A Chrismon is a Christian symbol that is representative of Jesus Christ and Christianity. Chrismons are rich in the meaning and classical history of various time periods and cultures of the Christian faith. Used as Christmas tree ornaments, the Chrismons are meant to enhance the essence of the true meaning of Christmas, according to Christian tradition.
The Chrismon ornaments that adorn the Christmas tree at Good Shepherd Lutheran are from the craftsmanship of Kenedy resident Geneva Smedley. Smedley was born in Gillett in 1934 and has deep roots in Karnes County. Smedley learned from a young age to work and create with her hands out of necessity.
“When I was a little girl, about ten years old, my mother got me started in embroidery and sewing,” said Smedley. “Back then you didn’t go to the store to buy clothes; everybody had patterns and you made your own clothes.”
A school teacher for 39 years, Smedley retired from the education profession and moved to Kenedy in December of 1996, where she soon began a passion and love for creating Chrismons.
The old-fashioned necessity of being skilled with her hands led to the artistry and creativity that has become both a hobby and labor of love.
Smedley’s style of Chrismons are made from plastic canvas, which is a plastic sheet with small holes in it that one can cross-stitch various patterns and designs. A common pattern for the Chrismons are various historical Christian crosses, such as the Byzantine cross, the Good Friday cross, the Jerusalem cross, among others.
Other Chrismon designs include an eight-pointed star, letter symbols, crowns, ichthys (fish symbol), picture frames with nativity scenes, and many more.
Smedley spent much of 2012 making nearly 500 Chrismons from 47 different patterns and designs, even working diligently on the meaningful Christmas ornaments throughout the hot summer months.
“This has been the nicest summer that I had,” said Smedley. “It was a race against Advent to get all the Chrismons finished because the Christmas trees always go up at Advent, which is the first Sunday in December; so that was my race against time to try and get everything finished.”
Aside from Good Shepherd, Smedley also gave Christmas tree ornament Chrismons this year to other Lutheran churches as well, such as to Faith Lutheran in Beeville, St. John Lutheran in Denhawken, St. John Lutheran in Lindenau, and St. John Lutheran in Westhoff.
Rev. Wally Schievelbein, pastor of the Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church, shares his thoughts and appreciation for the handmade Chrismons that elegantly decorate the church’s Christmas tree.
“First off, they’re just incredibly beautiful,” said Schievelbein. “Beyond that, they’re all symbols that point beyond themselves and to the reason for the season.”
Schievelbein states that the Chrismons are so much more than just mere holiday decoration, but rather they are an important historic lesson and reminder of a sacred past.
“It ties us together with Christians throughout the ages,” he said. “The symbols may not be common now, but they were at one point. They continue to represent how the light of Christ was shown throughout history.
“When you can look at the Christmas tree and in the many ways it tells the story of the Savior’s birth, rather than the commercial Christmas that the rest of the world tries to thrust upon us, it is something very special. That’s what Geneva Smedley’s gift to the church does. It enables us to find new ways to tell the story.”
Schievelbein and others believe that the Christmas story is something so much more than a mad dash toward consumerism and materialism. It is something so much deeper and greater than decorations, shopping, holiday marketing ploys, and the giving and getting of things that fade with time.
“In the birth of Christ, God came into the world and became one with the world,” Schievelbein concludes. “It’s a declaration on God’s part. Christmas represents God’s decision that the world is worth saving.”