O Christmas Tree

Written by Harvey Ackerman, Jr.

In the year 1512, Martin Luther received his doctorate in Theology and began his work as a Professor of Theology at the University of Wittenburg. In 1525, he married Katharina von Bora and together they had six children. The Augustinian monastery of Wittenberg, where Luther had been a monk, was disbanded as the reformation began. Part of it was a residence hall for students and the rest was given to Luther to use as a family home. It is during that time that a particular event might have occurred.

We can imagine a particularly cold clear night as new snow covers the frozen ground. A full moon lights up the night and the light from the stars twinkles through the fir trees as Professor Luther makes his way home. Luther is overcome with the beauty of the trees and the starlight dancing among their branches. When he arrives home, he is at a loss to find words to adequately explain what he has seen. In order to better illustrate what he saw, he goes out and chops down a small fir tree and brings it home.

He attaches candles to the limbs of the tree and lights them. The glow from the flames dancing in the large fireplace along with light from oil lamps set about the room and the flickering flame of the candles on the tree recreate the ambiance of that first Christmas eve night when angels declared the news to shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem.

As late as 1650, the Lutheran theologian Johann Dannhauer wrote in his The Milk of the Catechism that "the Christmas or fir tree, which people set up in their houses, hang with dolls and sweets, and afterward shake and deflower… Whence comes this custom I know not; it is child's play… Far better were it to point the children to the spiritual cedar-tree, Jesus Christ."

There is no mention of candles lighting the trees, so we can only conclude that without facts to support the story we must accept that it is the stuff legends are made of. There are lots of stories about the origin of the Christmas Trees and it's fun to research but let's not put any hope in possible fables, but as Martin Luther did, put our faith in Jesus Christ.

John… 1 In the beginning, was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him, nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

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