our church joins in a special service called the “Hanging of the Green.” The custom of decorating churches and homes with evergreen at Christmas time began in ancient times. From legends and stories throughout the ages, firs and pines have come to be known as trees of life that represent Christ.
Let us enjoy the beautiful music of Christmas and the timeless message of Jesus’ birth as we decorate our church with traditional decorations.
Of all the Christmas symbols, none is more familiar than the evergreen. Its use during the season is common throughout the world.
Long before the birth of Christ, evergreens were used as an emblem of eternal life. Now as a Christian symbol, the evergreen represents Jesus Christ who is our eternal life.
In John 5:11-12 the Bible says, “And this is the record, that God hath given us eternal life and this life is His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son hath not life.”
The wreath being round represents eternal life because there is no end to the circle and no beginning. It shows that God was and always is.
The Chrismon Tree
The Chrismon tree becomes a symbol of our Lord inside our church sanctuary. The word Chrismon is a combination of the words Christ and monogram. Therefore it is a monogram of Christ.
Designs for the tree are centuries old, often as old as the Bible itself. They represent, in symbolic form, the heritage of all Christians. Each are made with three symbolic colors: white, showing Jesus’ purity. Red represents the blood that Jesus shed for you and me, and Gold symbolizes His royal majesty.
These symbolic Chrismons were used by early Christians to identify themselves and to designate hidden meeting places and sometimes to show unbelievers the foundations of their Christianity. The symbols of the early church serve now and then to transmit faith and belief. Thus, we have the Christmas Tree. The lights on the tree represent each person who is in the body of Christ here in our church and around the world.
O Christmas Tree
There is a hymn called O Christmas Tree. I will read the following verses:
In Matthew 13 Jesus says God is like the merchant’s pearl. It cost everything to know Him. But He is worth more than anything in the world. The Pearl of Great Price is our Lord Jesus Christ: perfect, pure, and white.
Angels are God’s created messengers or ambassadors. They belong to His heavenly court and service. They devote themselves to do His bidding. Their primary purpose is to praise and glorify Him as they behold His face.
They were present at the nativity and the resurrection. And we know that they rejoice when a sinner comes to repentance.
The crown is a headdress worn to symbolize honor, joy, victory or royalty. The Christian is urged to train as an athlete to gain his crown, and God will reward him in the last day. As a victor’s wreath, a crown is the glory of Christ, the eternal life won by Christians who persevere.
The New Testament Writers understood that He, “who was in the form of God, did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped at,” was willing to “humble himself,” take “on the form of a servant,” and endure “even the death on the cross.” This demonstrates the ultimate of humiliation and degradation. Yet, the crucifixion of Jesus the Messiah was the will and act of God with eternal and cosmic significance. At the simplest level, the crucifixion of Jesus was the means by which God provided salvation, the forgiveness of sins. The cross of Jesus is the symbol of the supreme demonstration of the love of God for sinful man.
The cross is also the symbol of discipleship. Jesus insists that the humiliation and suffering that culminated in his crucifixion were to characterize the experience of His followers. It too represents the new life in Christ that consists in having crucified sinful natures and desires.
And the four points of the cross reminds us to take the message of His love to all four corners of the world.
In the ancient world the color of purple was a mark of high rank and nobility. This was occasioned by the very high cost of the purple dye used for the clothing of nobles and royalty. A special purple dye was extracted from the murex shellfish found in the eastern Mediterranean.
In the Old Testament and New Testament times the purple dye was in great demand by the wealthy classes. Purple clothing with fine linen was a status symbol, and purple was considered a valuable possession as shown by its occurrences in the Bible. Purple was included in the precious things offered by the people for the Tabernacle and the priestly robes. The colors in the veil of the temple were blue, purple, and crimson. When the soldiers mocked Jesus during His trial, they clothed Him in purple and put a crown of thorns on His head. The round, wine colored ornaments also symbolizes the world and the blood that Christ shed for all lost sinners.
Jesus, born of royalty from the line of Judah, is our Kind of King and Lord of Lords.
The dove and young pigeons are used interchangeably in the Old Testament. They were used for sacrifices. In Luke 2:24 a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons were brought by Mary and Joseph to obey the law concerning the birth of a first-born male. At the baptism of Jesus the Holy Spirit appeared as a dove.
In Matthew chapter 2 we read, “Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the East came from Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.
The star is one of the great symbols of Christmas because it was a star that heralded the birth of Christ. It reminds us of that first Christmas when the star appeared in the sky and led the Wise Men to find the baby born to be the King of the Jews. The star led them to worship the King. It reminds us to do the same.
The use of large church bells ringing out on a Sunday morning remind the faithful to come and join in worshipping the Newborn King. Bells announce Christ’s coming to earth as the Savior of the world.
Listen to the words of the hymn “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”
I heard the bells on Christmas day, Their old familiar carols play
And wild and sweet the words repeat Of peace on earth, good-will to men.
And in despair I bowed my head; There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song Of peace on earth good-will to men.
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: God is not dead, not doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men.
The round balls represent the earth that our Lord Jesus, the second person of the Godhead, created. The blue ones represent heaven, and the white and gold ones represent purity and deity.
When the drum sounds, people are always roused up and swept along by the beat. The drum has become the percussion instrument par excellence, determining the essential rhythm of a song. When the soldiers march, they all must keep in step with the cadence.
Can’t you hear the beat of the old melody of “Onward Christian Soldiers?”
Like a mighty army Moves the church of God;
Brothers we are treading where the saints of trod;
We are nod divided; all one body we,
One in hope and doctrine, One in charity.
Onward Christian soldiers, Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus Going on before!
And then of course the famous Christmas carol, “The Little Drummer Boy.” As he beats his drum he sings: “ I am a poor boy too- I have no gift to bring That’s fit to give our King - Shall I play for you Pa rum pum pum pum On my drum.
The poinsettia, a winter flowering plant, symbolizes eternal life and the birth of Christ. The star-shaped formation of red leaves call to mind the star, which was shone at that first Christmas. In a less joyous sense, the color of the flower is blood red. This reminds us of the male infants killed by Roman soldiers as King Herod sought to eliminate any threat to the throne. We sometimes forget this part of the story, for it was this part that made the trip for Mary, Joseph, and the Christ Child to Egypt a necessity. The color of the flower also symbolizes the fact that the Babe of Bethlehem’s manger became the Savior of the world as Christ shed His blood upon the cross of Calvary.
The white poinsettias remind us of the purity of Jesus.
“And God said let there be light, and there was light. And God saw the light that it was good. And God divided the light from the darkness.
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He that follows me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the Light of life.
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light. “For unto us a child is born; unto us a son is given; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
Many of the great doctrines of Christianity are referred to in this simple presentation of the Christmas Tree. Perhaps this is why there is such an opposition by the secular humanistic religion to calling it the Christmas Tree. Somehow, "Holliday Tree," "Winter Tree" just doesn't communicate what Christmas is all about.
Christmas is about Christ. It is about God incarnate. "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us." It is about the glory of God. I hope that the next time you decorate your Christmas Tree you will pause and reflect on the meaning of Christmas.
God's Christmas Tree was the Cross of Jesus. And underneath that Tree there are gifts of cleansing from all sin, justification, forgiveness, peace with God, reconciliation, eternal life.
Congregation – Oh Come All Ye Faithful
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Index to this Series on Christmas
Title: The Hanging of the Green
Ann Pounds (c) 2005. Anyone is free to use this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the author's written consent. Scripture quotations from the New American Standard Bible (c) 1973, 1995 Update, The Lockman Foundation.
Ann is a graduate of William Carey University, B. A. and Azusa Pacific University, M. A. She is a professional educator who has lived and worked in Panama, Ecuador, Honduras and the U. S. Ann and her husband have three grown daughters.
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