The Christmas Tree: A Symbol of Hope
A few years ago, I decided to use some alone time to put up my Christmas tree. It sounded like a good idea. I could play Christmas music and really take my time. I failed to take into consideration that it would be my first time in the last twenty…
A few years ago, I decided to use some alone time to put up my Christmas tree. It sounded like a good idea. I could play Christmas music and really take my time.
I failed to take into consideration that it would be my first time in the last twenty years to decorate the tree without my daughter. As is right and proper, she married and moved away, tending her own house, and creating her own Christmas traditions and memories. But still, decorating without her seemed completely wrong.
As I unpacked the ornaments we had collected throughout the years, I was reminded of that day that twenty years ago when I went into labor while decorating our Christmas tree. The twins as they became known, arrived soon after. They came home from the hospital in Christmas stockings. I was in no rush as I examined the ornaments that warm, pudgy, often sticky hands had made, wondering where the time had gone. It goes by so fast, you know.
It was then it dawned on me what a beautiful gift the Christmas tree is.
There are many theories as to how Christmas trees came to be. Some believe the practice began in long before Christianity when people would place the evergreens in their homes to symbolize their hope that spring would come soon… or to ward off witches and ghosts..
Hope for new life? That sounds like something else that came from a tree. It was a different kind of tree that our Savior hung upon, but from it sprouted new life—a life eternal for all who accept it. A symbol of a pagan culture, reclaimed by the Good News and transformed into a sign of promise.
Another legend says the custom was started by Martin Luther when he fell in love with the beauty of a snow-covered tree beneath the starry sky as he walked through the woods. He brought it home and decorated it with candles which he lit in honor of Christ’s birth.
For me, it doesn’t matter how the custom started. I’m thankful for what it means to me now.
“He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” 1 Peter 2:24 ESV
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 ESV
...but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 ESV
In Scripture, the word tree was often used to mean a wooden cross like the one upon which Jesus crucified. Jesus bore the punishment for our sins on a tree—a wooden cross—so that we might have eternal life.
I believe that’s why we chose the evergreen tree to celebrate the Messiah’s birth. Evergreen means always green, always alive, which reminds us that as Christians, we too have been born again in Christ to be ever alive—evergreen. It is a beautiful symbol of what Christ did for us on the bare wooden branches of a cross.
What Satan meant for evil, Christ turned into good (see Genesis 15:20). What better reminder than an evergreen tree?
What about the ornaments we hang on these evergreen boughs? Ornaments are defined as things that lend to or enhance the beauty of something. Some may choose to elaborately decorate their trees with matching ornaments, all focused on a certain aesthetic or theme. These trees are often stunning to behold.
But that’s not the way I do it. Our tree is a snapshot of our life. Years of love and laughter, hard times and good times all come together in the branches of our evergreen tree. Ornaments made by tiny hands and too much glue. Ornaments passed down in our family or given by friends. Ornaments that commemorate special occasions like our first Christmas as husband and wife, the year our twins were born, and the trip we took to Rome. Ornaments that represent some of our favorite things. Ornaments that fill our hearts with sweet memories and remind us that God is faithful and good.
A lemon, a submarine, and a blue ball with tiny fingers covered in white paint to look like snowmen are just a few of the things that adorn my tree. In the same way this eclectic gathering decorate the tree, memories made with my husband, the gift of life-long friendships, and the wonders of being a parent adorn my life.
The ornaments on my tree represent much of what is beautiful in my life, and so much that I am thankful for. (You can check out what I shared about my most treasured gifts here.)
For me, the Christmas tree is a sacred thing—an evergreen reminder of my eternal life bought on a completely different kind of tree, a life made beautiful by the ornaments of grace and mercy, unfailing love and unmerited blessings.
I’d love to hear from you:
What special ornaments do you have on your tree and what memories do the recall?
What is your favorite way to decorate your tree, and why?
Used with permission of the author, Lori Altebaumer. To read more of Lori’s writing, visit www.lorialtebaumer.com.