The story of Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus is directly related to how we decorate our homes during the Christmas holiday season. While everyone loves the gifts, the candy, the cookies, ornaments, and the anticipation of Santas arrival, the Christmas season is, of course, a celebration of the birth of Jesus and many of the symbols of the season come straight from the Christmas or Nativity story and represent the true meaning of Christmas.
Angels are a very important symbol of the Christmas season because they played a very important role in the story of Christmas. The angel Gabriel was sent to Nazareth to tell the Virgin Mary that she was to give birth to the son of God. While Mary found this hard to believe since she knew she was just recently engaged to Joseph and had yet to be with a man, the angel Gabriel convinced her that it was indeed so and Mary understood what she needed to do. Angels also played an important part in letting the common people know that the Son of God had truly been born. While shepherds watched over their flock, an angel appeared to them and told them that the Son of God had been born in the town of Bethlehem. The angels sang to the shepherds and told them that there would be peace on earth and goodwill toward men as a result of the birth of Christ. The shepherds made their way to the manger where the baby Jesus had been born and realized that what the angels had told them had been true and they set forth to spread the word of God and the birth of the Savior. As a result, the angel represented in the Christmas ornaments and figurines placed on and around the Christmas tree symbolize the coming of Christ and the spreading of the word of Jesus.
Placing a star at the very top of the Christmas tree is symbolic of the Star of Bethlehem that suddenly appeared in the sky immediately following the birth of Jesus. This star was the brightest star in the sky and could be seen as far off into the East. Wise men studied this new star and realized that its appearance meant that a great ruler had been born. They set out to find the new ruler, first stopping at King Herods palace to see if this new leader had been born there. When they realized their mistake, they continued to follow the Star of Bethlehem and found their way to the manger that Mary, Joseph, and the new baby Jesus were gathered. These Three Wise Men knelt down to worship the newly born King and presented him with many gifts. Angels visited the men in the night, warning them that King Herod wanted the baby Jesus to be murdered and were told to never reveal his identity or location. This Star of Bethlehem represents the birth of Christ and led those that would worship him to the manger. This is why we place the star on top of the Christmas tree so we can remember the miracle that was created on the day that Jesus was born.
Because Mary and Joseph could not find a place to rest after their long journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, they were allowed to stay in an innkeepers stable with his farm animals. Surrounded by hay, livestock, and little else, Joseph and Mary made themselves as comfortable as possible. When Mary finally gave birth, they wrapped the baby Jesus up in torn pieces of cloth to keep him warm and placed him on a layer of hay inside a small wooden box that was used by the animals to feed from. When the Three Wise Men arrived and gave the new King their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, they were presenting him with gifts that were of great value to people at that time. Gold was used like money and was traded for goods, frankincense was used as an ingredient for many useful medicines, and myrrh was commonly used as a perfume. These gifts are represented in how we decorate the Christmas tree today. Gold is a common color used to decorate Christmas ornaments and other decorations as a symbol of the precious gifts that were given to Jesus at his birth. We give presents to our friends and loved ones, just as the Three Wise Men did, as a way to honor those that we cherish in our own lives.
As you can see, many of the common Christmas traditions that we practice today are directly linked to the Christmas story itself and the deeper meaning of the season. While many people feel that the Christmas holiday no longer celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, you can see how the familiar decorations and symbols of Christmas still very much represent the true meaning of Christmas. So, the next time you are placing those Christmas ornaments upon the tree and opening those presents on Christmas morning, take a moment to reflect on what the true meaning of Christmas really is and appreciate how the symbols of Jesus and the story of his birth surround you.