Christmas decorations point many people today toward Santa Claus, shopping and gifts. The spiritual significance of these special symbols have been lost amidst a wave of commercialism as Christ has generally been taken out of Christmas.
Holladay Baptist Church Worship Pastor Gregg Higgins hopes he can begin to point his congregation back to Christ this year with a "Hanging of the Green" worship service that celebrates the spiritual significance of Christmas and its symbols."The church has a responsibility to remind people" about the real meaning of the Christmas symbols, he said. "Hopefully people will take it to heart . . . Christmas is as meaningful as you make it."
The initial "Hanging of the Green" will be at the Sunday, Nov. 28, 7 p.m., worship service at 2780 E. 3900 South.
"This service will help us focus on the spiritual significance of Christmas decorations rather than the commercial significance," he said.
Other worship services at 10:45 a.m. on each of the following three Sundays before Christmas will expound on the symbolism of decorations.
In addition, the church's movement group, "Hands of Praise," will present a special program on true gift-giving Sunday, Dec. 12, at 6 p.m. The church choir will address "The Father's Gift of Love" on Sunday, Dec. 19, in a 6 p.m. musical presentation.
"We're battling a perception," Pastor Higgins said. "Today, most of the symbols take us to Santa or a hook to spend money."
He admits that he put lights in his yard for many years each holiday season before he gave some though to the real meaning of the symbols.
Still, he believes the commercial and spiritual aspects of Christmas can co-exist. He's not against gift-giving but wants people to understand why gifts are given at Christmas.
"Christ was God's gift to us," he said, explaining Christians mimic the Wise Men's gifts to Christ -- of gold, frankincense or myrrh -- with their holiday gift-giving.
He notes Christmas has a big impact on children and he believes it is important for families to create Christmas traditions that focus on the real meaning of Christmas.
"It's a little bit of retraining," he said.
Among the spiritual symbols of Christmas are:
The evergreen, the Christmas tree: This is symbolic of eternal life. This meaning also shows up in wreaths or garlands. The evergreen has a year-round season -- they don't sleep -- and the circles in wreaths symbolize the unending life found in Christ.
The poinsettia: The star on the leaf represents the Star of Bethlehem. The red color symbolizes the blood of children slain as Herod tried to kill the Christ child. Red flowers also represent that blood Christ would later shed for mankind and their sins.
Christmas lights: These represent the light that Christ brought into the world and remind Christians that all light comes from God.
One portion of the "Hanging of the Green" service involves the Advent Wreath. This is a plain wreath set on a table with four candles around it and a fifth in the middle. The four outer candles represent the prophets and their promises of Christ, the preparation and the gathering in Bethlehem, the presentation made by angels to the shepherds and the proclamation of Christ's presence.
One candle a week is lighted during Advent, which is the period including the four Sundays before Christmas.
The white candle placed in the center of the wreath represents Christ and is lighted on Christmas Eve.
Pastor Higgins said this is the first year his church has held a "Hanging of the Green" service, which is growing in popularity and is observed by many churches as a traditional part of their Christmas season worship services.