Probably the most common symbol of the Christmas Season is the Christmas tree. Either live or artificial, it adorns every dwelling. The tree means something different to a lot of different people, but for everyone universally, it speaks of joy and celebration. Just think of the memories you hold dear connected to this tree.
Did you pick a live tree or an artificial one? If you acquired a live tree, did you cut your own from a tree farm or buy it off a tree lot? Years ago, I came home with a tree and my daughter remarked, “That’s a Charlie Brown tree.” That’s the last time I got one by myself. By the way, isn’t it contradictory that we hack down a live tree and still call it “live”? Even though we might fill the metal base with water faithfully, needles start to fall. The tree is altogether dead. Right after Christmas it’s hauled away or burned.
But stop right there. Spiritual truth abounds in the tree!
It is “evergreen,” reminding us that the promises of God are still alive and remain as true as the day they were first uttered. God’s promises of a messiah born came true in the Babe of Bethlehem. And the hope and peace and salvation the messiah brought stays green forever. Not a needle of God’s Word falls lifeless to the barren earth. Furthermore, notice which direction that evergreen points. It directs our attention up to the heavens, reminding us that our life on earth is only part of our entire journey. By the grace of God, heaven is our eternal home.
The tree itself speaks out, but so do the ornaments that adorn the tree - colorful and glistening, sparkling and bright. I remember as a child getting as close as possible to an ornament, peering into its reflecting beauty, entering into my own world of wonder and awe. Enchanting! We all know that Christmastime has its moments of sadness, gloom, and sometimes even despair. But the ornaments are meant to remind us that the Good News of the Savior being born can lift us from despair and instill joy within the burdened human heart.
The Christmas tree speaks out and calls people together. Some of you might well make a practice of sleeping by the tree, maybe the whole family, and even keeping the lights on throughout the night. In the cold of winter and Christmastime, my wife and I often sleep by the wood stove in the family room where the Christmas tree is. Imagine, people in their mid seventies caught up in the glow of the lights!—and more!! The lights remind us of the true light, Christ. In the midst of darkness He shines brightly; in fact, the darker life sometimes gets, the brighter He shines.
Ellie, my wife, and I always keep the tree up until Epiphany, January 6, when we celebrate the visit of the Wise Men. Only after that do we take down the tree. Ornaments are removed and stored for another year. The tree looks so dry, brittle, and barren. But its “life” still is not over. I cut off all the branches and make it into a cross, symbolic of Christ’s being born to die, to die for my sins and yours. The tree that speaks out Christmas continues to make its voice heard in the cry of Christ from the cross and the voice of the angel, “He is risen.”
Listening to the voice of the tree,
Chaplain Charles Lentner