Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.–Revelation 22:1-2
Many people think of the Christmas tree as a leftover from the Pagan winter rituals of Europe, but in fact, the Christmas tree is a uniquely Christian symbol of deep Biblical truths. It is true that Europeans have been decorating their homes with evergreen boughs from time immemorial, but in the Middle Ages, Christians began setting up “Paradise trees” in their homes to commemorate the Tree of Life on the feast day of Adam and Eve (Christmas Eve). In doing so, they recognized that Jesus was born as the “Second Adam from Above” as we intone in “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”
As seen in Revelation 22:1-2, the Tree of Life will stand among the redeemed in Heaven, but as it tree will have taken on a new ironic meaning. Strangely, when Jewish scholars translated the book of Genesis from Hebrew to Greek a few hundred years before the birth of Jesus, they chose an odd word to translate “tree [of life].” Rather than the normal word dendron (as in the English word rhododendron or “rose tree”), the translators chose xulon, which means “a dry stick, a piece of lumber or dead wood.”
As John applied the phrase to Heaven, it took on a new meaning. The “tree of life” was not an ordinary tree. It was a dead stick, a piece of lumber that now sprouts leaves that heal the nations and abundantly bears fruit every month of the year. Somehow, a dead stick has become the most powerfully alive tree in the universe. Obviously, the Cross of Jesus Christ has become the Tree of Life. The very instrument of Jesus’ death has participated in his resurrection, and those who “eat its fruit” will live forever.
As you decorate your Christmas tree this year, remember the Tree of Life. When you take it down, remember the dead stick of the Cross. Just as your tree went from life to death, you will by faith in Christ e’er long pass from death to everlasting life.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, please receive our decorated tree, our festive home, as an offering of praise and as a symbol of longing for our eternal home with you. Let your presence dwell among us richly this season, inspiring us to hope in you, reminding us of the life to come in the world without end, with Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.