Today is the first Sunday in Advent, and marks the beginning of the Western Church Year. The Church has traditionally taken the four weeks before Christmas to meditate on the coming of Christ, and to pray that he would come again. As we seek further reformation in the CREC, many of us want to celebrate the Church Year at least as much as we celebrate the civil calendar, if not more. It is a question of basic allegiance: whose calendar is more important, the State’s or God’s? But this makes many people nervous. Is this not a return to Roman Catholicism? Does celebrating Advent make us Episcopalian? Take a minute to think about all the traditions we’ve accepted, perhaps without even thinking about them. How does your family celebrate Christmas? Find me a verse in the Bible which supports greeting cards … jingling bells … or sleigh rides in the snow. All this is Victorian nostalgia. It’s pleasant and warms the heart, but it’s meaningless from a Biblical point of view. On the other hand, presents, trees, wine and feasting, singing carols … these are all Biblical. We may not have a proof-text which says, “Thou shalt give Christmas presents” but we certainly have Biblical reasons for this Christmas tradition. God the Father gives his people the gift of his Son. When Jesus rose from the dead, he ascended on high and gave gifts to men. The Holy Spirit is one of the gifts from the Risen Lord (Eph. 4:6-7).
Christmas trees are also Biblical. Through Adam’s sin, we lost the Tree of Life. Jesus, the Second Adam, came to bring us back to the Garden of Eden. By dying on a tree (1 Pt. 2:24), and taking the curse of sin upon himself, Jesus Christ passed through the swords of the flaming cherubim and gave us the blessings of the Tree of Life. All of this points toward the heavenly New Jerusalem, where all the nations will eat the fruit of the Tree of Life (Rev. 22:2). So what if the original idea for Christmas trees came from pagan Germanic tribes? Christ has conquered the gods of all nations, including the demons these barbarians used to worship (Eph. 1:20-21). Plundering good things from the barbarians demonstrates the dominion of Christ over all the kingdoms of the world. We are in more danger of worshipping the idols of American consumerism and the gods of Best Buy than we are of worshipping ancient pagan gods. So bring a tree into your living room this season, and establish a little Garden of Eden, a little foretaste of heaven.