The Chrismon Tree was first developed in 1957 by Frances Kipps Spencer, a member of the Lutheran Church of the Ascension in Danville, Va. Mrs. Spencer designed a series of ornaments that used symbols and pictorial representations – historic symbols utilized by early Christians, symbolism found in the Bible, and new interpretations of symbols – to tell the story of Christianity.
In 1956, the first Christmas tree at the Lutheran Church of the Ascension in Danville was decorated with colored lights and balls like most other Christmas trees. Mrs. Spencer was disturbed about the tree although she didn’t say anything, but in the spring of 1957, she volunteered to decorate the tree that year. She wanted to do something that would honor and glorify the birth of our Lord. After much thought, she decided to make ornaments that symbolized the life of Jesus and she called them Chrismons, which combines “Christ” and “monograms.” The word spread and today churches of all denominations have Chrismon trees. As Mrs. Spencer shared her skills she had some strict guidelines:
The ornaments are not to be sold or mixed with commercial ornaments.
The trees are to be green and the ornaments are to be made of gold, white and crystal and occasionally a few colored beads, for instance, red for a drop of blood, or red for wine.
The lights are to be clear.
Hope Valley Baptist Church’s introduction to a Chrismon tree was in the 1980s when our Girls in Action (GAs) made counted cross-stitch Chrismon ornaments using white material, gold thread for the symbols and gold frames. You will find many of these ornaments on our tree today. At that time we did not have a true Chrismon tree by the standards of the Lutheran Church of the Ascension because we mixed them with commercial ornaments.
In the fall of 2010, Dr. Tom Jackson, then our Intentional Interim Pastor, encouraged us to create a “real” Chrismon tree. We now have almost 200 beautiful beaded ornaments to adorn the Hope Valley Baptist Church Chrismon tree as well as a large number of the counted cross-stitch ornaments made by our GAs.
All of the Chrismons are made in gold, white (or a combination of the two colors) or crystal. Occasionally a color can be used, for example, red for a drop of blood. The gold, white and crystal are symbolic of the Trinity.
“Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” Matthew 2:12 (NIV)
White is symbolic of God the Son. White suggests the innocence, purity, and perfection of our Savior. In our culture, it is the color of joy. Scripture often uses white to portray purity and equates it with light to denote completeness (see Isaiah 1:18, Mark 9:3, Revelation 20:11). The tiny white lights on the tree represent Christ as the light of the world.
“Arise, shine, for your light has come.” Isaiah 60:1 (NIV)
Crystal is a symbol for the Holy Spirit.
For emphasis, certain Chrismon ornaments show a touch of red to remind us of the blood of Christ by which we are saved.
Other colors can be used when necessary to the meaning of a symbol.
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5 (NIV)
Clear lights symbolize Jesus as the light of the world.
“The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.” John 1:9 (NIV)