The Evergreen Hope of Christmas

For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living GOD, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.
Timothy 4:10
Every year, I hear people — in real life and online — who get all bent out of shape over their perceptions of pagan symbolism of evergreen trees, Christmas lights and the commercialization of the Christmas season. I will not rehash my emphasis in previous writings that the method and style of an individual’s celebrations is completely a matter of the heart’s intent which is more important to GOD than a particular form or for some outright avoidance.  Nonetheless, I have long held that symbols only hold the significance they carry for a person in a particular place and time, according to their own conscience. GOD will not hold me responsible for what a given symbol may have represented to someone in ancient times, if in all good conscience, it is a representation of my worship to me today and only calls to mind and heart a reverence for the things of GOD,  and my hope in His Son and His Word.

Even if something was used for pagan or evil purposes in centuries past, my GOD is in the business of redemption.  He transformed an ancient torture device from a symbol of death and shame to a declaration of victory and life.  He can do the same for Christmas trees, lights and the myriad other traditional symbols of modern Christmas.  One person’s interpretation of a symbol has no magical power to imbue that object for all time with some mystical evil, pagan spirit. It only holds that meaning as long as a person or society believes in that meaning. Once that meaning has passed from public consciousness, it no longer means that, especially if GOD has redeemed it and turned it into a witness for Himself.

You can say the same of the commercialization of retail turning Christmas into a season of gimme gimme, obligation and debt instead of the spirit of giving that represents GOD’s ultimate gift to all humanity in sending His only Son to a humble manger to live on Earth as a man so He could better communicate His love and desire for authentic relationship with us. He wants to be with us so much that He was willing to send Jesus to take our sins on Himself and die on the Cross for the forgiveness of those sins and rise again on the third day to give witness and testimony to the glory and power of GOD and draw people into intimate relationship with Him.

Just because some people treat it as a secular obligatory gifting opportunity and feel it is an onerous duty to spend money they don’t have, to buy pricey gifts they can’t afford, for people they hardly take time for the other 364 days of the year, doesn’t mean it has to mean that to someone who is honestly trying to honor GOD’s ultimate gift, by celebrating the beginning of the redemption story come to Earth in the form of a baby.  If you let someone else’s misunderstanding or disrespect of the holiday ( derived from the Old English for holy day), guilt you or interfere with your enjoyment of celebrating your Savior, you alone are responsible for letting your joy be stolen.  If you want it to be about Jesus, then put your heart into it and make it that way for you and your family. What anyone else chooses to do and the attitude of their heart, is between them and GOD.

Exactly how that looks and sounds will be different for each person or family. I am not here to prescribe a particular manner of celebration. I only want to urge Christians not to allow anyone else to define a “proper” Christmas celebration for them; nor to feel that because of pagan roots or commercial interests, that they must avoid any kind of Christmas celebration whatsoever, if it brings them joy, promotes family relationships and brings them closer to GOD in the spirit of worship.  If it doesn’t, well, maybe it’s better to celebrate at a different time that inspires a worship heart. But, please don’t not celebrate because of someone else’s conscience and miss the wonder and rejoicing in your heart at the remembrance of your LORD and Savior’s birth.
Blessed be the GOD and Father of our LORD Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
1 Peter 1:3
Perhaps the most seasonally appropriate illustration is the ever present evergreen Christmas tree.  Even though ancient pagans used branches as winter solstice decorations and the Roman use of evergreens as temple decorations for Saturnalia, they do not own the rights to define what evergreens mean to all people for all time. John 1 makes it clear, “All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.”  So clearly, GOD created evergreens and placed them on Earth before the Romans and ancient pagan thought up any unholy uses.

1 Chronicles 29:11 tells us that everything in the heavens and earth belongs to GOD.  In Isaiah 55, the trees of the field clap their hands in praise of their Creator. If anyone has the right to determine the eternal significance of something, it would surely be Him. In journalism, when we say a text is “evergreen”, it means that the story is not time sensitive, but stands the test of time and is relevant to any time and place. The story will not go out of date but contains information that people can relate to now, next year or 10 or 100 years from now. What a perfect description of the hope of the gospel that started with the fulfillment of countless prophecies in the birth of a baby in Bethlehem!

Jesus is the living embodiment of that idea for as Hebrews 13 tells us, He is “the same yesterday and today and forever.”  Romans 1 explains, “since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made” meaning each piece of creation is a glimpse into the qualities of GOD as a testimony to Him. It is not too much of a stretch then to say that the evergreen nature of fir trees is a picture of the unchanging nature of GOD. Keeping this in mind and being careful to worship the Creator and not the created, the Christmas tree is a wonderful symbol to help us remember Who GOD is, what He is like and the fact that because of what He did in Bethlehem, and on Calvary, our hope for eternity in His presence is also evergreen. It does not expire, run out, wear out or get old. Decorate with lights and you have a further illustration of the Light of the World. 

This is not stretching verses to make them fit my preconceptions and wishes.  The problem is that we have been so inundated with worldly interpretations of Christmas, we have forgotten the origins that predate by millennia, the pagan and Roman influences and the modern advent of a retail-driven holiday. A fairy tale Santa may have been turned into the focus of the season, but there is nothing more appropriate to celebrate GOD’s ultimate gift to us, than to engage in the spirit of cheerful giving and showering our loved ones with love — with or without store bought gifts and sweet treats. It’s really not about the dollar amount, big or small. It’s about the Hope that came to a humble manger in Bethlehem, whether the date is exactly right or not, to invite us into a close relationship with Him and because of that we have an everlasting, eternal, evergreen hope for eternity with Him. Now that’s a good reason to celebrate any time, any place!

Merry Christmas one and all!
Again Isaiah says, “There shall come the root of Jesse, And He who arises to rule over the Gentiles, In Him shall the Gentiles hope.
Romans 15:12
Blessings!
Tamara Christine

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous for the LORD your GOD will go with you wherever you go.  Joshua 1:9

I am not ashamed for I know in Whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard that which I have entrusted to Him until that day.  2 Timothy 1:12

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