Christ’s best Christmas gift

By Debra Whittington: Notes from the Church Lady

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful,

Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. Isaiah 9:6-7

But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy
Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Matthew 1:20-23

Last Thursday, I had to make a quick trip to the store for a couple of items. While I was there I decided to check out the sale on Christmas decorations although I have more than enough already.

As I stood looking at the wide assortment I spoke to another lady who was also looking everything over. She commented that I must really like Christmas and I told her about the different trees I put up each year including a theme tree that changes from year to year. She asked if I had ever heard of the “Paradise Tree”. That was a new one to me so I asked her to tell me more about it.

In the 16th Century, churches looked for a descriptive way to symbolize Jesus Christ and teach their congregation about our Lord and Savior. In Bavaria, fir branches and small evergreen trees were used to symbolize eternal life as well as paradise.

To the tree was added apples that represent Adam’s sin and the fall of mankind. Added to the tree were pieces of bread or wafers or sometimes-white roses that symbolized Jesus Christ and the promise of salvation through Him. Finally, amber colored barley candy or other sweets were added to the tree that represented the sweetness of redemption.

The tree evolved over the years as lights and other ornaments were added.

As the centuries passed, the Christmas tree became more ornate until the Victorian era when trees were loaded with all sorts of decorations. The Christmas tree ceased to be a teaching tool and its significance disappeared to the point that it was a mere secular object of the season.

Not only the Christmas tree, but other symbols representing the birth of Jesus Christ also faded away into obscurity. Even the word “Christmas” was replaced in many schools until classes were dismissed for winter vacation and not for the religious holiday that was the original reason.

Adults as well as children learn through visual aids and I think the Paradise Tree is a perfect illustration of man’s relationship and need for Jesus Christ. Although the Lord made the Garden of Eden perfect, Satan stepped in and tempted man to sin thus bringing about his fall. However, in God’s perfect plan, Jesus Christ was provided as a way of redemption and salvation for all those who believe in Him and accept Him as their Lord and Savior.

Finally, once salvation is assured, the believer has the assurance of eternal life spent in the presence of the Lord. There isn’t anything on this earth that is sweeter than redemption and the assurance it brings.

During this first week of Advent, I plan to focus on the elements of the Paradise tree and what it represents in the life of those who believe and accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. I chose the Paradise tree as my theme tree this year and every time I look at it, I am reminded that even though man is imperfect, our perfect Savior provided a way for us to return to God and live with Him forever and ever.

Jesus was prophesized as the perfect Savior in the book of Isaiah written hundreds of years before His birth. As I wait for Christmas Day I will look at the Paradise tree often and will ponder the greatest gift ever given, a Savior that provides the sweetness and assurance of redemption.