A Tree of Light and Kindness.

Vatican Christmas TreeChristmas trees lighten up the darkness of winter. But where did they all begin?

Among the many wonderful myths and legends that surround the Christmas tree, a German tale recounts the story of Saint Boniface, the eighth-century Englishman who brought the gospel to Germany.

On the night of December 24, Boniface came upon a giant oak tree, sacred to the great pagan god Odin. A young boy was about to be sacrificed under their sacred tree. The horrified Boniface seized the axe, and with one stroke, felled the giant oak. The people were terrified, waiting for the gods to strike Boniface dead. But nothing happened. They realized that their gods were powerless, nonexistent.

Boniface then pointed to a nearby fir tree that was not damaged as the oak tree fell to the ground, and said to the worshipers: “Not a drop of blood shall fall tonight, for this is the night of Christ’s birth, the Savior of the world. This little tree, a young child of the forest, shall be a home tree tonight. See how it points toward heaven. Let this be called the tree of the Christ Child. Gather around it, not in the wild woods, but in your homes; there it will shelter no deeds of blood, but loving gifts and lights of kindness.”

Traditionally this tree signifies peace, and as an evergreen it also symbolizes immortality; with it top pointing upwards, it additionally indicates heaven, the dwelling place of God.

May our Christmas tree this year, like Boniface’s “home tree,” be our planting this year of a new attitude and vision of kindness, peace, compassion, reconciliation and light.

As you bask in the lights of your Christmas tree during the coming weeks, remember what Pope Francis said as he turned on the lights of the Christmas tree and the Nativity scene in Vatican square. “We wish for the light of Christ to be in us. A Christmas without light is not Christmas. Let there be light in the soul, in the heart; let there be forgiveness to others; let there be no hostilities, which are dark. Let there be the beautiful light of Jesus.” May the lights of your Christmas tree remind you of Emmanuel, “God is with us.”

Remember, today we begin the countdown to Christmas with the “O” Antiphons that highlight a different title of the Messiah during these final days of Advent. Take a few minutes each day to reflect on the “O” Antiphon of the day.

Question – Are there any customs that you follow as you put up your Christmas tree? Are you willing to share them with us?

December 17th, 2014 |