Christmas time is here! I love this time of year don’t you? In this post I wanted to share the candy cane gospel. Maybe you have heard of it. If you’re a youth pastor, small group leader or someone who may need a great way to share the gospel this post is for you.
I remember a church member sharing the candy cane gospel with me in my second church I ever served. I never really investigated the origin of the candy cane until now. In my research, I found a lot of articles. The most common claim of the origins of the candy cane are about an individual from Indiana.
The claim that candy canes were created by “a candymaker in Indiana” who “stained them with red stripes to show the stripes of the scourging Jesus received” is similarly lacking in documentation and historically problematic. (One has to wonder how it is we supposedly know that one specific person invented the candy cane, we know where he lived, and we know precisely why he made candy canes the way he did, yet no one even knows his name.) The existence of candy sugar sticks with colored stripes has been documented at least as far back as 1844, but visual evidence of the J-shaped, white-with-a-red-stripe modern candy cane did not appear until the beginning of the 20th century1
The strongest connection one might make between the origins of the candy cane and any intentional Christian association is to guess that possibly some unknown person, at some indefinite time, took a long-existing form of sweet (i.e., straight white sticks of sugar candy) that was already associated with Christmas and produced bent versions of it to represent a shepherd’s crook and/or make it easier to hang on Christmas trees, but even that general association is nothing more than mere supposition with no supporting evidence behind it.2
This particular source is definitely not on the Christian side, but it does shine some light and gives facts on the origins of the candy cane.
In 1919 Bob McCormack began making candy canes for local use and sales in Albany, Georgia, and by the middle of the century his company (originally the Famous Candy Company, then the Mills-McCormack Candy Company, and later Bobs Candies) had become one of the world’s leading candy cane producers. But candy cane manufacturing initially required a fair bit of labor that limited production quantities (the canes had to be bent manually as they came off the assembly line in order to create their ‘J’ shape,) and it was McCormack’s brother-in-law, a Catholic priest named Gregory Harding Keller, who came up with the solution: Father Keller invented the Keller Machine that automated the process of shaping straight candy sticks into candy canes.3
After seeing some of the research, I will be careful to state the candy cane was created with Jesus in mind. I will go with God is sovereign and that it is no accident that this candy has so much symbolism with the greatest gift we have in Christ.
The Candy Cane Gospel & Story
Long ago there were two villages in a far-off land. One was in a valley, and one was on a mountain top. The people in the mountain village wanted to give each person in the valley a Christmas gift.
So the mountain townspeople formed a committee to think of something special. Money was limited, and each gift had to be of equal value to each person. After much time and discussion a decision was finally reached. The town’s candy maker, an elderly gentleman who had loved Jesus for many years, came up with an idea—the candy cane.
Now, you may be thinking, what is so special about a candy cane—and how can it ever be tied in with the real meaning of Christmas? Well, here is how…and why…
1. The candy cane is in the shape of a shepherd’s staff. Jesus is our Shepherd, and we are His flock. A sheep follows his own shepherd, knows his voice, trusts him and knows that he is totally safe with him. The sheep will follow no other shepherd than their own. In the same way, if we belong to Jesus, we are to follow only Him. (John 10:11; Psalm 23:1; Isaiah 40:11)
2.Turned over, the candy cane is a “J,” the first letter of Jesus’ name. (Luke 1:31) It is made of hard candy to remind us that Christ is the “rock” of our salvation.
3.The wide red stripes on the candy cane represent the blood Jesus shed on the cross for each one of us so that we can have eternal life through Him. He restores us and cleanses us with His shed blood—the only thing that can wash away our sin. (Luke 22:20)
4.The white stripes on the candy cane represent Jesus’ virgin birth and His pure, sinless life. He is the only human being ever who never committed a single sin, even though He was tempted just as we are. (1 Peter 2:22)
5. The narrow red stripes on candy canes symbolize Jesus’ stripes, or scars, which He got when He was arrested and whipped. The Bible says we are healed (of sin) because He took those wounds. (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24)
6.The flavoring in the candy cane is peppermint, which is similar to hyssop. Hyssop is of the mint family and was used in Old Testament times for purification and sacrifice. (John 19:29; Psalm 51:7)
7. When we break our candy cane, it reminds us that Jesus’ body was broken for us. When we have communion, it is a reminder of what He did for us. (1 Corinthians 11:24)
8. AND, if we share our candy cane and give some to someone else because we love that person, we are sharing the love of Jesus. (1 John 4:7,8)
God gave Himself to us when He sent Jesus to earth to save us. He loves us so much that He wants us to spend eternity with Him. We are assured of that when we accept Jesus into our hearts as our Savior. (John 1:12; John 3:3,16)
Some people believe this story of the candy cane is only a legend. Others believe it really happened this way. We do not know for sure exactly how the candy cane was invented, but one thing is certain…it is an excellent picture of Christ and His love for you.