‘Tis the season! There will be lots of shopping, hustle and bustle, time spent with family and friends, new memories made and old memories relished. Gifts will be wrapped in beautiful paper, lights will be hung from rooftops and adorn lawns, and the Christmas tree will take its place in living rooms across the country. But where did we get this idea to celebrate with trees and sparkling lights and ornaments? The first mention in history of trees used in Christmas celebrations was in 12th century Germany. A fir tree was used in mystery plays as the “paradise tree” during the Advent and Christmas seasons, and in many instances, the fir tree symbolized the tree of life in the Garden of Eden. The evergreen fir tree is a sign of hope throughout the winter season—hope in the promise that the rest of nature, too, will awaken to new life in the coming spring. Christians believe that, because the fir tree is an evergreen—it does not die or fade away or lose its needles in the winter—it represents the immortality of the resurrected Christ.
The lights on the Christmas tree also have a deeper meaning. Originally, the lights used were candles. The candles, too, were meant to symbolize Christ, specifically his self-giving love and gift of life to us. The candle provides light and warmth as it consumes its own substance, the wax. So, too, did Jesus give of his own substance, his life, so that we might find divine light. And when we have found divine light for ourselves, we are enabled to pass that warmth on to others, to give of ourselves to others. Christmas is the feast of love, where we share gifts with each other. Our gifts don’t have to be expensive; the best gifts are those that are a part of us, something that is uniquely ours to give, a smile, a hug, a helping hand, a good deed, a kind word, our time, our talents (think Little Drummer Boy). And no matter if you have the largest, most perfectly balanced fresh cut tree or a Charlie Brown tree in your living room, enjoy this season and all that it symbolizes. Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday, Baby Jesus!