Messages from church leaders - Rev Katherine Kehoe
It is my delight and privilege to bring you Christmas greetings and good wishes from myself and the members of the Methodist Church communities at Gorey and Arklow.
As I write Christmas preparations are in full swing.
Today many of us complain that Christ has been taken out of Christmas, that we are becoming an ever-increasing materialistic society.
This may be true to some extent, but I believe the message of Christ is very evident during this time, in fact, it's all around us, we just need to look for it.
In the centre of most of our towns a giant Christmas tree stands proudly, lights twinkling, inviting us to join in the celebration of the season. This tree adorned with ornaments and lights has fast become a centre piece.
Long before the Advent or coming of Christianity, pagans in Europe used branches of evergreen trees to decorate their homes and brighten their spirits during the dark winter solstice.
Early Romans used evergreens to decorate their temples during festivals, while ancient Egyptians used green palm rushes as a part of their worship of their god Ra.
Legend recounts while conducting his missionary work in Germany where the mighty oak tree sacred to the god Thor, the English Benedictine monk Boniface encountered some native pagan Germans performing some sacrifices to Thor in front of such a tree.
Boniface seized his axe and felled the tree in order to stop the pagans worshipping this false god. These Thor worshippers expected Boniface to be felled by lightening, but it didn't happen.
They immediately converted to worship the God who had protected him.
Legend has it that then, a fir tree grew out of the fallen oak. This fir tree became a symbol for Christ.
Just take a good look at your Christmas tree.
Being triangular it represents the Blessed Trinity. Your tree is evergreen, and for Christians this evergreen tree symbolizes eternal life in Christ.
Think about the light.
The first Christmas trees were covered in candles, now for health and safety reasons most possibly your tree is covered in electric or battery-operated lights, sometimes coloured and at other times white.
Lights shining brightly into the darkness remind us that Christ the Light of The World came to dispel the darkness.
Candles and lights remind us that we are to light to others, to show them the way to Christ.
Think about tinsel.
Legend says a poor family wished to embellish their Christmas tree in honour of Jesus but had no decorations.
During the night, a spider spun webs across the tree and the Christ Child turned those threads into silver, to honour the family's faith.
Think about the star.
It is placed on the top of your tree represents the Star of David that guided the Wise men to the Christ Child in Bethlehem.
Think about the angel, it represents the angel who announced Christ's birth to the Shepherds.
Think about the bells, they represent the joy of Christmas Day.
Bells were part of the Jewish High Priest garb and remind us of Jesus as the High Priest of Israel.
The balls and baubles represent the world and originally apples were used.
All the world rejoices at the birth of the Christ Child, reminding us that God's love is for all the world.
Think about the candy cane.
A candy maker in Indiana wanted to make a candy that would be witness, so he made the very first Christmas candy cane.
He incorporated several symbols for the birth, ministry and death of Jesus.
Beginning with a stick of pure hard white candy, white to symbolize the sinless nature of Jesus, he then shaped it in the form of a J to represent the precious name of Jesus who came to earth as our Saviour.
It represents the staff of Jesus the Good Shepherd with which he reaches down to the world to lift out the lamb who have fallen astray.
The candy maker then stained it with three red stripes to show the stripes of the scourging Jesus received by which we are healed.
Over the years it became known as the candy cane.
But the meaning is still there for those who 'have eyes to see and ears to hear'.
Although different traditions and decorations have been created around the world and in lots of houses, this season is associated more with Santa and presents, the meaning of Christmas should never be lost.
Besides being a time for great joy with loved ones, it's also the day when we celebrate Christ's Birth.
This Christmas, May each of us rightly remember the birth of our Saviour Jesus, may we share in the song of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds and the worship of the wise men.