03 December 2011

on Christmas trees

The tree has roots in the earth and a head in heaven. The Baby lay within the wood of a tree and glorified it by his presence. Jesus took the ugliest of trees and made the wood sweet by His Blood. We gild the tree just as we gild all trees, even crosses, because we honor his birth, life, death, and resurrection. It is a beautiful tradition.

Conscientious souls often worry about the origins of this Christmas custom. Some have suggested pagan roots, but since we know almost nothing about ancient pagans I am always intrigued by how these careful Christians know this fact. When I ask, I am given speculations sourced to Victorian authors intent on finding pagan roots in everything to undermine the established Church, or to New Age gurus speculating on slender evidence.

The only people claiming to know the details of ancient paganism are the handful of modern pagans who have invented a mythological past and believe in it and a few Christians who take them seriously. Most of their better ideas can be traced to the sort of obscure nineteenth century writers who found Atlantis in every underwater ruin and fertility rites simply everywhere.

But really, if it could be proven that the Christmas tree has pagan roots, then I am sorry to have been told. After all, if Saint Paul could eat meat sacrificed to idols in a pagan era when that meant something, then I can enjoy a tree in my house. Paul ate to the glory of God; I decorate to the glory of God.

Paganism, if it ever touched this jolly tradition, long lost control of it. Tradition has good Prince Albert bringing trees to England for his love match Victoria. Americans honor the Prince who helped Mr. Lincoln keep England out of the Civil War and so I hope this story is true. If not, then my family knew only innocent delight when we bought a tree, though Dad did get mad that one year when the tree kept tipping.

Sometime this week we will purchase and decorate the best Tree ever. I hope you can join us in anticipating Christmas to come.

Christ will be born and we will glorify Him.

-John Mark Reynolds


We're getting ours today!

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