There is a Christmas song that goes, “Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree, how lovely are your branches!” As a pastor, I would rather not sing about evergreens or coniferous vegetation during Christmas season, since this season is about celebrating the birth of Jesus. I would much rather sing theologically rich songs about our blessed Lord and Saviour. But, as we hear songs about Christmas trees, I want us to think about a few truths.
First, the history of the Christmas tree contains some debates. It can be attributed to many different ancient pagan traditions, whether Egyptian, or Cannanite, or Roman. In Scripture we have dozens of references to “sacred poles” or “Asherah poles.” It is possible that they were simply evergreen trees representing fertility and conviviality.
Second, there is a decisive turn in the history of the Christmas tree when Christianity came through the Germanic areas. This is because Jesus Christ conquers and overcomes any and all superstitions (Colossians 1:15-20).
Third, a Christmas tree shows us what Scripture declares to be true. Jesus promises a life which is everlasting 40+ times! The evergreen tree reminds us of this. The star or angel on the top of the tree reminds us of God’s promised and proclaimed arrival (Matthew 2:1-12; Luke 2:1-20). The lights on the tree remind us that Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12).
Ultimately, the Christmas tree reminds us about Isaiah 55:12-13, which says
You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.”
In Isaiah 55, it is a story of the Lord’s great deliverance to the Hebrews from the bondage of exile. The joy of God’s deliverance–the overwhelming hope and peace which was found–causes all of creation to reverberate God’s praises. God’s salvation is so glorious that it will cause even the trees to declare his praises.
And this is why I put up a Christmas tree.