Around this time of year, we’re often encouraged to remember the true meaning of Christmas. As President Thomas S. Monson has taught, “we find real joy when we make the Savior the focus of the season.” Unfortunately, this can be easier said than done. Despite our best efforts, we may often become distracted by the many tasks and preparations that accompany this season.
So how can we maintain a focus on Christ even amidst the holiday hustle and bustle? One way my parents taught me in my youth is to recognize and reflect on the many symbols of Christmas that are so prevalent around this time of year. These symbols point to Christ and can help us center our thoughts and minds on Him.
STAR: the star of Bethlehem was the sign of God’ promise, made long ago, to send a Savior to deliver His faithful children (Helaman 14:3-5). The bright star pointed to the fulfillment of that promise—God’s only begotten Son had been born! The star also led the wise men to the place where the Christ child was (Matthew 2:9) and can remind us that “wise men” still seek Him.
HOLLY: the holly gives us the two primary colors of Christmas, red and green. The red holly berries represent the drops of Jesus’ blood as He atoned for our sins and the green of the leaves represents our hope in Christ, made possible by His atonement and resurrection. The thorny leaves also represent the crown of thorns with which our Savior was mockingly crowned “King of the Jews.”
CANDY CANES: the candy cane represents the shepherd’s staff and reminds us that Christ is “The Good Shepherd” (John 10:11). The crook on the staff rescues sheep that have strayed from the flock and symbolizes Christ’s desire to seek out and rescue those who wander from Him. The white represents the purity of the Savior. The thin red stripes represent his blood and the thick stripes represent the lashes that He endured from the soldiers prior to His crucifixion.
BELLS: bells provide another symbol of the “The Good Shepherd” (John 10:11). Shepherds use these bells to encourage lost sheep to return home. A shepherd’s sheep grow accustomed to the sound of the bell and use it to locate their pastureland. In like manner, Christmas bells represent the call of The Good Shepherd, signaling to us the way home to His presence.
FIR TREES: the stately fir tree remains green all year round. Like the green of the holly leaves, the evergreen symbolizes the everlasting hope of mankind. The needles also point heavenward, making it a symbol of our prayers that always reach God.
CANDLES: candles symbolize that Jesus, God’s Son, is the Light of the World (John 8:12). The light of the candle helps us remember Him who overcomes all darkness and offers the light of life.
WREATHS: the wreath reveals the endless nature of God’s love. Real love never ceases and nothing can stop God’s love for His children. The circular shape of the wreath represents the everlasting, eternal love of God as manifested through the infinite atonement of His Only Begotten Son (John 3:16; 2 Nephi 9:7)
ANGELS: angels represent the glorious news of the Savior’s birth. When Jesus was born, these heavenly messengers came to shepherds to announce his birth, singing “Glory to God in the highest! Peace on earth and good will toward men!” (Luke 2:13-14)
What are some of your favorite Christmas symbols?