Wreaths have been used for centuries in various cultures and faiths, including Christianity. Wreaths are primarily formed of evergreen branches and are commonly embellished with ribbons, flowers, and berries.
They are often used in Christianity during the Advent season and relate to the expectation of the birth of Jesus Christ. However, whether wreaths have a specific meaning in the Bible is a matter of much debate and interpretation.
This article will look at what the Bible says about wreaths and their significance in the Christian religion. We will look at biblical allusions to wreaths and their historical and cultural relevance. Without further ado, let's dive right into it!
Use of Wreaths in the Bible
The term "wreath" occurs in many Bible translations, although its meaning varies depending on the context and the original Hebrew or Greek word. In Exodus 37:2 and 37:11, for example, the term "wreath" translates the Hebrew word "avot," which means "rope" or "cord," and refers to the gold molding that encircles the ark of the Covenant.
The term "wreath" in 1 Kings 7:17 translates the Hebrew word "shevachah", which means "network" or "lattice," and refers to the ornate decoration on top of the pillars of Solomon's temple.
The word "wreath" in 1 Corinthians 9:25 translates to the Greek word "stephanos", which means "crown" or "garland," and alludes to the award given to the champions of athletic events in ancient Greece.
Historical and Cultural Context of Wreaths in The Bible
The historical and cultural setting of biblical wreaths: In ancient societies, wreaths were frequent emblems of honor, triumph, pleasure, and celebration. They were often constructed of flowers, leaves, branches, or metal and placed on doors or walls.
In ancient Israel, wreaths were used to ornament holy things such as the ark of the covenant and temple pillars, as well as regal objects such as crowns and scepters. Wreaths were also used to commemorate events such as Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles), when people carried branches and built booths.
Wreaths were offered to athletes, poets, generals, and emperors as tokens of respect and success in ancient Greece and Rome. Wreaths were also used to pay homage to gods and goddesses like Apollo and Venus.
Examples of the Use of Wreaths in The Bible
- God directs Moses in Exodus 25:11-25 and 37:1-16 to construct a gold wreath around the ark of the Covenant, which held the tablets of the law and other holy objects.
- Solomon constructs two bronze pillars for the temple's entryway in 1 Kings 7:15-22 and 2 Chronicles 3:15-17 and tops them with network and chain work wreaths.
- Mordecai is honored by King Ahasuerus in Esther 8:15 by wearing a regal robe of blue and white, a great crown of gold, and a garment of fine linen and purple.
- Psalm 118:27-29 praises God for his redemption and asks people to tie festal offerings to the altar's horns with cords at Sukkot.
- Wisdom is described as a lovely garland or a beautiful crown in Proverbs 1:8-9 and 4:7-9, bringing respect and life to those who pursue it.
- In Isaiah 28:1-6, God curses the lofty crown of Ephraim (Israel's northern kingdom), comparing it to a withering flower or a drunkard's wreath that will be trodden underfoot by Assyria.
- God warns Jeremiah in Jeremiah 13:18-19 to notify King Jehoiakim and his mother that their splendid crown will fall from their heads because they have rebelled against him.
- God tells how he betrothed Jerusalem as his wife and dressed her with diamonds, a crown, and elegant apparel in Ezekiel 16:8-14, but she played the harlot with other nations.
- God orders Zechariah in Zechariah 6:9-15 to manufacture silver and gold crowns for Joshua (the high priest) and Zerubbabel (the governor) to symbolize that they would rebuild the temple with God's aid.
Association of Wreaths with the Advent Season
Advent is the four-week season before Christmas when Christians prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Making or displaying a wreath with four candles, one for each week, is one of the Advent customs. The wreath often has evergreen branches to represent everlasting life and hope. The candles depict Christ's light shining amid the darkness.
The first candle is known as the candle of hope or prophecy because it recalls Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming Messiah. The second candle is known as the candle of peace or love because it reminds Christians of Jesus' peace and love for the world. The third light is known as the candle of gladness or the shepherds, and it represents the pleasure felt by the shepherds when they hear the heavenly news of Jesus' birth.
The fourth candle is the candle of purity, or angels, because it reminds Christians of Jesus and his message's purity and holiness. Some wreaths sometimes include a fifth light in the middle, known as the Christ candle, lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day to commemorate Jesus' birth.
Use of Wreaths in Christmas Celebrations
Christmas is a Christian holiday celebrated on December 25th to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. Christians decorate their homes, churches, and public places with wreaths to commemorate Christmas.
Concerning Christmas, each material can have a different meaning or symbolism. Evergreen branches, for example, symbolize eternal life and hope; holly symbolizes the crown of thorns that Jesus wore; and ivy symbolizes faithfulness and loyalty.
In addition, mistletoe symbolizes love and reconciliation; pinecones symbolize new life and resurrection; berries symbolize the blood of Christ; fruits symbolize God's gifts; flowers symbolize beauty and joy; ribbons symbolize unity and harmony; bells symbolize joy and celebration; and ornaments symbolize God's blessings.
Symbolic Meaning of Wreaths in Christianity
Wreaths are more than just aesthetic decorations in Christianity; they also have a deeper symbolic value. They are circular, representing eternity, completion, perfection, and God's unending love. Wreaths are also connected with triumph, honor, glory, and victory.
In ancient times, wreaths were awarded as trophies or honors to athletes, poets, generals, and emperors. Wreaths are viewed as emblems of Christ's triumph over sin and death through his death and resurrection in Christianity.
Christians also aspire to receive the crown of triumph over sin and rule in paradise with Christ. Wreaths are often connected with knowledge, wisdom, and study. Wreaths were traditionally worn by intellectuals, philosophers, instructors, and students as a symbol of their intellectual endeavors.
Bonus Section: Different Interpretations of the Significance of Wreaths in the Bible
Christians have different views of the importance of wreaths in the Bible. Some perceive wreaths as simply decorations or triumph symbols, while others see them as having a deeper spiritual significance. According to one view, wreaths depict the perpetual cycle of life and death, reminding Christians of the cyclical nature of God's creation.
Wreaths can also be seen as a sign of God's provision and protection. David talks of God's provision in Psalm 23:5, stating, "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies." You pour oil on my head; my cup overflows." Some Christians understand this line as a reference to the victory wreath, which was put on the head of a triumphant warrior to symbolize God's provision and protection through times of difficulty.
Debates About the Appropriateness of Using Wreaths in Christian Worship
Christians disagree over the propriety of using wreaths in Christian worship. Some Christians claim that using wreaths is a pagan ritual that the church has accepted and detracts from Christian worship's actual spirit. Others argue that using wreaths validly expresses Christian faith and can be a powerful symbol of God's love and provision.
One of the primary criticisms about using wreaths in Christian worship is that they might be considered idolatrous, with the wreath becoming the center of devotion rather than God. Others argue that the use of wreaths can be a useful tool for teaching and communicating the gospel, as well as a helpful reminder of God's provision and love.
Perspectives from Various Christian Denominations on the Use of Wreaths
The use of wreaths in worship is seen differently by various Christian faiths. Wreaths, for example, are often used as part of the Advent season in the Roman Catholic Church, with each candle on the wreath signifying a distinct element of Christ's arrival. The Orthodox Church often uses wreaths as part of the Easter celebration, commemorating Christ's triumph over death.
The use of wreaths varies across Protestant groups. Some churches include wreaths in their Christmas decorations, while others ignore them. Some believe that the use of wreaths is a genuine representation of the Christian faith, while others believe that they are an unneeded distraction from the essential purpose of worship.
Wreaths have a long and complicated history in the Bible and Christian worship, with many interpretations and controversies about their meaning and place in the service.
Some Christians perceive wreaths as little more than ornaments, while others see them as a potent sign of God's provision and protection. Some Christian groups use wreaths in worship as part of their liturgical rituals, while others do not.