This is an edited version of a talk at the Mothers’ Union Advent service in the Parish Church of the Ascension, Oughtibridge.

AS we start putting up Christmas trees in our churches, it is worth thinking about some of the Christian symbolism bound up with them.

We might think about the Christmas tree lights, first of all. These remind us that our Lord Jesus Christ is the light of the world. Without the Lord Jesus we don’t properly know God what is like. We can know some things about God by looking at the world he has made but essentially without Jesus we are in the dark about how to be in a saving relationship with the living God, and how to trust and obey him in our everyday lives. But the Lord Jesus as God’s one and only Son shows us God’s glorious character and how we can know him personally. Jesus said in John’s Gospel: ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life’ (John 8v12 – NIV).

Then there is the colour of the Christmas tree, which reminds us of something very important about our Lord Jesus. It is an evergreen, whilst everything in the garden is looking pretty dead in the middle of winter. So it reminds us of life in the midst of death. The Bible teaches us that without Jesus we are dead in our sins; we are dead to God because we have turned away from God. But in his love for us God sent his Son the Lord Jesus to bring us life, life with God, life for ever when we put our trust in Jesus. Jesus also said in John’s Gospel: ‘I have come that they – that is those who believe in him, his followers – may have life and have it to the full’ (John 11v10).

Thirdly – the presents around the tree. Presents remind that God gave us the best present of all, his Son the Lord Jesus Christ. God gave us Jesus to die for our sins on the Cross so that we can be forgiven and become God’s friends. Jesus said in John 3v16: ‘God so loved the world – this sin-ridden world of ours – that he gave his One and Only Son so that whoever believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.’

Fourthly – the people around the Christmas tree, the family in church or at home. Christmas is a family time and that reminds us that our Lord Jesus was born into a human family and grew up with a human Mum and Dad, Joseph and Mary. Luke 2v51 tells us that Jesus was obedient to his human parents.

The home family is very important to God. The home family is where we learn or should learn how to love God and how to love other people. The church family is also very important to God, the family of believers in the Lord Jesus. John chapter 1 tells us that when Jesus came into the world, many people refused to believe in him as the Saviour of the world, but some people did believe and to those people he gave the right to become children of God (John 1v12). We become part of God’s special family, the church family, when we believe and trust in his Son the Lord Jesus Christ. The family focus of Christmas reminds us of that.

So, the Christmas tree lights point us to Jesus as the light of the world. The evergreen tree points us to Jesus as God’s everlasting life-giver. The Christmas presents point us to the greatest gift of all, God’s one and only Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who died for our salvation. And the family around the Christmas tree points us to the privilege of belonging to God’s church family through faith in our Lord Jesus. To him be the glory both now and for ever. Amen.

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