How greatly meaningful it will indeed be if Christmas decoration in our houses is only one piece – a Wreath, a Wreath of Thorns! It could be seen as signifying the interrelation of the Cradle, the Cross and the Crown. It is the essential interlink between these three that makes Christmas awesome and richly meaningful.
1. The Advent Wreath
: Its origin in not known. Wreath of evergreens symbolizing eternal cycle of seasons with a candle in the middle suggesting life and light during harsh winters, was in use in Europe before Christianity arrived. The Christian tradition of the use of Advent Wreath perhaps started with the Lutheran Church, or much earlier, but now it is very widely used. Passage of four weeks before Christmas is indicated by lighting one candle each Sunday and the middle one representing Jesus lighted on the Christmas Day.
2. Wreath of Thorns.
Wreaths are made of prickly leaves of holly. The crown/wreath of thorns worn by our Lord on the cross denotes that the whole purpose of the Christmas event was for him to be incarnate to suffer for our redemption. Soldiers who mocked him with it saying, “Hail, King of the Jews”, did not know the purpose of his suffering nor that he indeed was the King.
3. Wreath, the Crown of Victory
. Ancient Greece and Rome crowned victors of wars and games with wreaths of leaves. Jesus won victory over sin and death as he was raised from the dead and was seated with the Father, “Son of man on his glorious throne”. Can we not say that the wreath may be taken also as an indicator of ” the crown of life”, “the crown of glory that will never fade away” which those redeemed in Christ are to receive in heaven?
These three aspects are stressed in what probably was an early Christian hymn, Phil 2:6-11, the most profound statement on the person and work of Christ – his incarnation, his death on the cross and his exaltation, that is to say, the Cradle the Cross and the Crown of victory. The three are interconnected, one leads to the other, and none can be commemorated without the others.
The above passage says that we should have the same nature as that of Christ. So what significance for us in World Vision? Our challenge of living incarnational (‘Our mission is to follow Jesus Christ” – his life is our model), commitment to the poor (identifying with them in their suffering ‘becoming their ‘neighbours’ with ‘hearts broken with the things that break the heart of God’), and our sure hope (in the victory of Christ’s kingdom which is our driving force).
May the richness, joy and peace of Christmas be yours during this Season and throughout the New Year!
In the joy of serving our Lord,
(Dr. Saphir Athyal, a retired Indian Orthodox theologian, led for many years the Christian Commitments sector of World Vision International in Asia.)