We have some weird traditions don’t we? A rabbit hides decorated eggs and we go find them, a cherub supposedly shoots arrows that apparently make us fall in love, children of all ages dress up in costumes of their choosing and can go receive candy from strangers. You have to admit, if you look at these statements at face value, they are bizarre and don’t make that much sense either. But if there was one tradition that seems to puzzle many, it is the Christmas Tree. Think about it. You chop down a tree, or buy a fake one, you bring it into you house, decorate it, put a star or an angel on top, and on December 25th presents are under it. What in the world does that have to do with the Birth and gospel message of Jesus Christ?! Actually….a lot.
Now I know it seems like I’m messing with your mind, but lets be honest, You’ve wondered why you lug a 30 pound tree into your living room every year, and what it has to do with Jesus’ birth. You see we don’t give the Christmas tree enough credit. We just think that it is just another tradition that doesn’t make logical sense, but I believe that God is trying to explain something about Himself to the millions of people around the world who put up this festive tree. He is trying to make a point that we so often over look. I pray that by the end of this article, that you will look at the Christmas Tree as a symbol of God’s grace, and His love for us, rather than a symbol of another confusing Holiday tradition.
There are many origins to the Christmas tree and its beginnings some believe that it started in Germany around the 1600’s, but it is most likely that the Christmas Tree is a decendant of a tree called the paradise tree from the Middle ages. During the Middle ages, there were plays called the mystery plays. They featured the story of Adam and Eve and how sin became introduced into the world by Eve and Adam biting of the fruit of knowledge and evil. There was only one prop in this whole entire play and that was a tree adorned with apples. The play made such an impact on audiences, that people started bringing trees into their homes on December 24th, which was known as the day of feast of Adam and Eve. The reason why people did this, because the tree meant something. It was a tree of death, but also a tree of life. As time went on people started decorating the tree with apples, paper roses, gold foil, and communion wafers. And soon after it started featured dolls and candy, Seems like some odd adornments for a tree, but in 1650, a philosopher and theologian by the name of Johann dannhauer shed light on this tree. “the Christmas or fir tree, which people set up in their houses, hang with dolls and sweets, and afterwards shake and deflower… Whence comes this custom I know not; it is child’s play … Far better were it to point the children to the spiritual cedar-tree, Jesus Christ.” The Christmas tree was originally meant to point to Jesus Christ. It went from being a symbol to death and life, to a commercialized tree. But I still believe that even with our ornaments and multi colored LED lights, it still points to Jesus.
I’ll break it down slowly.
Tree: represents life or the life born. Jesus is known as the “tree of life” according to Revelation 22:1-3.
Ornaments: represent character traits and foreshadowing of Jesus. If you look at the earlier ornaments which were apples, paper roses, gold foil, and communion wafers, they all represented something about Jesus.
The apples: represented the fruit of sin under the paradise tree. This would show that Christ was coming as the second Adam, and remind us He was coming to take away our sin, but also if you look in Song of Solomon chapter 2, which is about the bride admiring her bridegroom. (One of the reasons why the Song of Solomon is in the Bible and why marriage even exists, is to give an adequate picture and description of Jesus as our bridegroom and the church (i.e. Christians) as His bride. ) The bride says in verse 3 “ Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among young men.” Jesus here is referred to as an apple tree. This does NOT mean that Jesus is the tree of knowledge and evil. The apple represents the coming of a second Adam. And the tree represents the tree of life. This shows that the second Adam, Jesus is the tree of life.
The paper roses: come from Song of Solomon 2:1 where Jesus, the Bridegroom is referred to as “Rose of Sharon”.
The gold foil shows His royalty. There are several places that show this. If you look at the Tabernacle, almost everything was gold, and if you look in revelation, there is a golden alter before God(Revelation 9:13) Gold is meant to show the royalty of an individual. Today many still have gold foil on their trees, it just goes by the name of tinsel.
The communion wafers: show that Jesus died so that we could have communion with God. Communion wafers in the church is the body of Christ and the flesh that He gave. If it wasn’t for His flesh and blood, we wouldn’t be able to have communion with God. (Matthew 26:26-29, John 14:6)
The Lights: represent that Jesus is the Light of the World.
The Star: represents the star that led the wise men to Jesus, or if you prefer and angel it represents the good news the angels told the Sheppard’s of Christ’s birth.
I could just leave it at that. Wish you a Merry Christmas and tell you Jesus is the reason for the season, but I think there is still a little more behind our favorite tree about not only Christ, but our relationship that Christ desires with us.
I want you to look at your tree and in your mind (don’t actually do this, it won’t go over well with your beloved family members.) take away the lights, the star, the ornaments, the tinsel, even take away the needles, and the branches, and what do you have? The backbone of the tree, or the trunk. It is the foundation of the tree, in fact, the tree would not be a tree if it weren’t for the trunk, because it holds everything together. Jesus is the foundation of our faith, He holds it all together. But here is what Jesus did. That backbone trunk split in two one piece was laid across the other, and they were binded together by a rope. The backbone is no longer a foundation but a cross which represents us. We have no foundation if it were not for Christ. And the rope binding the two pieces together, that’s our sin. Christ, our foundation, became like us so that he could be broken and have our sin bind Him instead of us and He died in our place. The tree of life was stripped of its life features, split in two and became a symbol of death, which was suppose to be our symbol given to us by our sin. But here is the amazing part of the story, He came back to life. The cross a symbol of death was defeated and was turned back into a symbol of life, a tree of life if you will. And here is the even more amazing part the tree of life and the cross now abide in each other, because Christ abides in us and we, as His followers, abide in Him. ( John 15:5-7)
Because we are one, and we abide in each other, that means a few things. In John 14:12 Jesus exclaims “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.” This means that we have the authority Jesus had through His name. That includes to “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, and raise the dead” (Matthew 10:8) and also being a light to the world(which represents the lights on a Christmas tree) The gold foil that represents royalty is now for us as well for according to Galatians 4:3-7 we are sons and daughters of God and are therefore co-heirs with Christ, because Christ abides in us, we have communion and communication with God. And like the star we are to point to Jesus and like the angels, proclaim Him and the gift He is to the world. And as for the presents under the tree, since Christ was our gift, we are to give others the gift that we have received through Him by loving others in Christ love, praying for others, and if the Holy Spirit presents the opportunity, telling them about Jesus. Who knew that a tree with presents under it, could tell us so much about our Savior and the love He has for us?
Some information and research was provided by http://www.orlutheran.com/html/chrtree.html