Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Christmas Tree (Christmas Vigil)

Let’s talk about the Christmas Tree—
would you like to know where it came from?
I’m going to tell you.

You know the story of the Garden—in Genesis.
You know that Adam and Eve were at a tree.
Actually, there were two trees: the Tree of Life,
and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Bad.

Well, as you know, Adam and Eve disobeyed God,
and ate from the wrong tree:
for them, the Tree of Knowledge became the tree of death,
and they were not allowed to eat from the Tree of Life.

This story has always fired the imagination of Christians,
because just as Adam and Eve came to a tree,
and their sin brought death,
so, a long time later, Jesus came also to a tree—the Cross—
and there, he turned death into life!

For all these long centuries,
priests and bishops told this story at Mass.
There was one day in particular they would tell this story:
this day—Christmas Eve!

Around the year of our Lord 1000,
people in Germany began putting on plays to tell this story—
just like the children at Piqua Catholic do!
And on December 24, they would tell the story of Adam and Eve.

Well, they needed to set the stage—so they would get a tree.
And only one tree is still green in December: a fir tree!
Like the tree in the Garden, it had to have fruit on it:
and the fruit you could get in Germany, in December, was…apples!

Because they were also thinking of the other tree,
the Tree of Life, they wanted to put something else on
as fruit that brings eternal life:
round, white wafers of bread!
That’s right—bread that looked like the Eucharist!
Because the Body and Blood of Jesus is the "fruit" of the Cross,
which is the true Tree of Life!
When we eat this "fruit," we live forever!

Can you picture that "Paradise Tree," now?
Set up in the town square,
just like we have a big Christmas Tree set up in our town square?
Decorated with apples—red and yellow, and maybe green?
Also decorated with lots of white discs of bread?

About the year 1400, they stopped having plays,
but people loved the Paradise Tree,
so they started putting them up at home.
Over time, they added other decorations—
fruit, nuts, candies, cookies.
Later someone invented glass ornaments; still later, lights!
And there you have the Christmas Tree we have today.

There’s one more connection, to the Gospel I just read.
That was a family tree—the family tree of Jesus!

It was a lot of names—because of all the generations
that connected Abraham to King David, and King David to Jesus.

Matthew, who wrote this Gospel,
wanted us to know that when God came to earth,
he came as part of our human family;
and he also came so that we could become part of his family!

Yes, that was a long Gospel—
but it reminds us how large the Family of God is,
stretching all the way back to Adam and Eve:
who although they were very sad because they turned from God,
had to rejoice when Jesus, their great-great-great…grandson,
came to undo the damage they had caused!

In heaven, Adam and Eve rejoice
because Jesus has added so many more to the Family Tree…
right down to the present, and each of us!
Through baptism and faith in Jesus,
you and I have been added to that list of names in the Gospel!

That Family Tree, of all who belong to Jesus,
is God’s Christmas Tree;
How bright and beautiful that tree must be,
with all the people who believe in Jesus!
You and I are part of that Tree!

When we come to communion, remember the tree.
Adam and Eve ate from the wrong tree—
it brought sorrow and death.
You and I eat the Body and Blood of Jesus—
the fruit of the Cross, the Tree of Life—it brings us life!

No comments: