The Christmas Tree

Christ on the Cross by Peter Paul Reubens  – 1627

We didn’t plan to start a small controversy. In fact, it was something born out of laziness and not wanting to take the extra effort. It started Thanksgiving weekend when I asked my family to get the Christmas tree down from the attic. At first, I was politely ignored as if I was the senile old aunt that says random things. When I persisted, I was met with sighs and whining about how much time and effort that would take to put up. I thought that putting up the Christmas tree was fun! I thought this was our tradition. I told my husband about it and he crinkled up his nose and said that it really was a lot of effort to get “that thing” down, figure out the burnt out lights, get the ornaments, etc. The final vote was to come from our ten year old daughter. It seems like she’s not getting a vote in the conversation. Here, I thought, is my ally!

When we asked her together about setting up the Christmas tree, she sat down in a chair with a long sigh and said “Oh! That was SO MUCH WORK! Mom, only you & I ended up doing ALL of it last year! Can we just not do it?” Well… there it was. No one wanted the tree up and no one was interested in getting it decorated. I went ahead and decorated our home for Christmas (after all, the other things don’t take up much time and I adore my Nativity sets!). At least it felt like Christmas in our home, even if a giant tree was missing.

At church that Sunday, there was silence when the group leaders asked if prayer was needed or if there was anything new in the group. I smiled and mentioned that we would not put up a Christmas tree this year. That caused a HUGE reaction! One woman puts up 19 (yes, count them… 19) Christmas trees in her house. In fact, she said she was getting rid of 4 of them this year – would I be offended if one of those trees ended up on my doorstep? The answer was “No, of course I would not be offended but if that was something she wanted to do, that’s alright with us.”

You see, it’s not about the tree.

It’s not about the ornaments.

It’s about an entirely different tree. It’s about the tree that Christ died upon so that all of us may live. Just as Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil in Genesis (Gen 2:17), and death entered the world -the second Adam came and died upon the wood of another tree at Calvary so that all may have eternal life through Him. Christ is the focus of Christmas. All other things distract us. The ornaments, the shining things (oh, how I love shining things!), the secular sayings (Happy Holidays, Season’s Greetings, etc) all detract from who Christ is and why we even celebrate Christmas in the first place.

I have shared with my Muslim friends and family that we will not have a Christmas tree. They also were appalled that me, a Christian, would not engage in the proper celebration. When I told them that the Christmas tree has nothing to do with Christ, it became an even more interesting conversation for Evangelism.

The world is confused about what Christmas is about. It’s about celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It’s about humbling ourselves and accepting what He has done for us through His sacrifice on the Cross.

As we get closer to the day we celebrate Christmas, may this be the truth we cling to. Amen.