Concerning Christmas Trees

A series of advent reflections regarding Christmas Trees designed for the church.

Tree in the box

Have we in fact reached the end of history?

Fukuyama, F., 1989. The end of history?. The national interest, (16), pp.3-18.

Esther 6:1

On that night the king could not sleep. And he gave orders to bring the book of memorable deeds, the chronicles, and they were read before the king. (use)

Matthew 24:3

As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" (use)

2 Peter 3:10-13

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (use)

Signs of Jesus return

Many years ago it was suggested that history had ended. The years went by with much of a muchness, the broad stroke of the previous year repeated with international events and elections perhaps providing markers in time. That is of course, in addition to birthdays and the associated excuses for parties. But scripture promises that not only is history not yet complete but that it will eventually come to an unmissable conclusion! A finale that can not be missed! In case you had missed it, Christmas is coming. As the mince pies have long been in the shops and the music has begun its seemingly infinite loop the Christmas trees also arrive playing their part in marking the progression of the year, and consequently the progression of the years. Scripture proclaims that Christ will return and advent and the trappings of Christmas call us to be prepared for it.

Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free; from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee. Israel's strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art; dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.

Wesley, C., 1744. Come, thou long expected Jesus.

Lights on the tree

Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.

Haskins, M.L., 1908. The Gate of the Year.

Psalm 119:105

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (use)

John 8:12

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (use)

Matthew 5:16

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (use)

The light and the lights

Putting the lights on the tree is perhaps the most risky part of Christmas tree erection. The wise check the lights work, but the enthusiasm of the moment may perhaps distract us, resulting in an incomplete illumination. Once present and lit, the lights on the tree throw a warming colourful glow into the darkness of the winter, welcoming us in and showing us the way. But the way to what? Pine needles in the foot, trodden baubles and perhaps even a trip hazard!

Scripture calls us to let our light shine in our private and public conduct so that others may give glory to God our father. But the reason we are able to is because of the reason for the season. We seek to follow the light of the world, Jesus Christ. The light that he provides not only illuminates our path here on earth but also directs us to the firm hope of eternity that we can have because of his death and resurrection.

What can I give Him, Poor as I am? — If I were a Shepherd I would bring a lamb; If I were a Wise Man I would do my part, — Yet what I can I give Him, — Give my heart.

Rossetti, C., 1872. In the Bleak Midwinter.

Assorted decorations

The science is clear: It is understood that we are facing an unprecedented global emergency. We are in a life or death situation of our own making. We must act now.

Extinction Rebellion., 2019. The Emergency.

Jeremiah 10:3

for the customs of the peoples are vanity. A tree from the forest is cut down and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman. (use)

Mark 13:31

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. (use)

Romans 3:23

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (use)

The mess that abounds

The artificial forest of Christmas trees gradually appearing around us is no replacement for the creation that has been gifted to humanity. Yet humanity continues to disregard its stewardship of creation. If it was just that the mess was limited to the geo-political sphere of concerns, such as climate change, we could perhaps consider dismissing it as beyond our responsibility. But, rather the mess continues down into our lives and relationships and into our conduct to others. Creation groans and disaster strikes which prompt us to observe that there must be something wrong. Occasionally for the briefest of moments, often celebrated in the movies, people are the best they can be and circumstances work out yet even after a scant moment, once again it all seems a mess, like the grand dinner many of us are anticipating in a few weeks, glorious and then a lot of washing up!

The bible proclaims that the mess is humanity's fault, but also promises the fixing of the mess and the renewal of creation. There is hope, it will be fixed but humanity, and more importantly you and I individually, must repent of our role in the mess. Having repented we can then look for our saviour, he whose birth we soon will celebrate, Jesus Christ.

No more let sins and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow Far as the curse is found, Far as the curse is found, Far as, far as, the curse is found.

Watts, I., 1719. Joy to the World.

Any trees in Christmas

So completely was Jesus bent upon saving sinners by the sacrifice of Himself, He created the tree upon which He was to die, and nurtured from infancy the men who were to nail Him to the accursed wood.

Winslow, O. 1864. The Foot of the Cross.

Genesis 2:9

And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (use)

Acts 5:30

The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. (use)

Revelation 2:7

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. (use)

The Tree of Life

As much as we might have reflected on them, Christmas trees have no place in the real Christmas story. I have avoided alluding to imagined narratives of trees that become cribs and other such devices. However, that is not to say that there is no place for a tree in the nativity.

Scripture speaks of a tree that stands in the garden of Eden and also stands in the New Jerusalem, the tree of life. Eating of the tree of life is declared as a reward to believers in Revelation, a return to the access enjoyed in Eden. Scripture also refers to the cross of Christ as a tree and in that we see perhaps the most important tree. Through the complete work of Jesus on the cross we can see how this access is restored.

Christmas speaks of the great hope of mankind as here we celebrate the saviour's, arrival and we can know with confidence that what was lost will be restored. All will be made right as the saviour has arrived, offered himself on the cross, resurrected and yet intercedes for us prior to his return. So enjoy the trappings of Christmas and let the Christmas trees remind you of the tree of life and also the cross of christ.

O come, Thou Key of David, come And open wide our heav'nly home; Make safe the way that leads on high, And close the path to misery. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Neale, J.M., 1861. O come, O come, Emmanuel.