Note: I wrote this article several years ago for my church. I have also included the crafts the children made during the Hanging of the Greens evening. This article was first published on Old Fashioned Living.com.
Advent is an European custom and it prepares us for the birth of the Christ Child. We begin Advent four weeks preceding Jesus' birthday on Christmas day (Holy Day) by lighting a candle on each of the Sundays. It corresponds with the "Hanging of the Greens" service in our home church. (Isaiah 60:13).
Greenery in the midst of winter symbolizes eternal life which we are to receive from the One to Come, the Christ Child (Matthew 1:21). He is to come to save us from our sins. The other colors of the season are also symbolic of Christ -- white depicts the purity of Jesus and red, the blood shed for us in his act of self-sacrifice at Eastertide.
Along with the hanging of the greens and Christmas decorations, we sing Christmas carols. These songs helps us remember the story of Jesus' birth. Did you know the first Christmas carol was sung by angels? (Luke 2:8-14). Angels were the "news anchors" of their day (i.e. heralds, messengers).
HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESUS!
In our "Hanging of the Greens" celebration tonight, we want to give you an opportunity to help us make our church building as beautiful as our Lord's coming. You can do this by making some ornaments to decorate the Sunday School rooms. Afterwards, you can also make others to decorate your own homes if you have time. On the following pages, there are directions for the crafts along with what they mean to us as Christians.
In the olden times, back before videos, television, radio, and even lots and lots of story books, most people didn't have the means to learn to read or even own a book if they could. So to get the story of Jesus' birth to these common folks, the church leaders had to find a way to tell the Christmas story to them. One of the methods of teaching the Bible stories was having artists paint big pictures on the walls (murals) of the church building or to have them make stained glass windows representing a story. Another was to write songs (carols) or to put on plays to tell the stories. Missionaries sometimes use these methods today in remote areas of the world where there isn't a written Bible yet in the native language. The first person to come up with a real nativity idea was said to be a monk by the name of St. Francis of Assisi. He made one in Greccio, Italy in 1223 or 24. He used real live people and animals to show people the story of Jesus' birth. It helped people realize that it wasn't just another make-believe story, but really, really happened!
God used symbols in the Holy Scriptures to remind the Jews who He is and what He has done for His Chosen Ones not only during their holidays, but everyday. We use decorations in the same way during our holidays too, to remind us of who He has sent and why. Below are Christmas ornaments we are crafting tonight along with explanations of the symbolism attached to each.
DECEMBER 25 = near the Jewish festival of Hanukkah or Feast of the Lights = our Light appears to save us (John 8:12; 10:22-23, 28)
CANDLES or CHRISTMAS LIGHTS = represents Christ who is the light of the world (Matthew 4:16; Revelation 22:5)
CANDLE IN THE WINDOW (country of origin - Ireland) = A welcome to the Holy Family to show the Christ Child the way. There was no room for them in the inn, but there is surely a place in our home for him. (Luke 2:7)
SNOWFLAKE = In the northern hemisphere Christmas falls during the winter.
1. Snowflakes are six-sided designs. Begin with a circle of thin paper, such as silver foiled or white paper. Fold circle in half and then in thirds like folding a zig-zig with the middle point on the fold. Cut designs on fold of paper
and unfold. Nice to hang in the window or on bulletin boards. Look for pictures
of snowflakes. These will help in cutting good designs.
APPLES = represent Adam & Eve's fall = sin (Genesis 3).
BELLS = announces the Old Testament High Priest in the presence of God = represents the glad tidings of the Presence of our Savior (Exodus 28:34,35)
WHITE ROSES = represent Virgin Mary = a symbol of purity, love, & beauty
STRAW ORNAMENT = straw from manger, Christ Child born in lowly circumstances = (Luke 2:7,16)
STAR OF BETHLEHEM = Guided & still guides wise men who seek Him (Matthew 2:9-10; Luke 11:10)
BIRDS (Dove) = symbolizes the Spirit of God or the peace of God (Matthew 3:16,17)
ROUND WAFERS or COOKIES, Later ROUND CHRISTMAS BULBS = Last Supper, Body of Christ as the Sacred Host or the Bread of Love = fruit of redemption (Luke 22:19)
2. Round Christmas Ornaments - We stamped Christmas designs on round gift
tags. We colored them with magic markers and threaded a curling ribbon
through the hole and tied to make a loop.
HOLLY = evergreen shrub = in Germany it is known as "Christ's thorn" = the thorn woven in the crown of Christ = represents the blood that issued from his wounds for us (John 19:2)
CHRISTMAS TREE (country of origin - Lutherans in Germany) = the evergreen symbolizes the Tree of Life & of the Crucifixion = Eternal Life or Immortality (Genesis 2:9; Luke 23:46; Revelation 2:7 & 22:2)
3. Christmas Tree - Cut out green paper triangles and brown construction paper rectangles. Use a piece of double face tape to attach rectangular trunk to the
green triangle Christmas tree. Use tiny Christmas stickers to decorate the tree
with. Then run the green part of the tree through a paper crimper and punch a
hole in top corner to string a loop through for a hanger.
STAINED GLASS WINDOWS (European custom) = Bible Stories told in glass designs
4. Photocopy coloring pages or clip art that looks similiar to a stained glass window, preferably ones with heavy black lines on copy weight paper.
Color the decorated side in heavily on one side only with wax crayons. Trim off
extra paper and turn colored side down on a paper towel. Wipe baby oil on the
back of the sheet (use a postal water tube - we found several at an office supply
store for 69 cents and up). Make sure the whole back is coated with oil, then wipe dry. Tape on glass windows with clear tape.
BATHING ON CHRISTMAS EVE (we bathed the back of the "stained glass" paper windows in oil) = washed in preparation to his birth - washing and renewal of our hearts (Titus 3:4-7).
Hope you have had a wonderful time making and decorating tonight in our "Hanging of the Greens" service. May we open our hearts to his presence and coming in this blessed Holy Season.