The Chrismons… The Anchor

18 So these are two things that don’t change, because it’s impossible for God to lie. He did this so that we, who have taken refuge in him, can be encouraged to grasp the hope that is lying in front of us.19 This hope, which is a safe and secure anchor for our whole being, enters the sanctuary behind the curtain. 20 That’s where Jesus went in advance and entered for us, since he became a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 5:19, Common English Bible).

The anchor has been a symbol of the Christian faith for just about as long as the existence of the faith. To sum up its meaning in a single word, “hope.”

The anchor was a key Christian symbol during the early church period during the period when the Roman Empire persecuted Christians. For the early church, the common symbol was not the cross but the anchor.

It was a common practice for early Christians to hide in the catacombs. Worship often took place there. If I am a Christian in the early church period, hiding and worshipping in the catacombs the anchor served to remind me that my hope is anchored in Jesus. Christians needed these reminders many times but none more notable than during the reign of Emperor Nero. In his time Christians were thrown to the lions, burned at the stake, beheaded, crucified, set on fire and otherwise tortured. The anchor served to encourage early Christians that Jesus was (and for us is) their anchor. The symbol encouraged the faithful to remain anchored to the faith and hope of Jesus Christ.

It is said that the use of the anchor came into being during the rule of Emperor Trajan during the first century A.D. The fourth pope, St. Clement to the Crimea. Once there Clement converted the people of his new home. Trajan was livid. He ordered that Clement be tied to an anchor and thrown into the sea. As the story goes, the sea receded three miles to reveal the burial place of Clement. There Clement was buried by angels in a marble mausoleum. This legend, like many legends, is rooted far more in story than in fact. However, what is clear from it is the death of Clement hand a major impact on the faith and life of the early church.

Surprisingly, considering its believed power, the anchor faded from and had all but disappeared by the beginning of the fourth century. When Constantine became emperor and Christianity became the “official” religion of the empire, the cross replaced the anchor in common use.

In the early 1600s, the anchor re-emerged as a symbol for the Church. It remained in use, particularly as an engraved symbol for tombs. By the 1800s the symbol again all but disappeared.

Though not as common today, the anchor can once again be found in Christian use. The silversmith James Avery has used the symbol in his popular “Faith, Hope and Love” ring. Each word in the ring has an accompanying symbol. Faith has a cross, love has a heart and hope is the anchor.

As a former sea-going man, I am attracted to the anchor. When I see this symbol on the Chrismon tree, it reminds me that my hope (as well as my faith) is anchored in Jesus Christ my Lord.

Have a Great day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved



The Chrismons – The Triquetra

In the beginning was the Word
    and the Word was with God
    and the Word was God.
The Word was with God in the beginning.
Everything came into being through the Word,
    and without the Word
    nothing came into being.
What came into being
    through the Word was life,
    and the life was the light for all people.
The light shines in the darkness,
    and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light.

A man named John was sent from God. He came as a witness to testify concerning the light, so that through him everyone would believe in the light. He himself wasn’t the light, but his mission was to testify concerning the light.

The true light that shines on all people
    was coming into the world.
10 The light was in the world,
    and the world came into being through the light,
        but the world didn’t recognize the light.
11 The light came to his own people,
    and his own people didn’t welcome him.
12 But those who did welcome him,
        those who believed in his name,
    he authorized to become God’s children,
13         born not from blood
        nor from human desire or passion,
        but born from God.
14 The Word became flesh
    and made his home among us.
We have seen his glory,
    glory like that of a father’s only son,
        full of grace and truth.

15 John testified about him, crying out, “This is the one of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is greater than me because he existed before me.’”

16 From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace;
17     as the Law was given through Moses,
    so grace and truth came into being through Jesus Christ.
18 No one has ever seen God.
    God the only Son,
        who is at the Father’s side,
        has made God known (John 1:1-18, Common English Bible).

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 I will ask the Father, and he will send another Companion, who will be with you forever. 17 This Companion is the Spirit of Truth, whom the world can’t receive because it neither sees him nor recognizes him. You know him, because he lives with you and will be with you (John 14:15-17).

For centuries, theologians have tried to understand and explain the concept of the Trinity. The simplest approach is “One God, three persons,” “Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In the Scriptures above we find allusions to the idea.

More often than not, the three persons of the Trinity are considered equal because they are all one. It has been said that the Trinity is like water. If the water becomes cold, it becomes ice. In it’s liquid form it is water and when heated it takes on a gaseous form we call steam. Three different representations of one common element, H2O.

Representation of the Trinity is far easier to do in symbols than it is to try to explain the concept. The triquetra, the Chrismon above, is one way the Trinity is visualized.

The triquetra or “Trinity knot” refers to several different three-cornered shapes. In particular the symbol  points to leaf-like shapes that inter-lock together.

The triquetra originally meant any triangle and referred to various three cornered shapes. It was an important religious symbol used by ancient Pagan Celtics.

The symbol has long been used in the Christian church as a symbol for the “Trinity,” Father, Son and Holy Spirit. From it’s earlier history the symbol waned in its used until the Celtic revival of the 19th century.

In modern thought the triquetra brings to mind the shamrock or three-leaf clover of St. Patrick though a direct tie is lacking.

It is easy to find the triquetra in use sculpture, jewelry, stained glass as well as books. Many New King James Bibles have the triquetra imprinted on the title page.

The triquetra, the Trinity knot, is a symbol we commonly find on Chrismon trees this time of year. This Chrismon points us to remembering the Trinity.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved



The Chrismons… The Alpha and Omega

Look, he is coming with the clouds! Every eye will see him, including those who pierced him, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of him. This is so. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “the one who is and was and is coming, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:7-8, Common English Bible).

Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look! I’m making all things new.” He also said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “All is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will freely give water from the life-giving spring. Those who emerge victorious will inherit these things. I will be their God, and they will be my sons and daughters (Revelation 21:5-7, Common English Bible).

12 “Look! I’m coming soon. My reward is with me, to repay all people as their actions deserve. 13 I am the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. 14 Favored are those who wash their robes so that they may have the right of access to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates (Revelation 22:12-14, Common English Bible).

One of the things I love about the Advent/Christmas season is the chrismons on the tree in the church building. I really like the white and gold that colors these symbols of the faith. I also treasure their meaning.

Over the years I have been in the United Methodist Church, I have learned the meaning behind many of the symbols that become chrismons. I thought that during December (I will have a few days this month I will take off due to hand surgery) I would share with you a little of what I have learned.

I thought that for our first chrismon we would begin with the one where Jesus says he is the beginning (and the end). The Alpha and Omega is a symbol Jesus himself claimed. Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet and Omega is the last. It would be similar to saying “I am the A to Z…”

For many theologians to say “I am the Alpha and Omega,” as Jesus does three times in Revelation above, it means, Jesus always was, always has been and always will be a part of God’s creation.

While I think that is true, I think that idea doesn’t go far enough. I think it means  Jesus always was has, always been and always will be a part of everything. The idea of the beginning and the end to me means Jesus, who is both omnipotent and omnipresent, is always with us, always involved and always touches our lives in everything we do. Even when we sin, Jesus is still there with prevenient grace, working to lead us back to the place we need to be on our faith walk.

From the beginning of our lives to the end of our lives and then beyond, Jesus is always there. And with that, we are blessed, always.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved.

What Kind of Tree Is It?

10 Listen to the word that the Lord has spoken to you, people of Israel!
The Lord proclaims: Don’t follow the ways of the nations or be troubled by signs in the sky, even though the nations are troubled by them.
The rituals of the nations are hollow a tree from the forest is chopped down and shaped by the craftsman’s tools.
It’s overlaid with silver and gold and fastened securely with hammer and nails so it won’t fall over.
They are no different than a scarecrow in a cucumber patch: they can’t speak; they must be carried because they can’t walk. Don’t be afraid of them, because they can’t do harm or good.
Lord, no one is like you! You are great, and great is your mighty name.
Who wouldn’t fear you, king of the nations? That is your due; among all the wise of the nations and in all their countries, there is no one like you!
But they are both foolish and silly; they offer nothing because they are mere wood.
Covered with silver from Tarshish and gold from Uphaz, they are the work of a craftsman and the hands of a goldsmith. Clothed in blue and purple, all of them nothing more than the work of artisans.
10 But the Lord is the true God! He’s the living God and the everlasting king! When he’s angry, the earth quakes; the nations can’t endure his rage.

11 Tell them this: The gods who didn’t make the heavens and the earth will perish from the earth and from under the heavens (Jeremiah 10:1-11, Common English Bible).

Take a look at the two pictures above. Go ahead, look at them closely. I will wait.

Can you tell the difference? You can’t? Go back and take another look. There is a very basic difference between those two trees.

The one on the left is a traditional Christmas tree. The one on the right is a Chrismon tree.

On a Christmas tree you can find all kinds of ornaments. On our first Christmas tree together Cindy and I had a number of wooden, hand-painted ornaments. There were things like a church chapel and a skier. Of course there was Santa Claus and others. On a Christmas tree you can find glass balls, candy canes, icicles and so much more.

A Chrismon tree has ornaments as well, but they are all different. Chrismon comes from the bringing together of two words Christ and monogram, Christ’s monogram or Christ’s signature. All the ornaments on the tree are things that point us toward Jesus Christ. They are not intended to be just pretty decorations. These trees, fully decorated, point us to Jesus Christ.

During December we will be talking about Chrismons. Each day we will take a look at a different one of these decorations and talk about what it means and how it points us toward Jesus. The particular symbol may or may not have a Scripture tied to it, but we will see it as a sign, which by definition points to something beyond itself. These signs point us to Jesus.

The Scripture from Jeremiah 10 above, at face value it sounds much like Jeremiah is talking about a Christmas tree. Of course he was not. Since Jesus had not yet been born a Christmas tree would have been meaningless.

Jeremiah is actually pointing to idols made from wood. An idol is useless. It can’t hurt you (at least not in this life), but it also can’t help you. A tree, whether a Christmas tree or a chrismon tree probably won’t hurt but also won’t help. What it can do, however, through its evergreen, remind us of everlasting life and through certain ornaments, help us to remember Jesus and the important role he should play in our celebrations.

It was my first Christmas in a particular church. A lady came up to me after a Sunday evening service. She said, “Brother Keith, can you show me in the Bible where it is OK to have that Christmas tree in the church?”

In response I said, “No, I can’t. But, what you are seeing is not a Christmas tree. It is a Chrismon tree. Each of the ornaments are symbols of Jesus and His life. The tree is intended to remind us of the life of Jesus.”

She simply replied, “Oh, I didn’t know that,” and walked away.

I guess once she knew what the tree was, having a Scripture reference wasn’t so important.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights reserved.