A Christmas Tour of Jackson.
During the Christmas season, Mississippians as well as people from all nations reflect upon and celebrate the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ. Symbols of Christ, such as crosses, stars, and manger scenes, appear on churches, on commercial establishments, and on homes and lawns.
The numerous churches around Jackson put forth an extra effort to encourage everyone to think about the birth of Jesus during this special season of the year. This expanded effort by Jackson's Christians is not unlike the efforts of all the cities, towns, and local municipalities throughout the state. What is different, however, is the year-round presence of abundant Christian symbols, highlighting Christ as Lord, that are recognizable throughout the downtown area of the city.
To view these symbols of Christ that reflect both upon Him and His teachings, you have only to look around in almost every block of the capital city's downtown area. Start on High Street and drive due west until you reach the entrance to the state Capitol building grounds. Upon entering the park-like grounds you will approach the magnificent Breaux Arts style monument of a building from the north or backside. As you approach the building, let your eyes focus on the center stained glass panel located in the middle of the third floor level of this four-story structure. These panels depict historic events in our state's heritage. They are exquisite, and all three are believed to be the work of the master stained glass craftsman, Louis Tiffany. The figure of a lady who symbolizes our state represents the theme of this important government building. She is the embodiment of us as a people; her name is "Mississippi." Of particular importance are the two objects she holds in her hands. Gripped in her left hand is a sword intertwined with olive branches symbolizing our state's motto: "Valor through arms." Along with our will to survive, the second object reflects our desire to recognize and honor the Lord God as our creator; clutched in her right hand and held against her breast, "Mississippi" holds the Bible.
Now drive around to the front of the building, and look up. High atop the central rotunda, some two hundred feet in the air is a majestic golden eagle. Besides representing strength, independence, and freedom, the eagle is the Christian symbol of God freeing our souls from the slavery of sin. His carrying us to safety upon eagles' wings represents salvation from God by His Grace, through faith in Jesus Christ.
From the front of the Capitol as you continue your drive first east then south to exit the Capitol grounds, you will notice the elegant, gothic First Baptist Church. This building was designed by Jackson native, Noah Webster Overstreet. Begun in 1925 and finished in 1927, this building now houses the largest congregation of worshipers in the state. It also houses the fourth largest church organ in North America. The large arched doorways remind us that Christ said: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).
Turn right onto Mississippi Street, and then after driving about one hundred feet, turn left (south) onto Congress Street. However, before you make this turn pay close attention to the Department of State Building at the corner of Congress and Mississippi. This state government building is known officially as the Heber Ladner Building. Notice the four lotus leaf topped columns, which appear to support the roof and also do much to enhance the building's entrance. Now look closely at each of the painted cast iron lampposts, which are in front of the outermost columns. The square bases of the posts are decorated on each corner with the figure of a ram's head. In the book of Genesis, Abraham was preparing to sacrifice Isaac when an angel of the Lord stopped him. Afterwards, "Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram. He went over an took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son." The ram, or lamb, is also a significant symbol in the New Testament. From John 1:29 we read the wo rds of John the Baptist: "John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, 'Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!'"
Turn left down Congress Street, and continue ahead down South Congress while looking to your right for the state historical marker in front of Galloway Memorial Methodist Church. This church has the distinction of being the very first church of any denomination in the city. In fact this church, like the Presbyterians and the Baptists after them, was organized inside the original state capitol building. The Methodists used the capitol building for Sunday school and preaching services for three years from 1836 until they were able to construct their first church building in 1839. John Wesley, one of the greatest Methodist preachers, taught for over fifty years that by grace, those who believe Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior will gain eternal life.
Drive ahead for another block, and turn right onto Amite Street. Continue on to the next street. At the northwest corner of Amite and West Street, high on top of the spire of St. Peter's Catholic Cathedral is a large golden cross. the cross is there to remind the world that Jesus is Lord!
Continue on Amite for another block, then turn left onto Lamar Street, and just before turning left again, this time onto East Capitol Street, look at the architectural details on the old (Merchants Bank Building) 18-story building, which makes up a large portion of the AmSouth Bank Complex. This building, half dating from 1929 and the other half from 1958, is literally wrapped with symbolic designs and figures. Above the windows on the 18th, 17th, and 15th floors, perched high near the top of the structure are 24 eagles. Above the first row of windows are 40 Celtic crosses inside a large circle or disc. Placed between each circled cross are roses of Sharon, also in a circle and also 40 in number. In the Song of Solomon, 2:1, the Lord said, "I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valley." Closer to street level, actually all in a line directly above the first row of windows, 50 stars of David are visible. They are sometimes referred to as the seal of Solomon, who is remembered for his wisdom. His last written words from the book of Ecclesiastes are: "Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man."
Now, drive up Capitol Street to view St. Andrews Episcopal Cathedral on your right and the Governor's mansion on your left. Inside St. Andrew's bell tower are sixteen bells which chime the Westminster prayer on the quarter, half, three-quarters, and hour. The prayer, brought to the Christian's conscience with the sound of each bell, is: "Lord, during this hour/ Be thou our guide/ So by thy power/ No foot shall slide."
Across the street, affixed to the iron gates of the Governor's mansion in the form of a large medallion is the great seal of Mississippi. The largest symbol incorporated into our state seal is the eagle. Once again the believer is reminded of God's words from Exodus 19:4, "You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings."
Turn right onto South Congress Street, drive two blocks, turn left onto Pascagoula Street, and park for a few minutes opposite the Hinds County Courthouse. Built in 1930 and designed by architect C. H. Lindsey, this building has been described as a modern version of a Greek temple. The style of the building is based on Egyptian architecture. The commanding figure of Moses stands above the four mammoth stone sphinxes and other Egyptian motifs. Larger than life at 13 feet in height and weighing some six tons, Moses represents the man through whom God gave law to mankind. Behind him, standing above the south entrance to the building is a statue of Socrates: the man who interpreted law. The two stone tablets that Moses holds are chiseled with the Roman numerals one through ten. God gave man the law; the ten commandments, to show that no one can gain his own salvation by keeping the law; Jesus is the only man who ever lived who never broke one of God's laws. This statue of Moses reminds us that salvation comes by God's grace through faith in his son, Jesus Christ.
Finally, exit the city by continuing on Pascagoula Street. On your way to the interstate reflect on this thought: Pascagoula Street is named for the river near the Gulf Coast bearing the name of the Pascagoula Indians who at one time lived in that area. The word 'Pascagoula' means "bread people." Jesus said, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry" (John 6:35).
It is my hope that you have enjoyed your "Christmas" tour of Jackson.