Bet you’ve got one, bought one, made one or been gifted one. It’s there, hanging on your door, or the neighbours, or on some Christmas cards.
To the best of our knowledge the ancient Greeks started it all. Laurel wreaths were placed on the heads of athletes as early as 776 BC, thus they became a symbol of victory and importance.
In time they began being worn by great military and political leaders. You have probably seen pictures of Julius Caesar for example crowned with a wreath on his head.
It is presumed that at some point an athlete decided to display his victory wreath as a souvenir by hanging it on a wall.
As the use and tradition grew wreaths became symbols of Christ’s great victory over sin and death. In Ephesians 4 Paul, speaking of Christ’s triumph in leading captivity itself captive, cites David (Ps. 68:18): “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: ‘When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.’”(Eph. 4:7,8) The tormented Christ wore a wreath of thorns in mockery of His claim to be the “King of the Jews” (John 19:1-3). One day all flesh will bow to His reign as King of kings and Lord of lords.
Wreaths have been formed from many substances over the years. Garlands worn by ancient Olympians were fashioned from celery, pine, bay or olive leaves, depending on the host city. Military garlands were made of oak leaves, those worn by scholars, artists and poets were of ivy. Evergreens are today the popular choice since the are widely available and stay green all year round and again speak of ongoing life.
For the Christian the use of wreaths at Christmas holds deeper significance. The word ‘wreath’ itself derives from the same root word as ‘writhe’ meaning to ‘twist’ or contort – into a circle, or in agony such as the agony of the cross. The circular shape of The wreath denotes eternity, and victory over death. Hence we adorn gravestones and monuments to fallen soldiers also with wreaths.
Hung Christmas wreaths were often decorated with four candles. The middle candle would be lit Christmas Eve representing Jesus the Light of the World coming into the world. As John wrote, “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.” (John 1:9). The ‘Advent Wreath’ we use today developed from this.
Pastor Andrew’s message this past Sunday challenges us to ask “Do I have that light of the world in me?” Does His Glory emanate from my heart?
Today is Christmas. What better day than this to make Him King in your heart too?
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