"O Christmas Tree"

I suggest you first sing the song, "Oh, Christmas Tree," and then read this teaching aloud during your Christmas season. You might even want to consider reading a portion of it each day for a few days every year as part of your annual Christmas celebrations at home or church. Make it a tradition—much like reading the Christmas story from the Bible; see a companion teaching I wrote for reading the Christmas story in modern English.

Oh, Christmas Tree

Oh, Christmas Tree, Oh, Christmas Tree,
How steadfast are your branches!
Your boughs are green in summer's clime
And through the snows of wintertime.
Oh, Christmas Tree, Oh, Christmas Tree,
How steadfast are your branches!

Oh, Christmas Tree, Oh, Christmas Tree,
What happiness befalls me
When oft at joyous Christmas-time
Your form inspires my song and rhyme.
Oh, Christmas Tree, Oh, Christmas Tree,
What happiness befalls me.

Oh, Christmas Tree, Oh, Christmas Tree,
Your boughs can teach a lesson,
That constant faith and hope sublime
Lend strength and comfort through all time.
Oh, Christmas Tree, Oh, Christmas Tree,
Your boughs can teach a lesson.

Our Father God, Our Father God,
How wondrous are your mercies.
When I reflect upon your grace,
Such grace inspires my heart to praise.
Our Father God, Our Father God,
You fill my life with all good gifts.

Lord Jesus Christ, Lord Jesus Christ,
What wonders you have done for me.
Eternal Life, salvation free.
Christmas is your gift to me.
Lord Jesus Christ, Lord Jesus Christ,
I praise you for your wondrous gift.

Sweet Holy Spirit, Sweet Holy Spirit,
You fill my life with all good gifts.
As we journey on t'ward eternity,
The way is sure with You in me.
Sweet Holy Spirit, Sweet Holy Spirit,
Great Three in One, blest Trinity!

Once upon a time many years ago, a few days before Christmas a young father sat down with his wife and three small children to explain to them why his heart was so full of joy this particular Christmas. First he told them about some past Christmases during which he had no joy. Why was the young father's heart so full of joy this Christmas?

Perhaps it was all the friendly parties and dinners his family attended during the holiday season. Or, maybe it was the relaxed, cheerful, holiday atmosphere all over the family's small community. Or perhaps it was the happiness of anticipating relatives and friends at their home Christmas day for a sumptious dinner followed by games, eating leftovers, snacks and desserts, and napping and visiting during the afternoon. Whatever the reason, the young father's heart was full of joy and he didn't want the season to come to an end. Have you ever felt that way about the holiday season? I hope so. It's a wonderful feeling—like all is well with the whole world during those few days.

What about those past Christmases when the young father did not have much joy? There was one holiday season when he almost became "the Grinch who stole Christmas." During many past Christmas seasons he had become fed up with the commercialism and secularism of Christmas. Christmas just didn't seem to be about Christ anymore. Why, he wanted to do away with Christmas altogether! He almost didn't let his family have a Christmas tree that particular year, but finally gave in to their pleading and brought one home for them to decorate. Shortly before Christmas Day that year he reluctantly put the tree into its stand and prepared to help the family decorate it—mumbling and grumbling all the while—just like a Grinch.

Suddenly—in an instant of time—an awesome hush came over the young father's spirit. In a solemn moment he felt as though he had been transported from time into eternity as God began to share some of his thoughts with him—thoughts which rolled into his mind as waves from the vast sea of God's limitless mind no doubt break upon eternity's shores. God's Spirit whispered four simple words to the young father: "Concentrate on the colors.''

For many centuries, certain scholars have studied the meanings of colors, concluding that colors help us understand concepts and ideas. That is especially true of colors in the Bible. Did you know there are actually "colorologists" who study such matters? For example, what woman hasn't been approached by someone who tells her how various colors she wears improve or take away from her personality and "aura"? Many modern automobiles are sold largely on the basis of their colors. We all think in terms of warm colors, bold colors, rich colors, "cold" colors, and the like. Yes, throughout history colors have played important roles in the lives of people.

The same is true of colors mentioned in the Bible. Occurring throughout the Bible from cover to cover are numerous themes which are vividly enhanced and symbolized by the Bible's use of colors. Let's think about some of those colors as they relate to our Christmas trees.

After the young father heard God speak those four words into his spirit, he immediately turned his attention to the Christmas tree and to the decorations and lights his family was placing on it. All of a sudden it came to him: the various colors of the tree itself and the decorations and lights began to weave in his mind a rich tapestry of thoughts about the marvelous, full and complete, miraculous salvation God conceives and brings to birth in the hearts of all people by the power of his Spirit, just as Jesus was miraculously conceived in Mary long, long ago and was born on that wonderful, starry, starry night while shepherds tended their flocks in the fields near the village of Bethlehem.

Here are some simple thoughts about trees and colors which now brighten and enrich all that young father's Christmases; that young father is now an old man and his children are all grown. I hope these thoughts help to make this Christmas—and all of your Christmases to come rich and wonderful—full of brightness and joy.

Let's begin with the color brown. The Bible mentions this color only four times, but history and mythology tell us a great deal about the color brown. With very few exceptions, brown is symbolic of death and dying.

First let's consider the brown trunk and branches of the tree. They symbolize our old human sin-full natures which are now "dead." The trunk and branches of the Christmas tree are really dead although they appear to be still alive. The Christmas tree's life ended the moment it was cut down; our old human nature ended at the cross and we are dead to that old life, crucified with Jesus on another tree, its brown surface stained red with his precious blood. By faith, we are no longer living that old life; for all practical purposes our old life is part of an ancient, pre-historic race which is now "extinct" as far as God is concerned. God doesn't see the brownness of our old life; all he sees is our new life in Jesus.

Yes, from God's eternal perspective, we are no longer members of the old human race; we are part of a new race of beings patterned after the risen Son of God; he is the pattern, and God is creating in us an entirely new race of sons and daughters formed in the same likeness as the living Lord Jesus! Yes, our old lives are "dead." That's what the brown colors of the trunk and branches of our Christmas trees symbolize to us.

The green needles of the tree portray our new lives in Jesus, new lives which obscure our old lives just as the green needles of our Christmas trees obscure their "dead" trunks and branches. Oh, occasionally, our old lives will surface and come into view, just as we can occasionally spot the brown branches of our trees here and there behind the green needles. But when one looks at our trees it is the rich green color that comes into focus most clearly, Just as God's focus is upon our new resurrection lives which we now live by faith.

That is how God sees us because of what Jesus has done for us. We have been raised to new lives with him. Old things have passed away. All things have become new. We are like lush green trees planted by the river of life. (Psalm 1: 3) Our "leaves'' are for the healing of others as the Spirit of God produces his own life-giving fruit (Galatians 5: 22 and 23) through us, fruit which bears abundantly in its seasons because our roots are planted deeply in the rich soil of God's word. (Revelation 22: 2) We live and move and have our new being in Jesus by means of God's indwelling, LIFE-giving Spirit. Yes, our green Christmas tree needles symbolize our new life in Christ.

Perhaps we best think of the color green in Psalm 23 in the Bible, where we read of the fresh, tender, green pastures into which God leads us so he can refresh, restore, and renew our lives.

The bright, multi-colored lights twinkling among the green needles of our trees express Jesus, the light of the world, to us. He is THE Light. (John 1: 4) We all perceive that Light differently; we perceive him as many-hued, as all colors of the spectrum of light. He is a rainbow of colors; each of us perceives that rainbow differently, based upon our own levels of understanding about who Jesus is at whatever point we are in our relationship with him. He is the many-hued Light; we are lesser lights which shine with his brightness in a darkened world.

By his grace we have been snatched from the kingdom of darkness (Colossians 1: 13) and created as newly born citizens of the kingdom of light. It's a kingdom with a brightness far greater than that of the noonday sun on a cloudless summer day. Our individual lights blink on and off and twinkle in a sin-darkened world when we permit THE Light within us to shine out of us. We are clay containers out of which his bright Light shines, ignited and sustained by the oil of the Spirit of God. (2 Corinthians 4: 7) That's what the multi-colored, twinkling lights on our trees symbolize.

Yes, Jesus is the Light of the world, written about so eloquently by John in the first three chapters of his Gospel. We are dimmer lights (Matthew 5: 16), reflecting his brighter light to a relatively dark world.
The Bible is full of references indicating that gold symbolizes the pure character of God. The gold garlands we wind around our Christmas trees symbolize God's character he is reproducing in our new lives through trials and testings which he lovingly permits to come to us. When he has tested us, we shall emerge as gold, refined and purified to the point of transparency—no longer dark, but clear so his own golden LIFE can be seen in us. (Job 23: 10)

He has laid a new foundation in our lives and is building upon that foundation a new character consisting of gold, silver, and precious stones. Gold in its purest form is like clear glass, and God wants our lives to be clear and transparent so other persons seeing our lives will see Jesus living his own life out through ours.

Just as the gold garlands encircling our Christmas trees are intertwined among the green needles, God wants his LIFE to be so much intertwined and interwoven with ours that the onlooker will not see just us, but a blending of both God and us—God living his own LIFE out through us. God wants to appear to our world in a very real sense as Emmanuel, meaning "God with us." (Matthew 1: 23) God wants people to see Him in us, our lives hidden in his; his LIFE expressed through ours. Yes, he wants others to see his golden character and nature displayed through us.

The shiny blue ornaments placed among the green needles and the golden garlands remind us of royalty, heaven, and the power given to us by God's Spirit. To be anointed means to receive God's power for daily living. We need his anointing for us to yield to God so he can live his own LIFE out through our new lives. Only through the anointing and power of the Spirit at work within us and throughout all the areas of our lives can we yield to God's refining, character-building work within us; God's anointing must be at home in us and we must rely unreservedly upon Him. It is the anointing of God's Spirit which teaches us, guides us into truth, bears fruit in our lives, and purifies us.

The color blue also causes us to think of heaven and of our life and service to God in the ages to come, assisting him with the eternal restoration and management of the universe. It also reminds us of our royalty as God's sons and daughters being groomed as princes and princesses, kings and queens in the royal courts of King Jesus.

Throughout the Bible, silver often symbolizes redemption. The few silver icicles we have delicately suspended here and there among the other ornaments and decorations on our tree remind us that the Son of God was killed on our behalf for a few silver coins, a paltry sum when we consider the actual purchase price of our redemption. Our purchase price was the very life's blood of the King of Kings who voluntarily stripped himself of his royal apparel and descended to earth to be born in a stable, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger.

All the silver in the universe could not have paid the price he paid for our redemption. But once having made himself relatively poor for our sakes, Jesus resumed his proper place at the right hand of the throne of the universe. All the Father has given to him, Jesus now freely shares with us as his joint-heirs, princes and princesses being groomed in the royal household of God. Yes, the delicate silver icicles remind us of the unimaginable price paid for our redemption and the wonderful future God has in store for each of us as we continue our journey to eternity.

Let's think about the color red in the Bible. It most often symbolizes the blood Jesus shed to pay the ransom price of our sins. In fact, it can be said that a "red river of LIFE" flows through biblical history culminating in Jesus' bloody death on the cross. We have redemption through his blood. (Ephesians 1: 7) All the animal sacrifices in the Old Testament were symbolic pictures, pointing forward in time to the supreme sacrifice of the ages for all people, occurring on a bloody cross on a barren hillside near Jerusalem 2,000 years ago.

Although that event occurred in historical time and space, in reality it occurred outside of time and space—an eternal event on behalf of all people living in all the ages of time. The Bible puts it this way: "Without Jesus shedding his blood, there would be no release from sin and all it's penalties." (Hebrews 9: 22) Thank God for Jesus' willingness to come to earth as a baby, for living his sinless life, for dying on the cross and shedding his blood, for God raising him from the dead, for his return to heaven, and then his coming return to earth in the future to re-establish his eternal kingdom!

The white bulbs and ornaments symbolize God's righteousness he has freely given to us. He has replaced our sin with his righteousness, so that when He looks at us He sees only the righteousness, not our sin. The book of Revelation in the Bible contains many references to the color white. In most cases, white refers to righteousness—but not our own righteousness. Left to ourselves we are not good and clean and pure and righteous. No, left to ourselves we are a mixture of both good and bad—sometimes we can be quite good, sometimes we can be quite bad. But our own goodness is never good enough; it's always mixed with sin. For that reason, God covers us with his own goodness, replacing our sin with his righteousness.

For all the Christmases of all his years to come, every time that young father (now much older and wiser) sees a Christmas tree he will be reminded that God has cut down our old human life and nature; he has given us a brand-new life in Jesus, a new life in which he is reproducing his own LIFE. He has adorned our lives with bright ornaments of truth and light. He has anointed us richly with his Spirit. He has paid the full price necessary to redeem each of us.

I love Christmas. I love Christmas trees. They are joyous reminders of God's entire plan of creation, redemption, and restoration for my life . . . and for yours!

Lord Jesus Christ, Lord Jesus Christ, what wonders You have done for us . . . at this Christmas time. We thank You for this beautiful Christmas tree and all it symbolizes in each of our lives!

I wish you a very merry and Jesus-filled Christmas this year and hope you have the most beautiful Christmas tree ever . . . !

Revised and updated  September 2016

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