Every year I look forward to when I can play Christmas music at home, in my car, and the office. I particularly love the classics like Bing Crosby, Vince Guaraldi, Bobby Darin, and Perry Como. One holiday standard that has been covered by pretty much every artist is, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and I love every version
A line that stands out to me says, “and presents onthe tree.” As a child I thought this was simply incorrect as I only ever saw presents under the tree. One theory is that prior to the use of wrapping paper gifts were, in fact, hung on the tree. As often happens, when was researching I fell down an internet rabbit hole learning about various customs and histories from all over the world related to Christmas trees.
For a long time, Christmas trees were banned. This seems crazy today, as the Christmas tree has become the universal symbol of the holiday. Christian missionaries forbade their converts from using trees because it reminded them of some ancient cultures that brought trees indoors and decorating them to honor their gods.
For Christians Martin Luther is widely credited as bringing the Christmas tree to its favorable position today. On a walk in the woods, Luther was struck by the beauty of the snow laden branches of the evergreens. He realized that trees are at the heart of the gospel story.
What he observed was that a Savior was born and placed in a wooden manger. Before he started his ministry, tradition says, he was a carpenter. He lived his life knowing he would be nailed to a tree outside Jerusalem thirty-three years later. Jesus the Holy one, pure as driven snow, carried our sins and took our punishment so we can be forgiven by God’s grace.
During this time of year, we can get so focused on giving and receiving perfect gifts from under the tree that we forget about the greatest gift of all. This year let’s remember that the best gift ever given was not placed undera tree but was hung on one. Paul says 1 Corinthians 2:2, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”