Saturday, November 25, 2017

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 décor! As we shall see in future posts, white snow, silver tinsel and bells, and gold ornaments all have their own tale to tell of the Good News!

© 2013 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives



Susan said...

Hi Laurie 🙂 thank you for the beautiful reminders! So true, that all these things Satan means for evil God can use for good and for spreading the good news! When confronted with the idols of the Pagan culture, Paul didn’t demand that they stop worshipping these dead things, instead he found the idol for the “unknown god” and used it to introduce them to Him so they would know Him!
While reading I also thought about red symbolizing the shed blood of Jesus. 🤗

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Susan,
You're very welcome, and thank you for your lovely comment! Paul was a great example of being all things to all people, fitting into their culture yet not compromising on God's Word or truth. May we do the same this Christmas season and beyond!
God bless,

Brenda said...

Hi Laurie,
Christmas is nothing like it used to be, but I am just glad that every day of the year gives the opportunity to speak about the gospel of Jesus Christ, the One mediator between man and God. All we are hearing on the television is 'get this for Christmas' get that for 'Christmas'.
When I was a child my siblings and I had a sock at the bottom of the bed with small things in and a little gift. The nativity and Hymn singing and carols were prevalent. These days the kids tell their parents what they want, which usually costs a lot of money, and that is what it appears to be about mostly.
I agree with you that everything speaks about creation and salvation to those who believe.
God bless.

Frank E. Blasi said...

Dear Laurie,
I believe that the early Christians, together with the symbol of the fish, also greeted one another with the word "Maranatha" -which means "The Lord is coming soon".
As for secularism, here in the UK a new term "Winterval" was meant to replace "Christmas" in order not to offend Muslims, etc. But the word failed to come into English vocabulary, and was eventually discarded. Now the secularists are trying to get us to use "Holidays" instead, but I, for one, will never change.
As for the colours - there has to be three: White, Green, and Red - each representing Holiness, Creation, and Redemption respectively.
An excellent blog, and I look forward to read more of your contributions towards the coming season.
God bless.

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Brenda,
You're so right about Christmas becoming so commercialized, when instead every heart should be focused ob Christ's first coming, and on looking forward to His second coming. In the US, Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales and promotions begin earlier each year, clamoring for attention over Thanksgiving and Advent. Praise God that He still speaks to all who listen in faith.
God bless you too,

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Frank,
"Winterval" truly is a dreadful term! I'm glad it never caught on. May we continue to celebrate Christ in Christmas and wish a blessed or merry Christmas to all we meet. You're quite right, white is a vital color of Christmas, and I may address it in a subsequent post.
Thank you as always for your encouraging and learned comment.
God bless,

Donald Fishgrab said...

Though the world has commercialized Christmas, until it has little meaning, and Satan tries to eliminate the very name, it still forms a testimony that sometimes leads children to question what it means. As Paul says, I will rejoice that Christ is mentioned, even though the message may be distorted. Thanks for a great post.

Laurie Collett said...

Very true, Donald -- even a misguided celebration of "Christmas" may be an open door to share the Gospel.
Thanks for your insightful comment and God bless,