Decorating Christmas trees is a good opportunity to reflect on some of the trees in the Bible, particularly the Trees of Life that are used as symbols for God’s kingdom.
Our annual Christmas Tree Festival is a great opportunity to decorate the church, celebrate people’s creativity, and draw together groups from the wider community. We end with a Celebration Service at which I preached this sermon. The Tree of Life that the book of Revelation talks about comes from the vision of the prophet Ezekiel, which I’ve also preached about.
On Friday there was the switch on of the Christmas lights in Swad, complete with fireworks and rather too much rain! In preparation for that, Christmas trees had been appearing around Swad over the last week, ready to be lit up when the time came. And over the last week Christmas trees have been appearing here in Swad church, and being decorated with all sorts of creative decorations. I want to thank everyone who decorated the trees, those who decorated the church, and the people who organised and ran things. Thank you. I’d also like to thank the Chair of South Derbyshire Council, councillor Neil Atkins for coming. It’s lovely to be able to celebrate our links with the Council.
And Swad lights and these Christmas trees will now be up over Advent and Christmas, as part of our Christmas celebrations. And, on Tuesday, Advent calendars will start to be opened, counting the run-up until Christmas in pictures, sweets or toys. But, the church’s preparations for Christmas start today with Advent Sunday, as we look forward and get ready to celebrate God’s gift of Jesus.
And Christmas trees can be great reminders of that preparation. As we heard in the first reading (Isaiah 11:1):
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
Jesse was King David’s father, and so this verse is about a king who was a descendant of David, coming to complete what David started. That’s one of the many verses that look forward to the coming of Jesus, that were part of the preparations that God’s people had as they were looking forward to God coming. God coming to sort out the mess, sort out the pain and suffering. God coming to bring peace and justice.
And the promise of Christmas is that that’s how it started, with the birth of Jesus. A Branch who has borne much fruit.
So Christmas Trees can act as reminders of the shoot of Jesse. And Jesse Trees are an Advent tradition, perhaps the oldest sort of Advent calendars, where a different symbol is added each day as a reminder of all the promises that God made looking forward to sending his son.
But Christmas Trees can also act as reminders of that other great tree in the Bible, the tree of life, which we heard about in our second reading. The tree of life is one of the symbols of what we are looking forward to when what Jesus has started is brought to completion. The tree of life has constant fruit and healing leaves. Fruit for food and leaves for the healing of the nations. That’s a great reminder that God is bothered about our everyday, practical needs.
And as we look at the decorated Christmas trees, and as we look at the lights in Swad and elsewhere, we can also remember to celebrate the creativity and gifts that God has given to us. The creativity and gifts that God has given us to use, to help one another, to show his love, to bear fruit and work with him to bring peace and justice.
So, let’s use these Christmas trees and lights as reminders of the God who loves us, the God who shows his love for us, and the God who celebrates along with us. Amen.