The Untold Symbolism of Christmas: The Christmas Tree

If I had to choose just one decoration to keep to for Christmas I think I’d choose the Christmas tree. I so enjoy riding around neighborhoods taking in the stunning windows full of glistening lights brightening up the trees that hold them. They’re so whimsical and each one bears different colors and ornaments that represent the households they reside in. While they’re different they’re also the same as Christmas trees are evergreen.

Evergreens are never changing, never ending, and stay the same despite their circumstances.  There is no death of leaves for the trees and bushes that are evergreen. Evergreens have the power to battle the forces of winter. They are beautiful all year long and give us the gift of color when others are brown and appear to be dead.  This can be a reminder that no matter what’s going on around us we know God gives us the strength to press on and to even radiate beauty in our circumstances.  Evergreen trees like fir trees, point upwards like an arrow reminding us of God. We are to aim our very lives towards God.  They’re evergreen, always green, everlasting, reminding us of the eternal life God offers each and every one of us. 

Martin Luther, the reformer, might have been one of the first who placed candles on a fir tree to symbolize that Christ is the Light of the Word. Even the tiniest lights shine brightly in the dark night bringing us Hope, the kind that God gives. Yes we live in this dark world for now but those of us who are believers know the Light of eternal life that shines at the end of our tunnel. This is not the end. We are also reminded that we too are to shine our lights and reflect God’s Light and goodness towards all who will receive it. We have a mission to be the light of the world, just like God’s Son, Jesus. 

Christmas trees point upward. When we look at a Christmas tree our eyes naturally look up to its’ tippy top. I love taking a stroll downtown and seeing our city’s tree that so tall and stands as a beautiful centerpiece. It’s stunning! The taller the tree, the higher I look to see its’ top, high above. I have to lean my head back to see the full scale of such a large tree. Sometimes I imagine God saying, “Look up my child. Stay focused. I am right here.” These evergreen beauties stand silent but say a lot.

Many Christmas trees have a large star at the top. These stars represent the bright Star of Bethlehem that guided the shepherds (and later the Kings) to where Jesus was. You can read about this in the Bible at the beginning of the book of Luke. The star was their guide, it drew them in and they dropped everything and followed it until they found Jesus. We too choose each and every day to follow Jesus or to go our own way. When we experience God it’s just like these shepherds experienced. God changes us and we are never the same.

Other trees have a beautiful angel on top. Why?  In the Bible, in Luke chapter 2, the angels announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds and joined a whole angelic army praising God saying, “Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”  The angel Gabriel visited Mary, the mother of Jesus, to tell her God favored her. She agreed to do what God asked of her. Our culture sees angels as female, however, angels in the Bible are male: Gabriel, Michael, etc… Oh how I’d love to have a male angel to display at Christmas! I imagine these angels were fierce, strong and beautiful as they are messengers of God.

Lots of Christmas trees are beautifully decorated with red bows, red ornaments or red tinsel. The color red is often paired with evergreen decorations like wreaths and garlands as well. This red color symbolizes the blood Jesus shed while hanging on the cross, the blood Jesus shed while wearing a crown of thorns, the blood Jesus shed while being whipped and beaten even though Jesus never sinned. Jesus gave Himself for us; Jesus paid for the sins of all mankind through his death and resurrection that we celebrate at Easter. The Hope of Christmas came with a price. Jesus paid that price for you and for me. God extends His hand towards us and invites us to be a part of eternity with Him.

Just like the Christmas tree, as believers, we too are to be eternal beings, bearers of light, pointing the way for others towards God like the lights, like the shape of the tree, like the angels and like the star. May we remember the deep symbolism of the Christmas tree this Christmas season.

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