If our family has to set up a Christmas tree, I want it to be a reminder of the Lord Jesus Christ, no more, no less. If we are honest enough, we do get excited in putting it up year after year, a family ritual that we look forward to. But I’ll bet most of us have not stopped to ask, “What is this really for? What does it tell about the Savior who is coming to the world?” We just know that the Christmas tree is an important icon in the celebration of the birth of Christ passed down to us from generation to generation. I won’t go further than that although I know it would stir up debates if we dig deeper as to its origins, whether it speaks purely of Christianity or tainted with pagan practice.
The first Christmas tree, which finds its origins in Germany in the 16th century, was a real, evergreen tree. It could be pine, spruce, or fir decorated with flickering candles. According to history.com, it was Martin Luther, a German friar who began the Protestant Reformation, who first added lighted candles wired around the branches of an evergreen tree erected in their family’s living room.
We know that most Christian homes in North America have the advantage of erecting a freshly-cut evergreen Christmas tree. They can find them from near their homes or buy from Christmas tree farms which, I believe, can be found everywhere.
But not so in the tropical Philippines. Two years ago when I first had these questions about the Christmas tree, I determined that if we had to set it up (again!), it must be a real evergreen. But that was impossible. I didn’t know of any Christmas tree farm anywhere in the Philippines (although this year, I resolve to research on it). Last year, since we were scheduled to buy a new tree, I requested my husband to choose specifically a faux spruce tree. I thought that was the nearest we could get to the original.
So, we had our “spruce” tree, so tall it reached the ceiling (for me, that wasn’t necessary), and some pine cones. I preferred it to stay that way: evergreen with some pine cones here and there, period. And maybe a string of tiny lights in the color of the twinkling stars in the heavens above wired around it to light it up at night. But the kids wouldn’t hear of it. Before I knew it, they had hauled the boxes of balls, beads, and other Christmas ornaments and began to adorn the tree. “Poor tree!” I thought as the green needles disappeared under a decade’s worth of accumulated ornaments. My heart felt burdened like the heavily-decorated tree.
Don’t we do that to ourselves, too? Carrying unnecessary loads that encumber our faith walk? I myself am still learning to not live in superfluity.
We come to the heart of the matter. Two Christmases ago, I saw the meaning of the evergreen tree we set up faithfully year after year. It was a private interpretation for me and a reason to keep the tradition. Like the evergreens which stay the same though seasons change, so does the Lord God Almighty. He stays the same. He never changes.
For I am the Lord, I change not… (Mal. 3:6)
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Heb. 13:8)
Jesus’ love is evergreen. I want to see the Christmas tree as a representation of it. And if only for this reason, I would acquiesce to setting it up when the season to celebrate the Savior’s birth comes around. May all our Christmases be all about the Lord Jesus Christ!
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Journey with Jesus,