This week will mark one of my favorite days of the year, the winter solstice. Of course, it is not a holiday to us, but the lengthening days and the coming of springtime are a reason for the gardener in me to rejoice. Those who share my love of the sunshine and the winter blues that comes with the waning light will understand.
The ancients celebrated the day because they did not know the true and living God. “They worshiped and served something created instead of the Creator” (Romans 1:25,HCSB).
This week will also be dominated by the frenzied buildup to the most celebrated day of the year, Christmas. It is no accident that the two days are close. As the Catholic church moved into new areas, it was easier for them to adopt the pagan practices and Christianize them, rather than throw out all the old traditions. Thus originated the connection with the festive evergreen decorations in our dwellings.
Even as a gardener, I have to marvel at how preposterous it really is to take in whole trees, or reasonable facsimiles of large trees, into our living spaces at a ridiculously cold time of the year. We would never have thought of this on our own had the pagans not passed the tradition on to us, would we?
While I deeply respect our friends who see the pagan connection as too close for comfort, I enjoy “decorating with nature” as this season suggests. I wouldn’t mind greenery garlands and red berries all year! The lights, the music, the food; I love it all. The emphasis on giving has now become a wonderfully Christian tradition, far removed from the pagan roots. Although the birth of the Christ child was surely not a winter occurrence, no one can deny the benefits of considering God’s good will to man at any time of the year.
Oh, that the world would also turn its eyes to a risen Lord rather than simply to a baby in a manger. Babies do not represent an authority figure, but a precious gift of new life. We need to see God’s authority and not just his amazing and awesome gift. They go together, you know.
Now, back to those evergreens. The reason the pagans revered them was that they depicted life when all else around was dead and bleak. Christians need not turn to pines, hollies, spruces, and firs for such hope. We have a marvelous tree to look forward to enjoying forever, thanks to God’s precious gift! Adam and Eve were able to eat from it before they were banished from the first garden.
God has this Tree of Life waiting in heaven for us to enjoy. “The leaves of the tree are for healing the nations” (Revelation 22:2). We all need healing, physical or otherwise. Our minds and our hearts all yearn for healing, whether we are young or old. The many hurts that this life holds can only be healed by this tree, created and planted by God. God is the healer, and the one who gives life, both now and eternally.
As you are rockin’ around the Christmas tree, and you deck your halls with boughs of holly, think for a moment about the “ultimate tree,” the Tree of Life. Revelation 22:14 gives those who “wash their robes” the right to eat of that tree, and live forever as Genesis 3:22 indicated. I fully intend to make my permanent residence in that garden, where the Son shines all day, and there is no night. Happy holidays!