George Bowers: Oh Christ’s tree, oh Christ’s tree
With less than two weeks ’til Christmas, most of us have our trees up by now. It’s a little crazy to think that we would go outdoors, chop down perfectly healthy trees, drag them inside shedding needles all over our living rooms, and then try to keep them alive for several weeks. Of course, an artificial tree solves many of these problems but is an enormous humbug for the Christmas purist.
Christmas trees come to us from the 16th century Germans who brought evergreens into their homes at Christmastime. Tradition credits Martin Luther for first adding candles to simulate starlight twinkling through the branches. Although many initially viewed these trees as pagan, Queen Victoria encouraged her husband, Prince Albert, to decorate one in 1848, and this did much to popularize these now well-loved Christmas icons.
Over 100 million homes worldwide will have Christmas trees this month, including 35-40 million in the U.S. It appears the Christmas tree is here to stay. And aside from adding much needed color and beauty to our homes in the dead of winter, Christmas trees can also remind us of Jesus in several ways.
First of all, their evergreen character reminds us of the everlasting life we can receive by trusting in this newborn Messiah. At one point in his ministry, Jesus proclaimed, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” He then backed up those claims by raising Lazarus from the grave and later rose from the dead himself. At a time of year when all other trees appear dead and cold, evergreens personify life and vitality! These trees can remind us of the new and eternal life Jesus came to share with the world.
Secondly, Christmas trees can remind us of how Jesus himself was cut down in the prime of his life at age 33. Depending on the specie, most live Christmas trees are cut between 6 and 15 years of age when they are just getting started. Most have been carefully shaped and manicured for the perfect appearance and it seems a shame to “slaughter” them so young. But this was their purpose from their planting. From the very beginning, they were destined to be sawed down to grace our living rooms. So too, our Savior was destined before the creation of the world to die young for the sins of humankind. As we search for the tree with the perfect shape, size, and color, may we remember Jesus who was perfect in every way and was then felled in his prime for us.
Thirdly, decorating our chosen trees with lights, tinsel, ornaments, popcorn, and icicles can point us toward the glorification of the Lord Jesus. Just as our military heroes are decorated for meritorious service, how much more has Jesus been decorated in Heaven for laying down his life to save all humanity. May we not only decorate our trees, but truly give Jesus the glory he deserves by decorating him with our praise and worship.
Finally, and most importantly, may this tree remind us of the most important tree of all, the one upon which Jesus died. Even though Christmas celebrates Jesus’ birth, this day would mean nothing without his eventual death and resurrection. Even though mankind sinned by eating fruit of Eden’s forbidden tree, Jesus died on the tree of Calvary in order that we might partake of the tree of life and live eternally.
As we gather around our Christmas trees, may they remind us of the one whose birth we celebrate and move us to worship him more deeply. Merry Christmas!
George Bowers Sr. is the pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren in Woodstock and the author of four books, including his latest book of poetry, “Wit and Wisdom of the Woods.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.