Every year across the United States and across the world people will put up Christmas Trees and decorate them for the holiday season. What is that all about?
Well, it is no secret that evergreen trees have always held a special place in the minds of people. Of all the trees, they are not affected by the fall and winter. They stand green when the world has turned cold and dark. They are a symbol of life in even the worst of times. It is believed that many ancient religions had a place for the evergreen tree in their worship symbols.
Somewhere along the way people of faith connected this practice of using evergreen trees in their religious observances to Christmas. As Christians began to celebrate the birth of Christ, they attached it to the days when winter was at its peak. The days are dark, but light is starting the process of winning over the hours. From the end of December until the middle of summer the daylight hours are getting longer and the weather is getting warmer. As the celebration of Christmas found its roots at this time of year, the evergreen tree also stood tall as a bastion against cold darkness of winter and of life.
No one knows for sure who was the first person to bring a tree into their house at this time of year. Several places and people take credit for it, but everything is mere speculation. The most famous story says that it was Martin Luther, that great religious reformer, who brought the Christmas tree into the Church in the 1500’s. As the story goes one night, he was walking home and saw the stars shining through the trees, and he went and added candles to his tree as the first decoration. History tells us that he used a passage in the Bible to support this action. Isaiah 60:13 (NIV) “The glory of Lebanon will come to you, the pine, the fir and the cypress together, to adorn the place of my sanctuary; and I will glorify the place of my feet.”
Once the tree made its way into the decorations to celebrate the birth of Christ, it slowly spread across the globe. It moved from Germany and then across Europe. By the mid-1800’s the practice was being endorsed by the royal family in Britain. Eventually, it became an accepted practice in the United States, but it was slowly accepted by everyone. Now trees are one of the most popular Christmas decorations and symbolize the beginning of the holiday season in many locations.
For believers, the Christmas tree was to be a reminder of life through even our darkest hours. It points us to Jesus as the eternal form of light and life in the world and reminds us that he came one dark night to Bethlehem. Christmas does not bring us to a place where we worship a tree, rather the tree is to point us to an eternally existent God who is not subject to our ever-changing struggles in the world. He is light, and he is life, and it is him that we worship this Christmas season.