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Divine designs

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Chrismons, symbols of Christ, highlight tree at Grace Lutheran Church



Decorations of white and gold sparkle on the tree in the sanctuary of Grace Lutheran Church.

But they’re not secular ornaments; they’re monograms and symbols of Christ called Chrismons. And they’re even more special because they were handmade by church members throughout the years.

The tree skirt mirrors the theme. Handmade by the late Margaret Kane, the tree skirt is fashioned from white felt and is highlighted by the symbols of Christ created in gold and pearls.

Recently, Doris VandenBosch, a church member since 1964; Shirley Megown, a member since birth; and Nancy Simon, a member since 1968, met at the church at 162 S. Raccoon Road to reminisce about the Chrismons.

Megown said that the Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America received permission from the Lutheran Church of the Ascension in Danville, Va., to use instructions and designs it had assembled. The Chrismon Ministry Team there had produced a series of books on Chrismons, detailing the history, purpose, patterns and directions. The church still has the letter from the Virginia church giving permission to use the Chrismon designs.

Megown said that the project to make Chrismons began in the 1960s by the Grace Juniors, the church youth group. The Sunday-school classes also lent a hand and made some of the ornaments throughout the years.

“There was a lot of church participation to make them ... from kids to adults,” said Simon.

The women said Chrismons were made into the 1990s. The tree features about 100 of the eye-catching designs. VandenBosch made the gold crown of beads and pearls that highlights the top of the tree. She noted she made the crown in the 1980s.

Megown said some of the ornaments are the result of the “ingenuity” of the late Shirley Hunter, a church member who worked with the youth group. The youth made Chrismon designs out of inexpensive materials. For example, a cross of gold has a regal look; it’s fashioned from gold-sprayed toothpicks on a piece of cardboard. Other Chrismons are made from plastic foam plates that held meat and produce from the grocery store. They were cut into appropriate designs and decorated at little cost.

Other Chrismons on the tree include doves. “They should be pointed downward ... recalling how a dove flew down when Jesus was baptized,” VandenBosch said. Shells are another sign of Jesus’ baptism.

Other Chrismons on the tree include a lamb, representing the lamb of God; cross with Greek symbols of alpha and omega, the beginning and the end; cross atop an ornament, recalling Jesus holding an orb with the heavens around it and the cross shows his dominion over the earth; fish, a symbol of affirmation of faith in Christ; Epiphany star, which recalls Jesus as the son of God; Jerusalem; and an assortment of crosses, which symbolize Christ.

Megown said the church has two secular decorated trees but the one with Chrismons is “the most meaningful.” She said she hoped the tree would motivate onlookers to reflect on Jesus’ ministry.

“The Chrismon symbols remind us of Christ and what he did for us,” Simon said.

VandenBosch added that the tree decorated with Chrismons stands as a reminder of the miracle of Christ’s birth and his life.

The Rev. Paul Toelke is pastor; the church had Christmas Eve services.