The Perfect Tree
by Dr. Ken Matto
With Christmas coming tomorrow there are still some folks who have not purchased their Christmas tree. In fact, they wait until the last moment to buy a tree because normally the tree prices dip to about half the normal price. When I was growing up we always had a pine tree and normally that tree was purchased around the 15th of the month and placed in our garage until about the 20th. My father really never wanted to have a Christmas tree but he had to listen to my mother or else he would eat meat loaf for the rest of his life. When I was growing up as a small child I belonged to the Hungarian Reformed Church and we always had such a beautiful traditional Christmas Eve service with a real tree well decorated of about 12-15 feet high. The highlight of the service was when they put all the lights out in the church and just had the tree lights lit. At that time we sang Silent Night in both English and Hungarian. That hymn is beautiful in any language.
The Christmas Eve service always made an impact on me because of the beauty of the tree and the singing of Silent Night. My eyes always swelled up with tears and I very rarely ever made it through Silent Night without choking up, a tradition that continues to this day. The church was also packed to capacity on that night and I always remember the elders having to bring in folding chairs to hold the capacity crowd. Then after the service we would head home and put the lights out in our living room and just keep our tree lights lit and it would continue the silent beauty that we saw in church until it was time for me to go to bed (not sleep, what child can sleep on Christmas Eve). We always looked for the best tree we could find and that is why we went and bought it earlier in the month. If you go shopping for a tree on Christmas Eve, you will not have the opportunity to pick the best one and you will not find your perfect tree. The ornaments we placed on the tree were normally purchased at Woolworth’s in Perth Amboy, NJ where I grew up. Today some of those ornaments have survived my brother and myself and they hang on his tree. They are from the 1950’s and now they have some value to them. When we bought them at Woolworth’s they were 12 for a dollar and they were beautiful and not cheaply made.
Well the years have gone by as they have for all of us and I have long since left that church because it was a dead entity, my brother moved out about 15 years ago, and my mother died 2 years ago next month. She made the holiday for us when we were growing up. This is why I have such wonderful memories of those days. Then I became saved and spoke with many Christians who feel that Christmas trees are idolatrous because of a verse in Jeremiah.
(Jer 10:2-5 KJV) Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. {3} For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. {4} They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. {5} They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.
The ministry of Jeremiah was from approximately 627-586 BC. This was many hundreds of years before the first Christmas and even hundreds more before the first Christmas tree made its way into the homes of people. Notice what it says in verse 5 that these idols cannot do good or evil. That is because they are neutral and those who create them also create the false religions that go with them. This verse has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas trees. It has to do with outright worshipping idolatry. I will never understand how a decorated Christmas tree can affect or overturn a believer’s faith. It is nothing but a tree with ornaments.
About 2000 years ago there was a tree which affected the lives of countless millions. Although the tree itself was not perfect it is the ornament that hung on that tree that was perfect. You see a pine tree in a forest is only a pine tree until it is cut down and brought into someone’s home and decorated. Then it becomes a Christmas tree. The Lord Jesus Christ, God’s holy ornament, hung on a tree to die for His elect. The tree was only a tree until it was taken from the forest and shaped by a carpenter and used to hang the Son of God between Earth and Heaven for you and I. The cross is the true Christmas tree because the Son of God came to earth and adorned that cross with selfless love for His people in volunteering to be separated from His Heavenly Father for a season and to face the wrath of God so we would not have to.
Yes the true meaning of Christmas is that God the Son came to Earth through the birth channel to bring the final sacrifice to fulfill the demands of God’s holy and righteous law and if you are a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ it was done for you because you were named before the foundation of the world. So the next time you see a Christmas tree don’t rebuke it but instead see the Son of Man on that tree as He brings light into the dark world. Tonight you will probably have the opportunity to see many Christmas trees and lighted homes. One thing I started doing a few years ago, weather permitting, was after attending church I would go out for a ride up and down the streets in neighboring towns and my own just to look at all the lights on the homes. As I rode I didn’t sit in my car like a sad sack and complain to myself about the commercialism, I thank God for the light He gives us. With the beautiful Christmas music on a local Christian Radio station playing in the car, it makes it a spiritual time and by God’s grace I hope I can do it again tonight. If you have the opportunity to do this for a little while tonight and you can bring your children, do it and show them through all the lights how the Lord Jesus Christ brings beautiful color to this world. In the tabernacle in the wilderness, when one looked at it from the outside it looked very bland in color but if you were on the inside you saw majestic colors and beauty. Jesus looks bland to the world, to those on the outside, but when He saves you see His majesty in all the colors of Christmas. You can then view Him from the inside of the tabernacle and you will understand that all those colors have specific meanings:
White - For the purity of Christ - Revelation 1:14
Blue - Heaven - Exodus 24:10
Purple - For the heavenly Kingship of Christ - Judges 8:26
Scarlet - For the blood of Christ - Hebrews 9:22
Gold - Our Salvation - Rev. 3:18
Silver - Redemption - Matt. 27:3
May You All Have a Blessed and Joyous Christmas Eve and Day.