There are a number of legends that surround the Christmas Tree. Luther most likely didn’t invent the concept, but the idea of using a tree in the winter during Liturgical Plays was common in Luther’s day.
December 24th was the Festival of Adam and Eve. With most of the population illiterate these festivals and the plays that went with them were an important part of their spiritual education. It was at a tree after all where Adam and Eve came to worship God. They only had one command to follow. Don’t eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Simple right? Of course, the fall into sin and our own personal struggles with temptation remind us that it isn’t so simple.
When people began to bring trees into their homes as an object lesson from the Festival of Adam and Eve, it would be difficult to find a fruit tree with leaves. An evergreen tree hung with the forbidden fruit of candy and nuts would be a place where the children could learn to resist temptation. Jesus is the bread of life according to the Gospel of John. Along with sweets, healthier crackers or bread would also be hung on the branches for kids to enjoy. Would the children be able to reach past the treats to the healthy choices?
Finally this life is not the end of our existence. We live for our God until the time when he will take us home to heaven. This truth was known, of course, during the time of Luther. On Christmas, after a long wait during the Advent season, the goodies hanging from the tree would be fair game for kids and adults alike.
I don’t know that we should punt Christmas Eve to restore the Festival of Adam and Eve on December 24, but many of the symbols and decorations can offer a good review of the spiritual truths we cherish. I don’t think Luther invented the Christmas tree, but I’m sure he appreciated many of the symbols it carried during the holiday season.
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