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Evergreen life Church Lexington KY

Evergreen life through all our seasons and for all the world!

I write this in the week before Christmas – a whole weekend this year of looking at Christmas from different angles offered to us in our lectionary and traditions. This is only the second year that we have had a not-real-live Christmas tree. January 6 (Epiphany, the end of Christmas tide) was usually the time we would be taking down decorations and wondering what to do with the tree, but now we just pack it up for next year. I’ve been pondering the meaning and traditions of Christmas trees.

History tells us that, long before the advent of Christianity, plants and trees that remained green all year had a special meaning in the winter. Ancient peoples hung evergreen boughs over their doors and windows, to keep away witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and illness. The winter solstice was celebrated in the northern hemisphere on the longest night of the year, December 21, many believing that the sun god was sick and weak. Evergreen boughs reminded them of all the green plants that would grow again when the sun god was strong, and summer would return. The ancient
Egyptians filled their homes with green palm rushes at the solstice, so that Ra would recover; the Romans honored Saturn, the god of agriculture similarly; as did the Celt Druids and the Vikings of Scandinavia.

Germany introduced us to the Christmas tree tradition in the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Martin Luther was the first to add lighted candles to a tree as a way to capture the twinkling stars amidst a forest at night. Apparently, though Pennsylvanian German settlements had community trees as early as 1747, even as late as the 1840s Christmas trees were seen as pagan symbols and not adopted as a festive custom in both Britain and the US until after mid-nineteenth century (when Queen Victoria and her German husband, Prince Albert, were known to include a tree in their Christmas decorations). And the rest is world history, community traditions and family joy!

Whilst the world has always let the evergreen symbolize life and healing, Christians have added Christmas trees in ways that point to the message of good news in this season – Christ turning the world from darkness to light, fear to joy, suffering to peace and bringing love, especially Love, born to us in this season. Evergreen life through all our seasons and for all the world. God bless and keep us all in this coming new year!

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