Please welcome Rachel from Titus2Homemaker! Hopefully, we’ve caught you before you are too far into you Christmas Tree routine. I know some people put their’s up the day after Thanksgiving – I even heard of a family that has their’s up starting Halloween night. And still others wait till it gets closer and have a tree decorating party.
We all do things – lots of things – every day, every month, every year, without really thinking about them. Some of these are big things, but most of them are little things that add up over time. If we choose to be intentional about these things, we can use them as opportunities to bind our hearts and the hearts of our children to the Lord and to one another. I’m excited about this series because it’s encouraging us to do just that! In the coming weeks you’ll be hearing about ways to make the most of a variety of opportunities. Today I’m going to add to what Sarah shared last week about making the most of Christmas by telling you about how we make the most of our Christmas tree, specifically.
A Little Bit of Background
When our oldest child was very small, we had some disagreement within our household over the Christmas tree. We’re well aware of the pagan roots of Christmas, but our family’s perspective is that it has successfully been redeemed – most people (at least, most of those who aren’t completely caught up in the modern commercialization of it and everything else) view it as a celebration of the birth of Christ, whether or not that was the original purpose of a December 25th celebration. A pagan acquaintance’s discussion of her Yule tree, however, set the whole discussion off in our home once again.
My husband had chosen particular colors for our Christmas tree decorations before we were even married, so in his mind, the tree itself was a symbol. What had never really occurred to us, though, is that Ariel wasn’t mindful of these things, so they were not meaningful to her. As a result of our…ahem…heated discussions, we set about to be more intentional about putting this symbolism in front of her (and, later, our other children).
The resultant family tradition enables us to make the most of our Christmas tree – something that in the past was, at best, fun and, at worst, even potentially idolatrous.
Our tradition revolves around decorating the tree in layers, rather than all at once. First we put up the bare tree (and, yes, it sits there “naked” for a few days). Then we add the lights. Then red decorations, then silver decorations and, finally, gold decorations. As each layer goes on, we discuss the symbolism of that particular element.
The Bare Tree
The tree itself symbolizes Christ “the Branch.” It also foreshadows His death on the cross. Our discussion during this time enables us to explain the concepts of types and shadows, as well as to explain what exactly a symbol is. (Why do we worship Jesus and not the tree? It can teach us about God, but it isn’t God.)
The lights provide us with an opportunity to remember that Jesus is the Light of the World. We get to read, too, about His coming as a light to the Gentiles, and appreciate the fact that He saved us and not only those who are Jewish by birth! “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, on them a Light has shined.” What a blessing! And how beautifully illustrated by an illuminated tree during the darkest weeks of the year.
Finally we arrive at the colors my husband chose. The red, silver, and gold represent past, present, and future. Red is for the past: the shed blood of Jesus Christ, which covers over our sin. We talk in concrete terms about the Lord’s sacrifice. We’ve also found this to be an excellent opportunity to teach the “fancy” theological term “salvation” (as well as others, like “justification,” “propitiation,” and “atonement.”)
Silver is for the present: our “purification” or “sanctification.” (Yes, more theological terms. We don’t rely on these, but we’ve found that our children understand them at a surprisingly young age when we introduce them in this context.) The Old Testament says that God refines us like silver, so we find it an apt example.
The last layer of the tree is the gold ornamentation, representing our future in Heaven – “glorification.” The most obvious opportunities to talk about Heaven arise when someone we know passes away. Unfortunately, this can be a bit morbid for the littlest ones. Adding the gold layer to our Christmas tree has given us wonderful opportunities to talk about Heaven from a purely positive perspective!
We used to tackle the dressing of our Christmas tree all in one pop. It was fun – and there was nothing wrong with that approach – but it was just fun. Approaching our tree in this layer-by-layer manner has enabled us to really make the most of an opportunity to focus our family on the Lord, spend time together, and even teach our very young children some significant doctrinal truths.
The children love it – and so do we!