“O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree how lovely are your branches.” We’ve all heard this song and the melody may never end in the month of December.
These modern lyrics were penned by the teacher and composer Ernst Anshutz in the 1800s, and would you believe it doesn’t refer to Christmas? It’s about the fir’s evergreen quality as a symbol of constancy and faithfulness through harsh winter days and hot summer nights, how the fir tree stays green. This is why the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews would decorate with wreaths, and garlands — it symbolized eternal life to them.
Today a Christmas tree can mean a lot of things. But one common thread I believe is joy. Not only to get but to give in hopes of an everlasting memory with family and friends.
One of those memories is an old German Christmas tale of a forester and his family on a cold Christmas Eve night. They were all in their cottage gathered by the warm fire and they heard a knock on the door. As the forester opened the door, there stood a poor, cold, little child.
The family welcomed him in and treated him like family, giving him food, clothes and a place to sleep. The next morning, Christmas Day, the family was awoken by a choir of angels and that little child had turned into Jesus. He went out to their garden and broke a branch off an evergreen tree and gave it to the family as a present to say thank you for all they had done.
As Jesus says, “The King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to Me.’ Then He will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’
Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:40-46
It doesn’t take an evergreen tree to see that life goes on, nor presents to be kind, nor stars in the sky to know that Christ was born. But they’re great reminders, just as Christmas is, to reach out in kindness, not only to loved ones, but to everyone with joy, peace, and goodwill towards all! Merry Christmas!