“The Holly and the Ivy” 12/24/2014 by Nancy Ruegg

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Written by Nancy Ruegg @ http://nancyaruegg.com

View original post @ http://nancyaruegg.com/2014/12/22/the-holly-and-the-ivy/

The Holly and the Ivy

December 22, 2014 by Nancy Ruegg

Nativity-29

Bethlehem. One word that immediately conjures images from the Christmas story: an inn with no room for a travel-worn couple, a stable or cave that became the birthplace of a King, angel choirs announcing his birth, and exuberant shepherds worshiping the newborn Messiah.

But just five miles from Bethlehem lies Jerusalem. In fact, from some locations within the little village, you can gaze northward and glimpse the rooftops of the capital city.

Perhaps, as Christmas approaches, we would do well to shift our gaze for a few moments, from the manger in Bethlehem toward Jerusalem: the place where our Savior gave up his life on a cross.

Most of our thoughts this time of year focus on the village where the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head, where angels came from the realms of glory and shepherds quaked at the sight. Each year we sing carols that highlight nearly every aspect of the story.

But there is one carol that reminds us of the bitter realities of Calvary, even while celebrating the sweet story of Jesus’ birth: “The Holly and the Ivy.”

Historians tell us that long before Christ was born, Europeans were bringing holly into their homes during winter, as part of several pagan celebrations. Later, Christians continued the tradition, but adapted the symbolism associated with the plant.

To these believers of long ago, holly represented Jesus. The sharp points on the leaves reminded them of the crown of thorns pressed down on Jesus’ head prior to his crucifixion. The bright red berries represented the blood he shed. Holly also produces white flowers, symbolic of Christ’s purity.

And what of the ivy? One source suggested that ivy requires a support system as it grows. Small tendrils find places to cling. (Ivy seems especially fond of brick walls, doesn’t it?) Perhaps the lyricist of this carol was thinking of us when he included the ivy. We need to cling to God for support in our lives.

Note the last line of the first verse: “The holly bears the crown.” Indeed. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords!

The holly and the ivy, when they are both full-grown,

Of all the trees that are in wood,

The holly bears the crown.

The holly bears a blossom as white as lily flower,

And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ

To be our sweet savior.

The holly bears a berry, as red as any blood,

And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ

To do poor sinners good.

The holly bears a prickle, as sharp as any thorn

And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ

On Christmas day in morn.

The holly bears a bark

As bitter as any gall,

And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ

For to redeem us all.

The Bethlehem Christmas story includes so many elements to celebrate: God’s love manifested in the birth of a Savior; Mary’s and Joseph’s faithfulness to fulfill God’s plan, the angel’s message of peace on earth, and the shepherds’ joy.

But may our celebration also include appreciation for God’s love that prompted him to give up his only Son to death, that those who believe on him might have eternal life. May we celebrate the faithfulness of our Savior to fulfill God’s plan in spite of the agony and sorrow.

And, yes, may we celebrate the deep-down, long-lasting peace and joy that only Jesus can provide (John 14:27; 15:11).

(Sources: Christmas, by Charles Allen and Charles Wallis (Revell, 1977); http://www.hymnsandcarolsofthefaith.com; http://www.landscaping.about.com; http://www.mymerrychristmas.com.)

Art credit: http://www.lamblion.com.

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About Godsmanforever

I present posts about God's Word, with a personal focus on how God's grace is received through saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ... Sinners must understand and obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ... See this link for more... https://godsmanforever.com/2014/10/26/the-truth-about-sin-10262014-by-bruce-reposted-from-7112013/
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