Christmas, Angels and Christmas Trees
Perhaps the most popular time of the year for angels is the Christmas season. This is when you hear about angels in songs like "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and "Angels We Have Heard on High," and in movies like "It's a Wonderful Life" featuring the angel Clarence. We see them in department store windows perched on top of Christmas trees, as well as adorning their branches. Mostly, though, you see them associated with stories of the birth of Jesus.
In the Hebrew and Greek languages the word angel means "messenger." It is written that the archangel Gabriel brought the message to Mary that she was to have a child that would be the son of God. Joseph was visited in a dream by an angel telling him he would serve as the father of Jesus. On Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem, a band of angels were assigned to watch and protect the couple. In doing this, the Herald Angels sang the message heard on high across the four corners of the earth.
The Islam holy book of Qur'an (Koran) refers to the belief of every person having two personal angels. One angel sits on each shoulder; the right shoulder angel recording the good deeds and the left shoulder angel recording naughty deeds. I wonder if this is where Santa Claus gets his "naughty and nice" lists.
Angels and evergreen trees are historically very closely related. Well before the first Christmas, people brought the limbs of evergreen trees into their homes to celebrate life. Many years later, around 700 B.C., a monk named Boniface (later sainted) used the triangular shape of the evergreen fir trees to teach the holy trinity. It wasn't until 1510 A.D. that evergreen trees started to be decorated to celebrate Christmas. In those days, Christmas tree decorations were typically made of more natural materials such as fruits, nuts and homemade cookies. Many of those cookies were in the shape of angels.
Not long after the tradition of decorating trees for Christmas started, people wanted to make it a more meaningful event for the children. The adults would wrap the tree with paper streamers. Then they told the children the streamers represent when the angels came to decorate the tree they would lose their hair when leaning into the tree too far, thus the expression "angel hair." Today most tinsel is made from polyvinyl chloride that is shiny and adds a sentimental sparkle to the tree.
This year, why not use an angel as a topper on your Christmas tree? Enjoy the comfort of knowing that an angel is looking down upon you from the tree top. Decorate your tree in the age old traditions of homemade angel ornaments and the modern version of angel hair. Let those angels remind us all to find the best in ourselves, to help and give to others and most of all to celebrate and enjoy our lives. Here's wishing you and your angels a very happy holiday.
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