The Christmas Tree Tradition
Read Genesis 2:4-17, Revelation 2:7; 22:14-15
“To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is the Paradise of God.”
The annual hunt for the Christmas tree brings back fond memories. In anticipation of the need, we would keep an eye out all year while trekking through the woods on the family farm in Idaho, looking for that perfect tree. In Idaho, the prize tree was a Blue Spruce (which not only was usually lusher than a white fir) which gave a bluish tint to the festive tree. About two weeks before Christmas my father would take the ax or bow saw, round up the kids, and then we would start our highly anticipated pilgrimage. As kids we would all spread out scouring the landscape, each claiming that we had found the perfect tree. The arguments would then ensue, with each providing the merits of our tree over the others. But in the end, Dad would be the final arbitrator. After each had our turn trying to cut down the awe-inspiring tree that was always better than the year before, Dad would finish the chore as each of us became worn out. With the kids in tow, we would then start the triumphant processional back to the house where the tree would be adorned on the top with a Christmas angel whose head was yearly bowing lower in humble adoration of the king. We attributed the slow movement of the Angel to some Christmas miracle, but in reality, it stemmed from the slow melting of the plastic caused by the hot bulb provided its radiant light.
The tradition of the Christmas Tree originated in Germany during the medieval play when it became a main prop of the play about Adam and Eve and the tree in the Garden of Eden. As it became popular, people would set up the tree in their homes on December 24, which was celebrated as the feast day of Adam and Eve. First adorned with Wafers (symbolling the Eucharist), it would later become adorned with Candles to symbolically represent Christ as the light of the world. It became popular among German Lutherans by the 18thcentury and by the 19th century was introduced to England by the German-born Prince Albert. The tradition would then be spread to other parts of the world by Western missionaries as they took the family tradition to their new homes in foreign countries. In the mid to late 1800s, craftsmen in German and Bohemia began to produce Blown-glass ornaments for the tree. By 1890, F.W. Woolworth was selling $25 million ornaments and electric tree lights annually.
The connection of the Christmas Tree to the tree in the Garden of Eden serves as a yearly reminder of the redemptive necessity of Christ’s life and work. In the Garden of Eden, God placed two trees, one, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, was a tree proving humanity with the choice of rebellion against God. The other tree provided us with the choice of life, one grounded in the eternal plan of God for humanity. When Adam and Even fatally chose the tree of rebellion, death, decay, and spiritual alienation from God became the fateful reality of all humanity. While God could have abandoned to our self-inflicted flight, he instead chose to provide a substitute in Christ who would bear the brunt of God’s wrath so that we might again have access to light. For those who accept the redemptive work of Christ, God gives us renewed access to eat of the tree of life (Rev. 2:7). It is this tree that stands in the new earth to provide an eternal source of healing for all people and nations (Revelation 22:1-2, 14-15). Thus, the Christmas tree serves to yearly remind us of our need for salvation and the fact that eternal life does not come from ourselves but from the gracious hand of God who provided us a savior to redeem us from our sin and have renewed access to the Tree of Life. May your tree serve as a yearly reminder that God’s grace gives us new hope in life.