As Thanksgiving rapidly approaches, I thought I’d offer you another glimpse of the holi-devo. Here’s another sample devotional from One Thousand Gift Receipts.
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.”
John 15:1-2 (NLT)
Ever wonder where our tradition of decorating Christmas trees came from? Well, to begin with Christmas trees represent the combination of two distinctly different symbols. First, a triangular shelf holding Christmas figurines was topped by a star representing the one that the Magi followed. Second, The Paradise Tree, decorated with apples and white wafers, symbolized the tree of life in the Garden of Eden. Both symbols merged to form our modern Christmas tree.
Initially, Europeans adorned only outdoor trees; then the notion of chopping down trees and moving them indoors followed: first by churches, then the very wealthy, and finally the masses (Hey, that’s me!). The weight of the apples and oranges used for decoration weighed down the branches of all but the largest and sturdiest trees, so German glassblowers began to produce lightweight, glass balls—the first man-made ornaments—to replace the heavier fruit.
Hank Hanegraaf, aka the Bible Answer Man, credits Martin Luther with first lighting Christmas trees. Upon returning home late one night, Luther noticed stars twinkling behind the branches of outdoor pines. He achieved a similar look by attaching candles to branches of his indoor tree.
Indoor Christmas trees weren’t commonly used in Britain until the 19th century. The Pennsylvania Germans introduced the tradition to America in the 1820’s.
Christmas trees represent big business here in the United States. We’ve come a long way from our humble beginnings—dragging in a tree cut from our own back forty and decorating it on Christmas Eve. Nowadays, many homes boast pre-lit, upside-down, designer-decorated trees. Gigantic, glittery, ribboned monstrosities have replaced the simple gold star or homespun angel atop the tree.
Themed trees, decorated by designers who specialize in such treatments, abound. Consider these:
- Blue and silver ornaments serve as a tribute to the Dallas Cowboys.
- Ho, Ho Holidays boasts a Santa theme.
- The lodge-themed tree uses rustic wood and tin ornaments and giant snowflakes.
- The one with purple peacock and blue butterflies sort of ruined it for me.
Frankly, I’m kind of partial to my run-of-the-mill, homey-looking tree, that combines homemade and specially-purchased, meaningful ornaments. Homemade ornaments include the clothespin Rudolph my son, Charlie, made at Mother’s Day Out, the tiny wreath surrounding Molly’s kindergarten picture, or the handprint in clay Reese painted for me as a preschooler. Through the years, we’ve also bought ornaments that reflect a particular season of life. (You read about these on November 26.) These carry sentimentality, evoking specific emotions in my family and me every year when we open the boxes and start hanging ornaments on our tree.
Last Christmas, I noticed my college son, who wasn’t able to be home when we decorated, taking time to look at specific ornaments, reading captions, and running his finger across their surfaces. He made my day when we commented our decorated house felt homey and gave him a sense of security and belonging. What more could a mom ask for?
In the same way, the Holy Spirit “decorates” our lives. He takes our plain, humble, sinful beginning self and adds to that the character and nature of God. The Lord uses what we learn—everything from putting on the armor of God to memorizing the Sermon on the Mount—to adorn us, to prepare us for life. Jesus modeled the perfect example. Now, we just have to accept the Lord’s correction, his pruning, his chiseling away anything doesn’t look like Jesus.
Will you be the Lord’s tree this holiday season? Will you let him prune you and decorate you—even when it hurts? Until you become the very image of Christ?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to trust your pruning, accept your chiseling in my life—believing that you know everything about my past, present and future and you want only to make me look more like Jesus every day.
Practical Tip: Traditions to incorporate:
- Visit a Christmas tree farm. Enjoy a hayride and hot cider before searching for your perfect tree.
- Decorate an outdoor tree for the birds using garlands of cranberries or popcorn. Help kids “paint” a pinecone with peanut butter and roll it in birdseed.
- Camp out under the Christmas tree the first night you put it up. Leave on only the tree lights. Build a fire; have popcorn, hot chocolate or cider; watch a Christmas movie. Parents may move to a real bed after the kids fall asleep.
- As you decorate the tree talk about the history of each ornament—who made it or bought it and what makes it special.
- Transition from Thanksgiving: Say something you’re thankful for each time you hang an ornament.
- Put a small, lighted tree in each of your children’s bedrooms. That way small children may decorate (and re-decorate) to their heart’s content.
- Set up an old model train set to run around underneath the tree or on a table if you have small children.