For some, the start of the Christmas season begins as soon as they see their first Christmas ad on TV. For others, the season returns as they watch the Advent Wreath lit. For me, it’s always been about the Christmas tree. Something about seeing the lights twinkling on a real live tree and the smell of it filling a living room sends my heart pounding as I turn towards a season of hope and beginning.
This week I had the chance to indulge in my love for Christmas greenery as I experienced part of the assembly and heard the history of the world famous Chrismon tree at Ascension Lutheran in Danville. It was on this second Sunday of Advent, that the 60th Chrismon tree at Ascension Danville declared loud and clear the coming of Christmas.
I learned from Pastor Meredith Williams, as well as many members of Ascension Danville, the history of their famous Chrismon tree. Chrismon ornaments originated at Ascension Danville in 1957. They were created by Mrs. Frances Kipps Spencer, a church member. Her designs were monograms of and symbols for Jesus Christ. The church still uses original Chrismon ornaments made by Mrs. Spencer. Those original Chrismons make up just a part of the church’s collection of an estimated 2,000 Chrismons.
Anyone can make Chrismons of their own with any material they’d like. Styrofoam, wire, colored beads, wood, and paper are just some of the many supplies often used to make Chrismons. The main guideline for Chrismon crafting is to only use gold and white materials so the ornament can share Christ’s story. The color combination of white and gold symbolizes the purity and majesty of the Son of God and the Son of Man. Some ornaments feature small amounts of color other than white or gold, but this is for specific purposes deemed significant enough in telling Christ’s story. For example, red is used to remind us of Christ’s shedding blood for us on the cross.
It takes a full week to decorate the tree at Ascension Danville, and with just a glance you can see why. This 60th tree is a massive live cedar that stands at well over 20 feet tall. To reach the top of the tree requires a cherry picker driven into the church to manage hard to reach decorating. Some Chrismons are so heavy that several branches must be bound together with wire to hold the ornament in place. It takes time and dedication to fully decorate this Chrismons tree, but a perfect opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ to visitors from near or far.
Because of Mrs. Spencer’s Chrismon ministry, countless churches around the world have joined in creating their own using old and new patterns alike. The global impact of these Chrismons has returned to Ascension Danville time and time again. Their tree boasts a dedicated collection of gifted Chrismons received from around the world over the years, each Chrismon honoring the story of Jesus Christ with many unique interpretations.
For me, the most interesting aspect of this ministry was seeing the personal connection creators have for their Chrismons. As the Ascension Danville church members present during the decoration process explained, Chrismon designers link their own lives to that of scripture and the story of God’s love for his people in the ornaments they create. With every Chrismons unwrapped, I heard countless parables that held personal importance for the Crimson creator, who had no doubt poured time and energy into making the ornament. Pastor William’s daughter, Becca was one such example of this passion. During my visit, she was elated to show me the Chrismons she had personally designed and created, showing me how scripture poured into Chrismons holds personal significance long after the ornament is created.
It was a true joy to see the passion and excited for Christmas that is alive and well at Ascension Danville! If you have the opportunity, I encourage you to see the finished tree. Chrismon Tree viewings at Ascension Lutheran in Danville are occurring from December 11th through the 24th on Monday through Saturday evenings from 7 PM to 9 PM as well as Sunday Afternoons 3 PM to 5 PM and Sunday evenings from 7 PM to 9 PM. Groups are also welcome to contact the church to schedule a weekday visit.