December 16, 2022: Tree


It was tradition in my family to have a “live” Christmas tree, a tradition I’ve now carried into my own young family. Every year we drive out to a tree farm, walk out among the pines, and cut one down. Then we haul it home, stand it in the living room, and decorate it with lights and way too many ornaments. All on the day after Thanksgiving, if we can.

I typically don’t take much time to reflect on the significance of this tradition. For the most part, it’s just a fun thing to do this time of year. It’s often more about a feeling. Going and getting the tree and putting it up puts me in the holiday spirit. But this act of bringing a tree into our homes, of adorning it with lights and ornaments, carries with it more significance than just the warm fuzzies. I recently read a poem by Madeleine L’Engle which highlights so much of why Christmas trees are meaningful. I hope you enjoy her words as I have.


Reading: “Tree at Christmas” by Madeleine L’Engle

The children say the tree must reach the ceiling,
And so it does, angel on topmost branch,
Candy canes and golden globes and silver chains,
Trumpets that toot, and birds with feathered tails.
Each year we say, each year we fully mean:
“This is the loveliest tree of all.” This tree
Bedecked with love and tinsel reaches heaven.
A pagan throwback may have brought it here
Into our room, and yet these decked-out boughs
Can represent those other trees, the one
Through which we fell in pride, when Eve forgot
That freedom is man’s freedom to obey
And to adore, not to replace the light
With disobedient darkness and self-will.
On Twelfth Night when we strip the tree
And see its branches bare and winter cold
Outside the comfortable room, the tree
Is then the tree on which all darkness hanged,
Completing the betrayal that began
With that first stolen fruit. And then, O God,
This is the tree that Simon bore uphill,
This is the tree that held all love and life.
Forgive us, Lord, forgive us for that tree.
But now, still decked, adorned, in joy arrayed
For these great days of Christmas thanks and song,
This is the tree that lights our faltering way,
For when man’s first and proud rebellious act
Had reached its nadir on that hill of skulls
These shining, glimmering boughs remind us that
The knowledge that we stole was freely given
And we were sent the Spirit’s radiant strength
That we might know all things. We grasp for truth
And lose it till it comes to us by love.
The glory of Lebanon shines on this Christmas tree,
The tree of life that opens wide the gates.
The children say the tree must reach the ceiling,
And so it does: for me the tree has grown so high
It pierces through the vast and star-filled sky.


God of our salvation, in this holiday season filled with so much that is superficial remind us of the deep importance of everything you have done for us. From the tree at creation to the tree of your own death, you have walked with us in love every step of the way.