Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them. (Isaiah 11:6)

The old joke about this passage is that the leopard might light down with the kid, but the kid won’t get much sleep. We chuckle at this because Isaiah gives us an image that goes against all our experience and expectations. Take note: the kingdom of God will not be how we expect it! Assumptions about natural friends and enemies are not true in the kingdom of God. What is the modern, urban equivalent of Isaiah’s pastoral image of lamb and wolf? Black and white folks breaking bread and worshipping together? A teenage delinquent and an older person sharing a cup of coffee? "The wolf shall be a guest of the lamb…"

Advent Action
Send a card to a friend or loved one who lost a family member during this year. Let them know you are praying from them and thinking of them this Christmas.

Lord, help me welcome You once again and make room for You in my daily life, that You may make Your home in my heart.


I haven't put up our large tree as of yet. We wanted to go to a tree farm to cut down one with the kids. The rainy weather detered us from getting one this past weekend with my parents. It has been a tradition with them since I was very small to cut down a tree. Sometimes it would be one from a farm, others a cedar from our land. Last year we bought a small artificial prelit tree because we were in a temporary apartment during December. The kids and I had lots of fun making a paper chain and dough ornaments for it. Now it sits on our hearth. The kids really enjoy looking at the lights. Pondering upon the tree I had to dig into the tradition behind it.

An interesting tradition, part history, part legend and very popular in Germany, claims that the Christmas tree dates back to the eighth century. This legend is based on a historical figure, St Boniface, and even a historical event, the destruction of Odin's oak. St Boniface (675-754) was the English Bishop Winfrid who went to Germany in the eighth century, to Hesse to be precise, to preach the Christian faith as a missionary from the Church of Rome. After a period of apparently successful Gospel preaching, Boniface went to Rome to confer with Pope Gregory II (715-731). After a long absence, he returned to Geismar, Germany, for Christmas 723, and felt personally offended on discovering that the Germans had reverted to their former idolatry of pagan divinities and were preparing to celebrate the winter solstice by sacrificing a young man under Odin's sacred oak tree. Fired by holy anger, as was Moses by the golden calf, Bishop Boniface took up an axe and dared to cut down the oak. This courageous, historically documented act meant the triumph of Christianity in Germany over the pagan divinities.

All this is historically documented. The rest belongs to the legend which tells how, at the first blow of the axe, a strong gust of wind instantly brought down 1he tree. The astounded Germans fearfully recognized the hand of God in this event and humbly asked Boniface how they should celebrate Christmas. The Bishop, the legend continues, pointed to a small fir tree that had miraculously remained upright and intact beside the debris and broken branches of the fallen oak. Boniface was familiar with the popular custom of taking an evergreen plant into the house in winter and asked everyone to take home a fir tree. This tree signifies peace, and as an evergreen it also symbolizes immortality; with its top pointing upwards, it additionally indicates heaven, the dwelling place of God.


A tradition among some families is to bless the tree before it is lit, preferably on Christmas eve as it is the beginning of the Christmas celebration.

Blessing of a Christmas Tree
Dear God, two thousand years ago, you brought your son,
Jesus into this world to teach us the power of love and sacrifice. As we raise this tree, we remember his birth and the meaning of his life for us. Bless this tree as a symbol of our celebration of Jesus' birth and our gratitude for his sacrifice. May the joy this tree brings and the gifts we place under it remind us of the many gifts you have given us. We ask your blessings upon our loved ones, this day and always. Amen.

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