Perfectly Imperfect Chrismons

December 9, 2014

21  comments

Chrismon Tree, Fairhope Alabama

Loving both Christmas and crafts, I was happy to help my friend Janie with her project of making new Chrismons for our church’s Christmas tree.

The Chrismon is a symbol used to represent Christ, and many churches use them in their holiday decorations. My church places these ornaments on a beautiful eighteen – foot tall tree in the sanctuary, but over the years, the Chrismons had become worn, and it seemed time to update the collection.

making chrismons for the Chrismon Tree, Fairhope AlabamaVarious members volunteered to help, so a group of us made our way to Janie’s house one afternoon to get started. I had a little over an hour before I had to pick up my son, so I figured I would finish the ornament in about forty-five minutes and be on my way. If only it had been that simple.

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Poor Janie’s beautiful house looked like a dozen Las Vegas showgirls had exploded inside the front door. There wasn’t a surface in her dining or guest rooms that wasn’t covered with sparkly gold sequins, beads, feathers or shiny glitter. Her poor little dog had fur dotted with gold and the carpet gave a little “crunch” when you took a step.

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I chose to make a harp, in honor of our music director. Ten minutes into the project, I was highly annoyed and ready to tell the Music Director to make her own danged harp. Janie was the Nick Saban of Chrismons and insisted on perfection. Each individual tiny bead had to be pinned and glued in a precise manner onto the base she had cut from foam.

Chrismon ornament, Fairhope Alabama ChristmasOne by one, tinier and tinier, each bead was applied. Cross-eyed, with glue sticking my fingers together, I couldn’t stand it any longer.

“I’ll just have to come back another time to finish.” I told Janie as I zipped out the door. A few days later, I regained my determination and sat for two more hours working on the vexing Chrismon.

A holy attitude should have prevailed, but in all honesty, my thoughts were anything but pure. This project was far more time consuming and involved than I had bargained for, and I would have never volunteered for this kind of thing, had I known the persnickety details.

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Days turned into weeks and finally poor Janie let me take my ornament home to finish. But even then, I was so busy with my regular life as a Mom, it was hard to find the time to complete the task.

Finally, Janie called and asked how my work was coming along. “I’m almost finished.” I said, with my fingers crossed. “Well, you have the last ornament and we really need to get it back as soon as possible.” Janie said. Wow. Talk about guilt. I’m never last at anything. As a matter of fact, I prefer being first place, star student. But not only wasn’t I near being finished, my harp looked like something that had been made by a four year old, who had run over it with his tricycle. Twice.Chrismon ornaments, Fairhope Alabama Christmas

Begrudgingly, I sat and spent hours trying my hardest to get the little beads into a straight line. I took it to the porch for better lighting, but the sequins blew away. I dropped a tiny pin on the floor, and my beagle ate it.

After much agony and grief, the harp was completed. I delivered it to Janie who was merciful and kind, and didn’t complain about the tardiness or condition.

Then, a few weeks later, I walked into the sanctuary, and there it was.

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The completed tree stood tall and caused all who saw it to catch their breath in amazement. Sunlight streamed through the nearby stained glass windows, causing the ornaments to sparkle so brightly we had to blink our eyes.

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On the tree, hung an angel made by a woman who had just lost her husband to cancer and a dove crafted by a teenage boy from a broken home. A fish covered in sequined scales had been created by a man in his early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, whose wife lovingly assisted and guided his hands. There was a shimmering cross, made by a woman who had checked her son into a drug treatment facility earlier that month and a crown of pearls made by a lonely widower.Fairhope United Methodist Church, Christmas, Fairhope Alabama

The tiny defects on the Chrismons had disappeared, and when grouped together, the ornaments looked stunningly beautiful. Like the crafters themselves, God had taken the blemished and broken to create something precious and valuable.

And there was my harp. Made by a busy, perfectionist, impatient and frazzled mother of teenagers.

That morning, I saw lessons of patience, perseverance and hope all hanging on the tree. And I was reminded that like the ornaments, we don’t have to be individually perfect to come together and form something beautiful in the eyes of God.

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This story first appeared in the column, “Southern with a Gulf Coast accent” in the Gulf Coast Newspapers.

  • Leslie Anne..Wow!! Do you ever have a ton of patience! It was well worth it. You did a wonderful job and I am sure the congregation appreciates your hard labor. The tree is beautiful!!

  • I would have thrown up my glitter covered hands in disgust after the first hour! But that was the lesson learned as you so beautifully put. Patience, perseverance, and coming together as a community for a common (and beautiful) goal are well worth the effort. Excellent job, my friend!

    • If there’s glitter involved, I’m staying till the bitter end! But you are right, it was worth the effort.
      Thanks.

    • It’s even prettier in person, especially with all the people who worked on it sitting right there in the congregation. I wish you could see it too!

  • The tree is a wonderful custom. I’m sure the congregation appreciates the beauty and a lot of them appreciate the hard work. Congratulations

    • They are such a sweet church family that everyone is appreciative. Even when it looks like it’s leaning to one side, which happens to be the case this year, and it’s driving me crazy! People sitting nearby just pray hard!

  • If anyone might be aware of watching for a falling tree you would qualify. Hopefully that won’t be the case for this beautiful tree.

  • Ha. Actually, this one is bolted down fifty different ways. We have lots of lawyers and doctors in our church, so we’re prepared for anything! – just kidding!

  • I had never heard of Chrismons until yesterday when you explained them to me…what beautiful representations of Christ you and your friends have made…and now after reading this post, I realize that each one of these means so much more as they also represent all of these personal stories of their makers. Beautiful tree and great story.
    judypimperl.blogspot.com

  • Oh my word! I laughed (and identified) with your first part…and oh the evilness of glitter (when it looks like exploding Las Vegas showgirls.) But then the tears as you shared the lessons learned. Thank you for your precious story here Leslie Anne. Merry Christmas!

  • Tree Lighting:
    Ms. Leslie, the sweetest most patient person I had the pleasure of meeting you at a book signing event. I enjoy your blog no end!
    Me and the Hubs happen to be Seniors, with a long history with Fairhope .

    Decided to finally take in the festivities last evening for the first time! Parked down at Greers. Recently had knee replacement, so we took my scooter, the walk will be good for me, right? You were there you were a witness! I almost lost it when the beautiful lights were on and the snow was magical! The gent in back of me was yiking he had just moved here from Conn. and found the snow bothersome. I looked him right in the face and politely said”gee I’m sorry”. Your response made my day! Arlene C.

  • You are the best mom and crafter in my eyes but you are right that The Lord takes our imperfections and uses them for his glory. Miss you too. Have a Merry Christmas.

  • My Pastor and I would like members make Chrismons for our tree (not this year). Where do I start??? I’ve looked at books at Amazon but they are mostly made of beads. At my former church, they were made if styrofoam. They were quite large, about 8-12″ Can you help me?
    Thank you in advance!

    Blessings!

    Lynn Harron

    • Hi Lynn. I’m just a volunteer and jumped in after they had already done it for a few years. I would start with man’s best friend . . . Google! There are lots of resources out there and I’m sure some of your other local churches can show you their work if you can find one. I know different denominations use this tradition, but have mainly seen it in Episcopal, Methodist and Presbyterian churches. Good luck!

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