Legend of the Candy Cane
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
December 21, 2003


This is the week. Finally after weeks or even months of preparation, we get to celebrate Christmas. As that day approaches, let me ask you: What does Christmas mean to you?



Heard a good one this week...
What would happen if your mother dropped the Christmas dinner platter on the floor?
The downfall of Turkey, the breakup of China, and the overthrow of Greece.

Somebody went out on the streets and asked people why they celebrate Christmas. This video is the result.



You ask people on the street why they celebrate Christmas and you’ll get a variety of answers. Like we saw in the video, you’ll find answers that focus on family, on the gifts, on charity, on Santa, on religion… you’ll even find people who are dead-set against celebrating Christmas at all.

Of course, Christmas finds its roots in Christianity. The word “Christ” is found right there… Christ-mas, which literally means the sending of Jesus Christ from Heaven to Earth.

So when we celebrate Christmas, we celebrate the fact that Jesus, who the Bible tells us is God, gave up His rights and privileges as God in order to come to earth to restore our relationship with Him, a relationship that was broken thousands of years earlier when we as a race rebelled against Him.

This morning, we’re going to discover how this entire message—the entire message of Christmas—can be represented in this tiny little Candy Cane. I want you to listen to this story first, and then we’ll talk more about it.



Okay, that’s the Legend of the Candy Cane. And it’s a pretty interesting story, even for adults. Let me give you some more of the background of the Candy Cane.

Apparently, the first Candy Cane was created way back in 1670. At that time, there was a choirmaster in a church in Cologne, Germany who was concerned about young children squirming in their seats during the church service. So he designed this candy to hand out to the kids to keep them occupied. Of course, somebody would complain if he simply handed out candy… somebody always complains… so he bent the end of the candy to make it look like a shepherd’s staff. And by doing that he made it a “religious” candy, so nobody had a reason to complain.

It didn’t take long before people discovered how well the candies could hang on a Christmas tree, so the Canes quickly began selling commercially. All this for a plain white sugar candy with a bend in it.

The stripes were added sometime later, probably in the 1920s. One version of the story, which is probably an urban myth, states that a confectioner in Indiana wanted the candy to communicate a message, so he added the red and green stripes to represent specific parts of the Bible message.

But while this story is most likely untrue, the message is very true. So what we’re going to do over the next several minutes is talk about some of the features of the Candy Cane that communicate a message. And to help you follow along, here’s a Candy Cane…



The Legend of the Candy Cane:


The Shape:

A. “J” stands for “Jesus”

The shape in the form of a “J” serves to remind us that the whole Christmas season is meant to celebrate Jesus. It’s become a cliché, but Jesus really is the reason for the season.

The name Jesus literally means, “God will help”.

Literally means “God will help”

How does God help us through the person of Jesus?


The Bible uses several terms to refer to Jesus other than His name. Let me just cover a few of them as they relate to the Christmas story:


Other References for Jesus:

  • Immanuel = “God is with us”

    (also spelled with an E)

    Matthew 1:23 (NLT)
    "Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and he will be called Immanuel (meaning, God is with us)."

    This isn’t another name for Jesus. It’s more like a description of who He is. Kind of like this: I can say, “I am Shera’s husband.” My name is not Shera’s Husband, but it does describe who I am.

    I have a cousin who lives out in Vancouver. A few years ago, she came to visit with her husband and their two kids. Their daughter, Amanda, who was about 4 years old at the time, really hit it off with Shera. So ever since then she’s wanted to come back to visit Shera and the man who lives with Shera. Well, okay. That’s not my name, but it does describe who I am.

    “Immanuel” describes Jesus. He is the God who lives with us.


  • Christ = “the Anointed One, the expected king and deliverer” (also, Messiah)

    After Jesus was born, an angel appeared to some shepherds and told them…

    Luke 2:11 (NIV)
    Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.

    He is the Anointed One in that He has no equals. We’re told He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. And He came to deliver us from the bondage of sin and guilt and to free us to live the lives we were meant to live within a relationship with God.

    In that same verse, He is called the Saviour.


  • Saviour = “one who rescues from destruction”

    Without Jesus, we’re all destined for Hell. Because of our rebellion against our Creator, that’s what we deserve. Because of our sinfulness in the light of God’s holiness, that’s where we belong. But because of Jesus, we can receive forgiveness. Our slate can be wiped clean. And we can look forward to an eternity with God in Heaven.

The Candy Cane looks like a “J”. It reminds us of Jesus. But turn it over and it resembles something else…


B. Resembles a Shepherd’s staff

The very first people to hear about the birth of Jesus, apart from Mary and Joseph and a few barn animals, was a group of shepherds on a nearby hillside. Why?

Why were the shepherds the first to hear?


  • The message was first proclaimed to shepherds, the “Average Joes” of the day.

    The fact that the shepherds were the first to hear is a message to us that Jesus didn’t come only for the rich and famous. He didn’t just come for Kings and politicians. He came for everyone. The shepherds were essential to the Middle-eastern economy, but they certainly weren’t held in high esteem. They were just ordinary people, working shift-work, who received the tremendous announcement of the birth of Jesus.

  • Jesus is the Great Shepherd who gathers us, His sheep, into the fold of God.

    Jesus Himself declared…

    John 10:14-15 (NLT)
    "I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.”


The Colours:

Red – reminds us of the suffering of Jesus

Specifically, the red reminds us of the crucifixion of Jesus. As part of the process, Jesus was whipped. The three small red stripes on the Candy Cane reminds us of the lashing Jesus took. The thicker red stripe reminds us of the blood that He shed. It reminds us that He suffered and bleed and died for us. Our rebellion, our sinfulness, required punishment. But Jesus took our place, suffered for our sins, and did it all so the penalty would be served and we could go free. And the great news is that even though Jesus died, He didn’t stay dead. Jesus proved that He was God and that He has authority over sin and death by rising from the dead. That’s what we celebrate at Easter.


White – reminds us of the purity of forgiveness

Psalm 51:7 (NLT)
Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Isaiah 1:18 (NLT)
"Come now, let us argue this out," says the LORD. "No matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can remove it. I can make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you as white as wool.”

The white on the Candy Cane reminds us that Jesus offers us forgiveness and that we can we washed pure. But here’s the key: we must intentionally receive His forgiveness. He’s offering it, but we must reach out and take it. We do that by expressing to Him that we’re sorry for the times we’ve hurt Him and we ask His forgiveness. We tell Him that we accept His leadership in our lives. And we tell Him that we choose to live for Him from this moment on.

If you’re here this morning and you’ve never received the forgiveness of God and you’ve never begun a relationship with the risen Christ, then you can do that this morning right where you are. All you have to do is pray silently from your heart and invite Him into your life. And you can be sure that He will wash you as white as snow.

There’s one more colour that is sometimes included on a Candy Cane…


Green – reminds us of the new life Jesus offers.

Jesus said…

John 10:10 (NLT)
“The thief's purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.”

“Give Him all your anxieties and fears--and accept His peace in return. Only He can give you the inner calm for which you long. He wants you to have it, if you will only take it. Think of it as a Christmas gift from your heavenly Father.”
~ Thomas Pless, 'All Is Calm' from 'Let Every Heart'

Jesus came to give you a full and abundant life now, and He also came to give you eternal life with Him.

Romans 6:23 (NLT)
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

With all the gifts being handed out this week and all the gifts you hope to receive, I’m here to tell you that the very greatest gift you could ever receive is this gift of eternal life that is being offered to you.


So where are you at this morning? Do you know this Jesus? Do you understand what Christmas is all about? Have you experienced the hope, love, peace and joy you can have because of Jesus coming to earth as a baby? If not, then you can realize this morning that this Legend of the Candy Cane is much more than a legend… it’s a reality. And it can be a reality for you today.

Would you close your eyes for a moment? Here’s what I want you to do this morning. If you’re here and you don’t know Jesus and you’ve never experienced His love and forgiveness in your life but you’d like to, I want you to look up and make eye contact with me. I’m not going to mention you by name, but I want to be able to pray for you.


Hand out Candy Canes & Bookmarks.



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