...the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace. (Luke 1:78b-79)
The Advent season has arrived, and decorations are up across town. If you are busy trimming your tree, you are not alone. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, there are approximately 25 to 30 million real Christmas trees sold in the U.S. each year.
Tradition holds that Martin Luther, the Protestant Reformer, began the tradition of decorating with lighted trees in the 16th century. As the story goes, Luther was walking one evening through a forest and was so moved by the sight of the stars twinkling through the trees' branches that he cut down a tree and wired it with lit candles to recreate the effect for his family. Luther hoped that the evergreen tree, which was fresh and strong despite the bitter weather, would remind his family that when the world was at its darkest, God sent His Son—the source of everlasting life—into the world. The lights, Luther said, remind us of the star that led Wise Men to the Christ child.
Of course, trees and lights are not the only symbols of the Advent season. Stars, like the one that shone over Jesus' birth, are symbols of prophecy fulfilled. Angels remind us of the heavenly messengers who proclaimed Christ's birth to the shepherds. Wreaths are circular, neverending symbols of eternal love and rebirth. Candy canes are shaped like a shepherd's hook, reminding us that Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and they are traditionally colored red (for Christ's blood) and white (for Christ's purity).
We encourage you to take time this weekend to reflect on the reality behind the symbols of faith appearing all around you right now.
As you decorate your home, share with your family and friends the significance of the lights, angels, and nativities.
Turn your evening walk through the neighborhood into an opportunity for prayer inspired by the visual reminders of Christ's coming.
Or, if nothing else, find a few minutes to go outside and, like Martin Luther, look up at the stars and wonder at the Light of the World sent to guide our feet into the path of peace.