“So, what is so special about trees and Christmas?” I asked my ever-attentive family over our morning devotions. Specifically, Christmas trees – evergreen trees. I mean, how many of us have a Magnolia in our front room? (What a mess; can’t stand those trees….) No, we have evergreens sitting in our houses wrapped in lights and laden with ornaments. What’s with that?
Trees are significant symbols. At the earliest point in human history, we see special trees in the Garden: the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:9). And at the cusp of the new era in the New Jerusalem sits again the tree of life (Revelation 22:4). There it reads:
Then the angel showed me the river of water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
Wow! Trees are rich in meaning – ever thought of that? But there’s more. Really at no other time of year do we so zero in on a tree as we do at Christmas. What does it mean?
First, trees do represent life as they have in the beginning and will at the end of time. Christmas is about the Life of God the Son in human history. How better to represent that life than by a tree that has always stood for life? The center piece of our Christmas displays – the place where all the gifts are placed and around which we sit to celebrate – is the Tree. How appropriate. At the Tree we are face to face with new life, specifically the new Life that will bring new life to all who believe (John 1:12).
Second, our Christmas tree is an evergreen tree. Evergreen’s are…always green. Strange that we would choose such a tree to sit in the place of honor during Christmas. You can get practical on me and say they are best for ornaments or that they smell nice or you like how they stay green, etc. etc. Of course those things are true but they don’t quite satisfy. We like evergreens for the same reason we like eternal life – it endures and will not end. Ever-greens remind us that life with God is Ever-lasting. If the tree represents life, then a tree that will always stay green represents a life that will not end.
Trees don’t just represent life. Trees preeminently represent death as well. Moses wrote of this symbology in Deuteronomy:
And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree but you shall bury him the same day for a hanged man is cursed by God.
Paul made this personal when he wrote in Galatians:
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’
Ah – now we remember: the tree that represents life was the instrument of the Greatest Death in human history. It is the place of cursing – where God comes against the one who is nailed to it; where He came against the One who was nailed there. Without the tree, there would’ve been no cursed punishment of sins. All along God intended to represent life by a simple tree and use it to kill the sins of His people by killing His Own Son on it.
Still, the tree is green – evergreen. How do we unravel this? The apostle Paul explains this symbolism in Romans:
You also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
All dead to sin or temporarily dead? Am I free from sin’s condemnation for all time or just until I sin again?
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
- I am ever-free from sin’s guilt in Christ.
- I am ever-righteous before God in Christ.
- I am ever-destined for glory in heaven in Christ.
Ever-green reminds me that what was done on my behalf abide in the annals of the universe forever. The work of Christ was written with diamond stylus in indelible ink.
Sit around your trees and marvel that such a simple token could represent something so rich and full. Don’t let its symbolism stay silent – consider does it represent life for you? Does it represent the eternal death of your sins in Christ Jesus?
Evergreen trees at Christmas – so full and rich!