FINDING EMMANUEL IN THE STUFF OF CHRISTMAS
The Christmas tree can be just another decoration that we put up, out of habit, each year to make our houses look festive for a few days. Or it can become a means of grace for ourselves and our housemates—another opportunity for an encounter with Emmanuel.
The origins of the custom are unimportant in my view, because the concept of significant trees actually predates all religion. It goes back to the very beginning, to the act of creation when the Lord planted a garden. We live in a created world, all creation belongs to the Maker, and it was given to mankind to steward on His behalf. For this reason, I believe that the children of God have the right to use any element of that creation as an aid to meditation and worship, and as tools for prophetic prayer and declaration, without being troubled by their use in other religious practices.
Evergreen, standing straight and true, anchored on earth but pointing to heaven, our Christmas trees can be visual reminders of not only our Creator, but three significant trees in the Bible: the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the sign of the Lord’s sovereignty in the Garden of Eden [Genesis 2:8-9, 15-17; 3]; the Cross on which Jesus died to save us from the consequences of rejecting that sovereignty (which is described as a tree in Acts 5:30 and Acts 10:39 NKJV); and the Tree of Life in Revelation 2:7, which bears fruit from which, ultimately, the nations will be healed. Profound truth is wrapped up in these biblical images; it is worth taking time to reflect on them, all the while breathing our Advent prayer, ‘Come Lord Jesus!’
In addition, adorned with lights and sparkling in the night hours, Christmas trees are a graphic reminder that light always dispels darkness. And we worship the Light of the World who has come to drive out every dark thing.
TREASURES TO MAKE US THINK...
Our Christmas trees carry all sorts of treasures under their branches, special ornaments, chosen for delight or significance, and often collected over many years. We can be meditative about unwrapping our treasures, delighting in each small thing once again (or return to the tree after it has been dressed, to reflect upon its riches). Perhaps some are symbolic, such as blood-red baubles, a tiny nativity, beautiful angels, a white dove, hearts and stars… items which remind us of God’s wonderful provision in Jesus Christ. Items to ponder, visual images which feed our souls and spirits.
But maybe other ornaments are just for joy, some with a story or memory attached, others just because they make us glad. These items are also important, for they give a rounded view of the Christian walk. Our lives with God are not just about serious matters, but are also full of little (and large) gifts—just because we have a Heavenly Father who loves to delight us. Our ‘just for joy’ decorations symbolise the showers of blessing which colour our days [1 Timothy 6:17]. Our decorated trees can be a picture of grace, the unmerited favour of God, and can inspire us to pray for ourselves and our families to have a deeper revelation of the Father’s abundant love.
Jesus was the master of using graphic imagery to illustrate His Truth. Similarly, our decorated Christmas trees can provide powerful pictures to feed our souls and spirits, and lead us deeper into the worship of our Creator and Redeemer.
Why not set aside time (or several periods) to use your Christmas tree as a focus for meditation?
Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil
Tree of Life
The Kingdom Tree [Matthew 13:31-32]
THE CHRIST HAS COME!
Our Christmas trees, surprisingly, can also be a powerful prayer-tool. Our actions not only impact the here and now, but are also proclamations in the heavenly realms of our future expectations—the Bible is full of visual temporal demonstrations of eternal realities. Our celebration of Christmas can be a sentimental journey of limited impact, or we can use the trappings as powerful means of transformation.
The coming of Jesus ushered in a new age, a new rule, and a new government [Isaiah 9:6-7]. He had come to set humanity free. It was prophesied that this liberation would extend to the whole earth, and that all creation would rejoice. The Bible gives a graphic prophetic picture of that celebration:
Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy;
they will sing before the Lord, for He comes, He comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in His truth
Sing for joy, you heavens, for the LORD has done this;
shout aloud, you earth beneath.
Burst into song, you mountains, you forests and all your trees,
for the LORD has redeemed Jacob, He displays His glory in Israel
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.
Instead of the thorn-bush will grow the pine tree,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign,
which will not be destroyed’
In these passages, trees are pictured as having a powerful and colourful role in the announcement that the age of the Messiah had dawned.
Our Christmas trees shout festival and celebration, dressed as they are to delight, enchant and indeed attract attention. We can see our decorated pine-trees as symbolic of those prophesied to be a sign of the coming kingdom. If we invest them with faith and expectation, they can become our personal prophetic declaration—our proclamation to our households, our neighbourhoods and the spiritual powers in heavenly places, that the Messiah has come—bringing His Kingdom with Him—and that one day every knee will bow before Him.
One aspect of powerful declaration is the pronouncement of blessing. When Scripture speaks of people speaking blessing over others, there was an expectation that actual change would take place as a result. The priests in the Old Testament were given the responsibility of blessing the people, and by doing so, put the Lord’s Name (and all that it represented) on the Israelites [Numbers 6:22-27]. As children of God, we have all been called to be part of a new priesthood [1 Peter 2:9], and our blessing carries similar authority.
What if we declared that priestly blessing over our friends and family—in fact wherever we see a Christmas tree, that it would be a means of grace (remember Paul’s handkerchief), and that many eyes will be opened to see and understand that Emmanuel, the Christ has come!
There is a PDF file below, giving some suggestions for prophetic declarations and blessings.
NEXT WEEK: DECKING THE HALLS
GET IN TOUCH!
[Photo credits: Michael Rosch (wintery tree); Marcus Spiske (red bauble); SB Vonlanthen (woman and child);
Fas Khan (town Christmas tree); Pure Julia (gift tag) @ Unsplash, with thanks]
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