Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Colors of Christmas: Red and Green

In recent years the Christmas holiday, at least as the world celebrates it, is becoming less and less about Christ and more about foolish fables (2 Timothy 4:4). Nativity scenes are replaced by Santa Claus, Rudolph and Frosty; Christmas pageants give way to Winter Festivals, and stores say Happy Holidays so as not to offend Muslims or those of other religions.

The early Christians adopted a code so that they could identify with each other and communicate with each other even in times of persecution. The Jesus fish symbol originated from initials that spell “fish” in Greek, or “IXOYE” but stand for "Jesus, Christ, God's Son, Savior." This was a form of witness and also helped Christians distinguish between friend and foe. When traveling, if a Christian met another person, the Christian would draw half the fish (half a crescent) in the sand. If the other person completed the fish, he or she was also a Christian.

Persecution of believers will increase as Christ’s second coming draws near (Matthew 5:11-12). Although Christians are not yet being persecuted in the United States, our right to display symbols and statements of Christianity is already being challenged, and even military chaplains are warned not to pray in Jesus’ name. The Ten Commandments are leaving some courthouses; “One nation under God” is being questioned in the Pledge of Allegiance; Christian prayer is no longer allowed in public schools; and recently atheists were allowed to put up a sign ridiculing faith right next to a manger scene.

It may become useful to have a symbolic code, so that when we see the bright colors of winter decorations, we can remind ourselves and each other of the true meaning of Christmas. In this season, born-again believers celebrate God so loving the world that He sent His only Son to us in human form (John 3:16, 1:14)  In that way, Jesus could know and suffer all that we do, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). He died for all our sins as the perfect sacrifice, reconciling sinners with a holy and just God, so that all who ask for forgiveness of their sin and turn to Him can have eternal life  (2 Corinthians 5:4,18-19; Hebrews 2:17).

We can use the colors of Christmas as a way to witness to unsaved people, so that if they admire a beautiful Christmas tree, we can explain the symbolism of the colors. This may open the door for us to talk about Christ and to share what He has done for us.

For centuries, Christians have used many commonplace objects to witness to others and as a reminder of their faith. Our five fingers can represent different types of people we should remember in prayer; and a deck of cards helps us remember the Word of God (One God, Two Testaments, Three for the Trinity, Four Gospels, etc.). A German choirmaster designed the candy cane to symbolize the story of Christ; and the song “Twelve Days of Christmas” represents different elements of the Christmas story.

God Himself, the Master Designer (John 1:3; Genesis 1-2), liberally used symbols in His creation to tell salvation’s story. The sand dollar bears the image of the poinsettia, the Easter lily, and the Star of Bethlehem; has five piercings like those Christ received on the cross; and contains white doves symbolizing the Holy Spirit. Even the Abyssinian variety of donkey that tradition says carried Mary into Bethlehem bears the mark of the cross on its back.

Similarly, the colors we traditionally associate with Christmas each have special meanings that reflect different aspects of Christ’s life and God’s plan of salvation.

Green is the traditional color of the Christmas tree, with the evergreen representing eternal life because its needles are always green. If we trust in the promises of God’s Word, we too will never die, but will enjoy eternal life with Him in Heaven (John 3: 16; 1 Corinthians 15). Green gives the promise of new life that we see in the first green leaves of spring. Just as the tree in winter looks dead, we are dead in sin until we are born again by repenting of our sins and asking Christ into our hearts as our personal Savior (John 3:3; Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13). In Chirst, we are a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17).

But Christ came not only to give us eternal life, but more abundant life here and now! (John 10:10). At least in the United States, green is also the color of money, and all people depend on the food energy of green plants for their physical sustenance (Genesis 9:3). Green therefore reminds us that God will always provide for our physical as well as our spiritual needs (Matthew 7:11; Psalm 23:2; 52:8).

A green light is also a universal traffic signal that means Go! Jesus’ last words to His disciples before ascending into Heaven were to Go and fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). It encourages us to follow the Holy Spirit so that we will go forward on our Christian walk, growing more like Jesus every day, following God’s perfect will for our lives.

At Christmas time, we enjoy the colors green and red together in the holly plant and its berries. Like the pine, the holly is evergreen, and the needle-sharp, prickly leaves remind us of the crown of thorns worn by Christ as He was crucified (John 19:5). The red berries symbolize each drop of precious blood Jesus shed for us on Calvary’s cross for the remission of our sins (Matthew 26:28):. His blood washes us clean so that when God sees us, He sees not our sin, but the perfect sacrifice of His blameless Son (Hebrews 9: 11-13; John 1:7).

Red and green also adorn the poinsettia, which is another Christmas symbol of how God meets the needs of believers in Him (Matthew 6:8,32). The legend of this plant tells of a poor boy from a Mexican village who wanted to give the Holy Child a gift but had no money. In desperation, he picked some weeds on his way to church to leave as his gift. He prayed to God to help him show his love, and God answered by turning the weeds into a beautiful star-shaped flower with bright red leaves.

Just as “green” means go, “red” means stop – - our sinful ways, our wicked thoughts, our sinful lifestyle (1 Peter 4:1). And yet, red also symbolizes fire or passion. God wants us to be on fire for Him as He is a consuming fire (Heb.12:29; Revelation 19:12), our hearts burning with His Word (Jeremiah 20:9; Luke 24:32) and our lives burning brightly with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:3).

As we admire the bright red and green of the season, may these colors ignite our passion for Christ, Who came in the flesh to save us! May we boldly proclaim His love to others gathered around the holiday d├ęcor! As we shall see next time, white snow, silver tinsel and bells, and gold ornaments all have their own tale to tell of the Good News!

© 2013 Laurie Collett
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Donald Fishgrab said...

Great post, Laurie. While many contend that the celebration of Christmas is adopted from pagan beliefs, insisting we shouldn't celebrate it, Romans 14:6 gives us the freedom to celebrate or not as we choose. Unfortunately for many today it is no longer a celebration of what Christ has done, and as a result really is no more than a pagan holiday, focused on Santa Claus and Frosty or Rudolph. I chose to celebrate it as a remembrance of Christ's birth.

Unknown said...

Thank you Laurie. This has become a huge fear of mine (losing the meaning of Christmas) for the last couple years. I don't think we are even close to how bad it's going to eventually get here in the US. I stand with you in keeping Christ in Christmas and using all the reminders around us to show the true reason for the season.

Thanks for linking up on my page so I could read this.

Nadwra┼╝liwiec said...

For me red is colour of Christ's blood - sign of his perfect sacrifice - and green is colour of hope, which is still life in Christian life. Greetings from cold Cracow!

Brenda said...

Hi Laurie,
what a lovely, informative post. The only thing I had heard of concerning what you have written here is the donkey with the cross on his back. No wonder we are told in the Bible 'It is a fool who says there is no God'. I was only talking with my husband today about the fact that there is not even the nativity spoken about at Christmas any more. When my friend and I met up in a town about forty thirty miles away to evangelize, some 'rangers' (people who patrol the streets to check what people handing out leaflets are doing) came up to us and asked us what the leaflets were. I told them that they were speaking about Jesus and was told that it was fine to do that. They were stopping people from advertising products for sale. So at least it hasn't been stopped here yet.

Ceil said...

Hi Laurie! I love to be a witness for Christ, so if I can be more intentional, and think of the colors of Christmas relating to him, I'll be a better witness.
It is sad also that the phrase "Happy Holidays" has come into more vogue. I know that there are many more celebrations in this December time, but the reason for the season is the coming of Christ. Let's not water it down by saying Happy Holidays. Let's call it what it is. Christmas.
Have a good weekend :)

Laurie Collett said...

Amen, Donald! We should celebrate Christ's birth every day, but I also believe that it is a special blessing to have a season commemorating His incarnation. It is sad that most of the stores and towns no longer honor Him in their decor and music, but give in to secular displays. I am thankful that at least we can still have a Nativity scene in our front yard. May you have a blessed Christmas season.

Laurie Collett said...

Amen, Salina! It is up to born-again believers to keep Christ in Christmas, because the government and commerce surely don't. Our town used to have beautiful, brightly lit Christmas decorations including a nativity, but they all disappeared, not because of cost, but for the political agenda. But we can make a statement in the decor of our own home and yard, sending Christmas cards or giving tracts, and wearing colors and symbols pointing to Christ.
Thanks for your lovely comment & for hosting, & God bless,

Laurie Collett said...

Amen, Zim! Without the perfect sacrifice of His shed blood, there is no hope. Praise God that we are washed in His blood and now have the blessed hope of everlasting life! Greetings & blessings to you,

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Brenda,
Praise God that you are still able to hand out leaflets. in the U.S., we can do that in some public places, but not in shopping malls, which are considered private property. Open air preaching is getting a lot more difficult in many places if it is considered "offensive," i.e, talking about sin, hell, etc. So may God bless you as you continue to evangelize, for the time is fast approaching when no man can work, and it will be too late.
Thanks as always for your comment and for sharing your testimony, and many blessings to you and your ministry,

Laurie Collett said...

Amen, Ceil! Merry, happy, blessed CHRISTmas to all as we worship and celebrate Him! Your sweet spirit and God-honoring writing are a wonderful witness for Christ.
May you and your family have a truly blessed Christmas season,

elizabeth said...

I love how everything points to Jesus!

Frank E. Blasi said...

Dear Laurie,
I have read in Revelation chapter four that God's throne in heaven is adorned with three precious stones, one white, another green and the third red, representing the purity of God, his creation and his redemption, respectively.
Again, thank you for such an encouraging post. When many are criticising the Christmas festival as of pagan origin, your allegory of the christmas tree, the holly and its berries are certainly food for thought.
God bless.

Laurie Collett said...

Amen, Elizabeth! The creation praises the Creator!
God bless,

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Frank,
Great point about the stones surrounding the throne! It is true that Constantine orchestrated the December celebration to bring together a celebration of Christ with the winter solstice festival, to unite the Christian and pagan sectors of his empire. But thanks to our Christian liberty, I believe we can celebrate Christmas as long as we devote the occasion to worshipping Him, remembering His first coming, and looking forward to His second coming!
Merry Christmas and God bless,

Katherines Corner said...

Celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior. Thank you for sharing at the Thursday Favorite Things blog hop. Wishing you a lovely weekend and a very Merry Christmas♥

BARBIE said...

Blessings and Merry Christmas!

Healed By His Wounds said...

Wisdom and creativity wrapped into one... Thank you for sharing these insights, Laurie.

Visiting from The Weekend Brew. Merry Christmas!

With half a fish,

Laurie Collett said...

Amen, Katherine -- let's celebrate His first coming and look up for His second coming! Thanks for your comment & for hosting, & may you have a blessed Christmas!

Laurie Collett said...

God bless you, Barbie, & may you & yours have a very Merry Christmas!

Laurie Collett said...

I'm so blessed by your visit & comment! The other half of the fish back at you!
May you have a joyous Christmas and all blessings in 2014!

Jenny said...

Lets keep Christ in Christmas. I have 2 or 3 Nativity scences up at my place during Christmas. Red and Green are Christmas Colors and they will also stand for Christ colors! Bring Christ back into America 2014

Laurie Collett said...

Amen, Jenny! Let's make Christ Lord of our lives, not only at Christmas, but year round, and may we once again honor Him in our great nation, I love Nativity scenes -- we have 3 table-top Nativities in the house, one outside, and many small ones in ornaments and figurines. Our town used to have a beautiful Nativity and other wonderful Christmas decorations but they took them all down years ago, no doubt due to political pressure. How sad. Come quickly Lord Jesus!
God bless,