The Christmas tree is one of the most powerful symbols of the modern world, a tree of life, of lights, of hopes and dreams and memories. It is hung with ornaments that speak to us of beauty and prosperity, fruit and flowers and snowflakes, jeweled icons of a splendid life and the artifacts of our civilization, spheres and stars and tinsel lightning bolts, ornaments that depict our children and our past, the magic of elves and flying reindeer and figures from the nativity.
Underneath all the sparkle and light is a tree that symbolizes an abundant life. From a tiny seed that dies in the darkness of the ground, sometimes triggered by fire, a tree emerges, reaching up to the heavens, becoming a habitat for creatures — one day a giant that stands tall in a forrest of brothers and sisters or alone on a rock overlooking a chasm. The tree is sustained by the soil and the air and the sunlight, miraculously manufacturing its food, distributing it throughout its delightful form.
As a follower of Christ, when I look upon the Christmas tree I see much more. Beneath its branches I see a cross, and on the cross, I see my savior who hung on a tree to redeem the world by making the ultimate sacrifice — innocent for guilty, God for mankind. This is a true story about God and people, about people turning away from God, about God rescuing and perfecting His creation through the powerful demonstration of unconditional love, offering the ultimate sacrifice.
Jesus, God in the flesh, walked the earth and was known as the living word of God, the manifestation of truth and righteousness. His short life most certainly changed the world with a message of hope, by his victory over sin and death, in the power of His love. And He was more than a prophet, He was and is “God with us” rescuing humanity from itself and me from myself (note: this is a remarkable ongoing process that has become more amazing and powerful with the passage of time).
His impact on His disciples was extraordinary. After his resurrection, after his appearance to the disciples and to over five hundred witnesses, the Christian movement took off. A miraculous movement of the Holy Spirit that continues even today, spreading light through out the world.
The Spirit of God is able to dwell within us if we are willing. And it is by this power that we choose to dwell with God, like the branches of the vine (John 15:1-4), receiving sustenance, and power to produce the fruit of righteousness and love, receiving God’s incredible peace and joy that grows within us despite our circumstances and sometimes because of them.
So this Christmas, as we gather in our warm houses with our beloved families, exchanging gifts, feasting on holiday delights and the images that remind us of Christmas’ past, we might consider that the ultimate gift is offered by Jesus. By His stripes we are able to receive spiritual abundance in the life changing power of God’s Holy Spirit, by faith in the generosity of God’s grace and by the sacrifice of Christ who was and is the innocent, spotless passover Lamb of God, One who’s death burial and resurrection offers all who receive Him, victory over sin and deliverance from fear, anxiety, pain and suffering — as well as transformation through our darkness, by and into His glorious light!
Merry Christmas to all.