Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Symbols of Christmas

Since we are going to be hanging the mini story books from our advent on the tree, I decided to have my first devotional all about the symbolic meaning of the Christmas tree and our decorations on it.

Song: "Joy to the World" (Hymns 201)

Pictures: Resurrection, Atonement, 


Every autumn, what happens to the trees outside? (The leaves change colors, then die and fall off.) But there is one kind of tree that keeps it's needles all year... the evergreen tree. 

Look at our tree. What shape is it? (Square? Circle? Triangle?). And where does the top point? (Up to heaven.) This reminds us of the person we celebrate each December: Jesus Christ. 
What color is the tree? (Green.) The fact that this tree stays green, seeming to live forever, reminds us that Jesus also lives forever because he was resurrected. That's why green is a Christmas color. (Show a picture of Jesus Christ resurrected). 

But it gets deeper. 

This "undying" tree reminds us of another tree spoken of in the scriptures (The tree of life) and luckily we have more than just a verse in the bible (Genesis 2:9) to give us insight. Nephi shares his vision of the tree of life and Elder Bednar (at our Stake Conference in 2010) said it was one of the crowning episodes in the Book of Mormon. We first read about the vision in 1 Nephi 8:10, about a "tree whose fruit was desirable to make one happy." Later, we learn that the tree symbolically represents Jesus Christ, and that the fruit brought forth by the tree represents His atonement. (1 Nephi 11:7).

What is another color of Christmas? (red). (Show a picture of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane). What is Jesus doing in this picture? Read D&C 19:16-19 (or Luke 22:42-44). What color is blood? (red). When we see red, like the red ornaments on the tree, we can remember Christ's love for us. He loved us so much that He died for us. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). 

(Let the kids add the red ornaments to the mini tree)

We learn a different perspective from Alma. He compares the word of God to a seed, and tells us if we plant that seed in our hearts (not casting it out by our unbelief) and let that faith grow by nurturing it then it will grow up to become a tree (Alma 32: 28-36). If we nourish the tree.. it will bring forth fruit - symbolic of the blessings of the atonement (41), and it will become a grown tree, "springing up in you." (Alma 33: 23). 

Now this is my favorite part. Elder Bednar rephrased this scripture, and since we know from Nephi that the tree represents Jesus Christ... "Is that tree planted in you?" or "Have ye received His image in your countenance?" "Do you act like Jesus?"

One of the most exciting signs of Christ's birth was a new star in the heavens. 

Most of us hear or tell the familiar story of the wise men that followed the new star in the east to find the Christ Child at Christmastime. But there was another story, happening on another continent at that time. (Act out the story with your family as you tell it. Throw paper balls at Samuel? Nerf arrows?)

Around 6 years before the birth of Christ, Samuel the prophet was preaching to the Nephite people, "...and this shall be unto you for a sign; for ye shall know of the rising of the sun and also of its setting; therefore they shall know of a surety that there shall be two days and a night; nevertheless the night shall not be darkened; and it shall be the night before he is born. And behold, there shall a new star arise, such an one as ye never have beheld; and this also shall be a sign unto you" (Helaman 14:2-5). You are 4 years old - try to imagine you heard that prophecy. Would you believe him?

("Samuel the Lamanite on the Wall" by Arnold Friberg)

Those who didn't believe Samuel threw stones and shot arrows at him as he stood on the wall, but they could not hit him because the Lord was protecting him. Some of the people believed him, but most did not. They tried to capture him, but he jumped down from the wall and was never heard from again. Samuel bore a strong testimony of Jesus Christ even though many people were trying to hurt him.

Five years passed, and the wicked Nephites said that the time for Jesus' birth had already passed.

Read 1 Nephi 1:6-8: "And they began to rejoice over their brethren, saying: Behold the time is past, and the words of Samuel are not fulfilled; therefore, your joy and your faith concerning this thing hath been vain. And it came to pass that they did make a great uproar throughout the land; and the people who believed began to be very sorrowful, lest by any means those things which had been spoken might not come to pass. But behold, they did watch steadfastly for that day and that night and that day which should be as one day as if there were no night, that they might know that their faith had not been in vain."

Then the wicked people did a really terrible thing. They set apart a day to kill all the people who believed Samuel if the sign didn't come. (3 Nephi 1:9) The righteous people were probably very scared. Try to imagine you are 9 or 10 years old - what would you do? Would you deny your testimony and go with the wicked? Or would you stand up for what you believed and possibly die? Then the day came for the believers to be tested. And that night the sign came. (3 Nephi 1:15). There was a day, and a night, and a day with no darkness - letting everyone know that Jesus Christ was born.

(Painting by Damir Krivenko)

Then about 34 years later (imagine you are about 44 years old), another sign happened in the land. When Jesus died, there was a night, and a day, and a night with no light. (Turn off all the lights in the house. I had my hubby read the words of Jesus Christ to the kids in the dark). The Nephites were probably very scared, but at the end of the darkness, Jesus appeared to them and said, "Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world. And behold, I am the light and the life of the world..." (3 Nephi 11:10-11). The very first thing he says is "I am the Light" - the light that saved your life when you were 10. Everyone fell to the earth.

(Turn all the lights back on.) Christ is the light. The light (or star) in the sky testified that he came into the world, and the light went away for three days when he died. When we see lights on our tree, or Christmas lights on houses and buildings, we are reminded of Jesus Christ, too!

Candy Canes/Shepherds:

Jesus Christ has many names. Read John 10:2-5, 11. What is Christ's name in this scripture? (The Good Shepherd). What is the job of a shepherd? The sheep need someone to protect them and care for them. Jesus is our shepherd, and we are like the sheep.

("The Good Shepherd" by Simon Dewey)

The candy canes are shaped like a shepherd's staff and they are symbol that Christ is the Good Shepherd. What colors are the candy canes? (red and white) We already know that red represents the atonement. White represents purity. Jesus never sinned, so He was perfect. Because he was perfect, he was the only person who qualified to pay the price for each of us.

(Let the kids hang the candy canes on the tree).

What can we learn?
When we see the Christmas colors of green, red, and white, or when we see other symbols of Christmas, such as evergreen trees, lights or candy canes, we can remember that all of them represent Jesus Christ and the blessings that come from following him. We can be His sheep and follow Him. We can allow Him to change our hearts, and we can utilize the atonement in our lives. We can truly feel the magic of the Christmas season when we see the true meaning of all the symbols that surround us. 

For a list of the rest of my Christmas Devotionals, see this post

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