CHRISTMAS CLASSICS SERMON SERIES
O CHRISTMAS TREE
DECEMBER 24, 1997
The Christmas tree is sort of synonymous with the season. It seems that everywhere we turn during this time of year we can’t get away from the tree. We have seen them in yards, living rooms and on the sides of buildings. I have even seen them on boathouses and even in bathrooms. Wherever you turn during this time of year, you can’t get away from the tree.
See this tree right here? This is the real deal. I am talking about an authentic Christmas tree. Just for information, I want to take a brief straw poll. How many of you have real trees in your home? Look at that, hands are going up everywhere. Unbelievable. Now how many of you have artificial trees in your home? Whoa. That is major league. If you have a real tree like this one, you own one of 34 million that have been sold over the last 21 days.
A friend of mine owns a Christmas tree business. I was talking to him last weekend about trees and how we actually get our trees. What he told me was staggering. He said that Christmas trees are grown and harvested like crops. Cutting crews chop them down, helicopters fly them from the mountains to the sides of freeways where they dump them. Then 18-wheelers pick these babies up, take them to train stations and the trains disburse them throughout the land. He said, “Ed, to put it in your style of speaking, it is like this. Stay with me. After the trees are cut by the cutters and flown by the fliers and trucked by the truckers and sold by the sellers, they finally make it to your place.” I said, “I’ve got it.” So this tree here has been through some serious tree trauma. What do you think? Maybe our church could be the first group ever to start a support group for wounded, traveled and traumatized trees. It seems that everywhere we turn these days, we can’t get away from the tree.
The tree is the focal point of all the holiday décor, yet rarely do we contemplate its true significance. For the most part we just select them, buy them, water them, decorate them, place presents beneath them, sing about them. After it is all done, we bag them, burn them and trash them really never considering what they are about, what they represent. Wherever we turn, though, we run into the Christmas tree.
Tonight I want to talk to you about another tree that we can’t get away from. This tree confronts us wherever we turn in life. The tree that I am describing is the tree where Christ paid for your sins and mine. It is the tree that He was crucified on. This Christmas tree represents that reality. Before we deck the halls and dash through the snow and before we sing Silent Night, Holy Night, we have to ask ourselves one question. What are we going to do with the tree? For just a few moments I want to ask you to use the zoom lenses on your eyes and focus on some of the particulars of this tree. Some of the specifics of this tree can change the course of your life and mine. It can help us to see Christmas like we have never seen it before. Is that a good deal, or what?
First, let’s look at the tree itself. A couple of days ago some folks who work around our church office decided to surf the net to discover the history of the Christmas tree. I will be the first to admit that I had no clue about the significance of the tree until they reported what they had found. Check this out. The Christmas tree dates back to the early 700s in Germany. It was called a Christ tree. At that time on the day before Christmas men and women would put on dramas and plays to depict Adam and Eve. They would take the Christ tree, hang apples from it, signifying the forbidden fruit, and they would show Eve eating the forbidden fruit. That is why the 24th got to be called Christmas Eve. You think that I am lying. I am telling you the truth. Surf the Internet, study up on it. The reason the colors of Christmas are green and red is because the apple is red and the tree is green. All this information comes free of charge.
The true essence of Christmas is simply this. We matter so much to God, we are loved to such a degree that Christ left His home in heaven, was born in an earthly home, laid in a manger, which is an ordinary piece of farm furniture made from a tree. He lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial death on the cross for all of your sins and mine, for everything we have ever done wrong, are doing wrong or will do wrong. Christ paid for it all. You see God cannot skim over sin. God can’t wink at sin. God can’t pretend it is not there. Sin has to have a payment and the payment for sin was Jesus. Jesus took all of the guilt, all of the turmoil, all of that stuff on His shoulders as he died on that tree for your sins and mine. The Bible says that right before Christ breathed His last breath he said, “It is finished”. The work had been done, the price had been paid. The Bible says that three days later He arose and now God offers us eternal life. How? By what His Son secured for us on the tree. The tree is green, representing life and the fact that Christ is alive today.
If you want to do something funny, watch your pets when they first discover your Christmas tree inside the house. Cats seem to think it is another tree for them to climb. The dog thinks that the master needs to spend some time in the HaHa House, bringing a tree inside. It is ironic, just consider it for a second. We take a tree from the outside and put it on the inside. But if you think about it, that is what God wants all of us to do. God wants us to take the tree that is on the outside of many of our lives and put it on the inside. He wants us to take the cross from the outside and put it on the inside. So I have got to ask you. What do you do with the tree? The Christmas tree confronts us all. We can’t explain it away. We can’t wash over it. Some of you know right now that you have some unfinished business concerning the tree. It is our prayer that during this service that maybe, just maybe, you will take that step, pray the prayer and move the tree from the outside to the inside.
The secondly, I want us to look at the lights. Aren’t these beautiful lights? There is noting like the lights at Christmas. Lights are beautiful. Here is what Jesus said in the Bible about light. John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life.” We are not just born with the light which one day just comes on. We have to receive it. And we receive it by taking the cross and moving it from the outside to the inside. The moment that happens, the light comes on. Matthew 5:16. “Once you have received me, let your light shine before men.” Think about light for a second. Those lights on the tree are penetrating. The crux of Christianity is the concept of penetration. Every time that Christ described something, He used a word picture which described penetration. He said, I am light. Light penetrates darkness. He says, I am the key. The key penetrates the lock. He talked about the fact that He is salt. Salt penetrates food. He said that He was like leaven. Leaven penetrates the dough. Have you allowed Jesus to penetrate your life? He is not going to force Himself on you. He is not going to kick the door in. He loves you. You matter to Him. He so wants you to invite Him in. He wants to light up your world. Light is penetrating.
Light also is guiding. I thought back to my college years. I love to fish. I went to school at Florida State University and one night I decided to go bass fishing in two lakes. Now the problem fishing in Florida is the alligators. I am kind of a risk taker so I went ahead and went fishing. Now these two lakes were interesting because they were connected by a tunnel which ran under the freeway. To go from one lake to the next lake, you have to paddle in two feet of water for about 25 yards in a tunnel. Now rumor had it that a big old gator lived in that tunnel. Well, I knew that the fishing wasn’t very good in the first lake but that it was great in the other lake. And guess what I had to do. I had to paddle through that tunnel. It was scary. I had cottonmouth. I remember paddling. I would paddle one stroke and then turn my light on. I was looking for those two yellow eyes to appear. Thank the Good Lord, this big gator was out hunting or something so I made it through. I made it through because I had the light. I was always shining the light. Stroke. Light. Stroke. Light. I want to ask you a direct question. How can you negotiate the tunnels of life without the light of Christ? It is impossible. You might do it OK. You could paddle a few strokes, but you won’t really know where you are going. The amazing thing about God is that He allows life to be an adventure for us. He doesn’t just light up the whole tunnel, just the next strokes. Light is penetrating and guiding.
It is also powerful. Jesus said, let your light shine, let it touch and mark others. I meet a lot of people and some of the people I meet seem to have it all. Then as I get to know them, I see that the light is not really on. They are searching for that light. They think the next relationship will do it. They think the next acquisition will do it. They think the next fun fix will do it. They think the next toy or trinket will do it. And the light is still not on. It is not there. They need to move the cross from the outside to the inside. They need the light of Jesus in their lives.
Now if you have the light of Christ, are you sharing it in your marriage? Are you sharing it with your children? Are you sharing it with others? Look at the tree. Look at the lights. I have got to ask you one more time, what do you do with the tree?
The next object is a star. That is a good-looking star. Stars have points on them. And usually the star is on the top of the tree. The Bible says in Matthew 2 that the wise men were looking up in the heavens one day and they saw a star. The Bible says that the star was pointing them to Jesus. Now a lot of people saw the star but only the wise men followed the star. They kept going and finally it pointed them to where Christ was. After the wise men worshipped Christ, they returned another way. True worship always includes a turning the other way. And that is the prayer that we have been praying for these four services. It is that all of us, myself included, would leave here another way.
Now look back at the star just for a second. A lot of you are Christians. I am not talking about denominations, which are manmade. I am talking about being a Christian, having a personal encounter with Christ. You are on His team. Now think back to a time in your life before you became a Christian. For some of you it could be last month, for some thirty or forty years ago. Remembering when you were paddling around in circles in the dark tunnel? God strategically put in your path a power point, a star to point you to Christ. Now for just a moment, assign a name to that star. For me, it would be my parents. For you, it could be a youth leader, a friend, a Sunday School teacher, a coach. Over the next couple of days why don’t you just call them or jot them a note and say thank you for being my star. Thank them for being the power point that directed you to Jesus.
Now others here are outside the family of God. You are seeking. You are investigating and kind of testing the waters of Christianity. And if you are truly seeking like the wise men were seeking, I can promise you that God has placed in your path a power point, a star to lead you to Christ. Assign a name to it. It could be the person who brought you to this service. It could be the person who sits next to you at work. Maybe some husband is saying that it is his wife. Who could it be? As I said before, a lot of people saw the star, but just a few of them investigated and followed the star.
This week because your eternal destiny hangs in the balance, engage your earthbound star in conversation. Talk to them about the claims of Christ. They would love to speak to you about that.
The next objects we will look at are the presents. Aren’t they lovely? I love presents, don’t you? Why do we give presents? The essence of Christianity is giving. John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son…” We serve a gift-giving God and when we serve others, we are simply reflecting the nature and character of God. Now for a second let’s just talk about giving gifts. Do you want to become the best gift giver in your sphere of influence? I do. I will give you two suggestions. Number one. Your gift should reflect your personality. Number two. If you want to be a great gift giver, it had better meet the needs of the person to whom you are giving the gift.
Now I want you to look at something. Pretty cool, isn’t it? It is brand spanking new. See this shirt right here? Brand spanking new. Pants right here? Brand spanking new. This combination was given to me by two close friends. Out of the blue, they said that they wanted me to have these items. And if you knew these guys, you would say that this gift reflects their personalities. Why? Because they are GQ guys. They are sultans of suave and fashion. They know what is going on. Secondly, talk about meeting my needs. I needed a sports coat. I hardly ever wear ties. I needed a sports coat. And I am so thankful that this met my needs. I love these.
Now, let’s transfer that line of thinking to our God. God has given us the ultimate gift which happens to be Jesus. He strolled down the staircase of heaven with a baby in His arms and said, “Here is Jesus.” Is Christ a great gift? You better believe it. Why? First of all, He reflects the personality of the giver. Jesus is God. Secondly, He meets our needs. Think about it. If we had needed numbers, God would have sent us a mathematician. If we had needed legal counsel, He would have sent us an attorney. If we had needed entertainment, He would have sent us, I don’t know, Wayne Newton or somebody. What did we need? We needed forgiveness and God sent us a Savior. Every time you get and receive a gift, it should cause you to worship God and thank Him for this indescribable gift.
I have got to ask you one more time. The jury is still out in the lives of many people here. Some of you are going through your annual moments of introspection now. You are trying to think about other things. But you know that you know you are outside the family of God. I can’t force you to make this decision. I can’t force you to take the cross from the outside and put it on the inside. I can’t force you to allow it to light up your life. I can’t force you to receive this gift. I can’t force you to follow the star. But I can tell you about it. And I can tell you about it. And I can tell you about it.
But it all comes back to the same issue. What are you going to do with the tree? The eternal destinies of many of you are hanging in the balance. So how about it? Allow Jesus Christ to come into your life. Meet Him on this Christmas Day. He loves you and wants to meet you. What are you going to do with the tree?