Christmas & Three Trees?
As part of their Christmas celebrations, many people set up a Christmas tree. This tradition seems to have come from 16th century Germany when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Many believe that Martin Luther, a Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree. Walking home one evening he saw the stars twinkling amidst the evergreens. To recapture the scene for his family he set up a tree in the main room of his house and put lighted candles in its branches.
What exactly a decorated tree has to do with Christmas is not clear. Most likely, it was a way of celebrating a season when the nights are long and dark. Yet trees do play an important role in the Christmas story. In this brief message, I want to tell you about three trees. Through them, I want to share with you the good news of Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas time.
In the beginning, God created the world. He provided the earth’s first inhabitants, Adam and Eve, a beautiful garden to live in. It was called “the Garden of Eden.” God planted many trees in this garden so that they would have food to eat. In among all the other trees of the garden God also planted one other tree. It was called “the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” God told man not to eat of this tree. He said, “for in the day you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:17).
This special tree was put into the garden to test man. It was there to see if man would be willing to serve God from the heart. But Adam and Eve failed that test. When tempted, they ate of the fruit of this forbidden tree. Disobeying God is called sin. When we do bad things we break down our relationship with God, and we hurt others around us. All the suffering and misery we experience in the world today is a result of this first sin committed by Adam and Eve.
Already in the Garden of Eden, God came to man to make promises about dealing with man’s sin. He promised to send a Saviour to deliver man from sin and death. That Saviour is Jesus Christ. At Christmas we celebrate the fact that God sent him into this world. Yet we need to understand why Christ came to dwell on earth. He came to bring peace and joy to all who believe in him.
Christ came to earth with a purpose. He came to save us from our sins, and to thereby restore us to peace with God. Yet there was only one way in which Christ could pay the price for our sins. It is by offering his life on the cross. Here we come to the second tree I want to tell you about. In the Bible, the cross is described as a tree. In Acts 5:30 Peter tells the Jewish leaders that they had killed Jesus “by hanging him on a tree.” In 1 Peter 2:24 Peter says that Jesus “bore our sins in his body on the tree,” and says, “by his wounds you have been healed.” It is by hanging on that barren tree that Jesus came to undo the damage done by eating of the forbidden tree. Thus Jesus came to save his people from their sins.
By suffering and dying on the cross, Jesus opened the way to the third tree. You can read about this tree in the last book of the Bible, in Revelation 22. It is called “the tree of life.” Not everyone will be allowed to eat of the fruit of this tree. Access will be restricted to those who believe that Jesus has died on the cross for all their sins. Yet by believing the good news of salvation, our sins are forgiven, and we are restored to peace with God.
At Christmas time we often speak about peace and joy. Christmas is indeed a celebration if it is focussed on the birth of Jesus Christ. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). May the good news of Jesus Christ’s birth provide you with joy this Christmas season!