Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition in the 16th century. Devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. It is believed that Martin Luther, the 16th-century reformer, first added candles to a tree to recapture an evening scene of stars for his family—stars amidst the evergreens. He erected a tree in the main room and wired its branches with lighted candles. And as we look back on history, we recognize the importance of the star at our Savior’s birth and the tree (cross) at His death as He paid our debt of sin.
God is at the heart of the Christmas tree tradition.
Our family uses the Christmas tree for reminders of God’s presence and purpose in our lives. We place a collection of ornaments on our tree to guide us through a time of sharing and remembrance. It draws our family closer each year and focuses our celebration on Christ’s arrival on earth and in our lives.
You may collect the ornaments over the years and use household items to craft the others until your collection is complete. The ornaments are not the focus–your sharing and remembrance is the goal.
Our celebration starts with warm welcomes and many hugs and as we rejoice in this day the Lord has made. As people connect and the food is served, we begin to reflect and remember last year’s dedications to the Lord. We keep the “My Gift to Jesus” (how God has moved in my life) forms from year to year. You can, as you eat, begin to share how you saw and felt His presence through the year.
My Gift to Jesus forms
During the meal, you have an opportunity to catch up with other guests and family or enjoy personal quiet, prayer and gratitude time as you prepare to fill out this year’s “My Gift to Jesus” forms.
Every year, we recall last year’s ornaments and a new tree ornament is hung, signifying God’s presence and purpose in the story of man. (See “God’s Story on the Tree to Remember Jesus In Christmas” list below).
Then you and the others search the Christmas tree to find an ornament to remove and share how that ornament represents a personal application for you—a “God sighting”, an “Almighty coincidence” or answered prayer—expected or unexpected. You take the scripture reference that is related to your chosen ornament and points to the fulfillment of the Law & Prophets: Jesus, the Messiah (also found in “God’s Story on the Tree” list).
- personal insights,
- application, and
- and then replace the ornament on the tree.
We, then, hold hands and stand in a circle to give thanks to the Lord in prayer:
We are alive and here. Thank You, Lord, for getting us through the trials and hardships of life—financial, physical, health, relational, work, and in every aspect of life. Thank You, Father in Heaven, for the rest and the joy in this journey of life and for the love and support of brothers and sisters in Christ along the way. Thank You, Father, most of all, for Your gift of life and sacrifice in Your Son, our Lord Jesus, the Messiah.
Sing to the Lord
We raise our hearts and voice as we all sing “Come On, Ring Those Bells” (by Evie) with Jesus’ birthday cake and lit candles. Any Christmas song that glorifies our Savior that your family loves can be sung from year-to-year.
As we enjoy our cake and open presents, we pass the blank, “My Gift to Jesus” forms to each person. Then, if you desire, you share:
- how God has worked in your life,
- what dreams,
- hopes you are giving Him, and
- watching for in your life this year.
The evening ends with games, eating, resting, visiting, walking (if the weather is nice), the crackling fire in the fireplace (if it’s cool outside), joyful activities, and more hugs as desired.
Instead of stockings by the fireplace, we have three bags—filled with goodies and small gifts to symbolize: Gold, Myrrh and Frankincense. In our family we give a bag to each family as we have two grown children. You could offer the bags to newcomers or determine a festive way to distribute the goodies.
My prayer for you is that you will look for and see God in the good times and the bad times. Whether He feels close or far, think about falling back, out of control, into your Creator’s almighty, ever-lasting arms and trust Him to get you through—beyond your own understanding, strength, and expectations.
You might experience letting go and trusting God beyond your expectations, strength, understanding and will by falling backward, onto a bed as you picture Jesus catching you. Then stay there a minute or two and hear His heart, feel His protective love over you. (Zephaniah 3:17)
God bless and keep you and yours now, through the New Year and until our Lord’s soon return. Over distance and time, we are precious brothers and sisters in the family of our Creator, the Lord Jesus, and He will always love us (emotionally and in action) personally and uniquely and He will never leave us or forsake us.
My Gift to Jesus
This certificate is a gift for Jesus Christ on His birthday, in thanks for coming to Earth, to show all people how to live, and to pay my debt of disobedience in His death on the cross.
I thank You, Lord, for what You have done in my life this year: ______________________________________________________________________________
Through next year, I ask for Your guidance, protection, and provision and give to You the following:
I know that I cannot do these things by myself; I constantly need Your help. Please help me to keep this promise according to Your Word, strength, will, way, and time. I ask You to strengthen my faith and help me choose Your way of escape from sin and disobedience. I choose to honor You in all that I think, do, and say.
Given in love by _____________________________________ on December 25, _________.
God’s Story on the Tree to Remember Jesus In Christmas:
Each year we search out a new ornament to focus on an aspect of God’s plan for man and His activity throughout history. Find each of these reminders on the Christmas tree as family members read the scriptures and share personal application, special insights and feelings.
Jesus hung on a tree to give up His life for us that we might have Life with Him (Acts 5:30-31; Matt. 20:28). The tree is evergreen, reminding us of the everlasting life He provides through His gift of sacrifice for us. (Rom. 6:23; Matt. 19:29)
Pointing out the Christ child to all who were seeking or willing to see, the star led people from the local area (shepherds) and from many miles away (Magi) to the Savior. Do we still seek Him today in our own lives, in every situation? (Matt. 2:9-10)
Jesus, God the Creator, humbled Himself to become human and live in the pain and dirt of Earth. He died an excruciating death on the cross (Phil. 2:6-11), the perfect Lamb of God, able to pay our debt of disobedience for all men. He offers His gift of sacrifice and life so that we who accept His gift in trust and obedience will not suffer eternal pain but instead will know God intimately and live with Him eternally. (Ps. 49:7 & 15; Luke 23:43; Hosea 13:14; Titus 2:14)
Given in worship and love by the Magi, and from us to our Lord Jesus on His birthday! Though we give them to each other, we must remember that all good and perfect gifts come from above (James 1:17) and we must always give glory and thanks to God in Christ, especially for the most important gift in this life – His Son, our Savior (Micah 5:2; Luke 2:4-5; Isaiah 7:14; 1 Timothy 2:5-6).
The Magi from far off countries, who may have been taught the scriptures from the time of Daniel, came at great effort and expense to offer costly gifts and heart-felt worship to the baby Messiah (Matt. 2:1-6; 9-11). Gold is a very valuable gift and reminds us of the King’s crown, power and position. (Matt. 2:2; Luke 23:38; Rev. 19:16)
The Magi, possibly educated in the prophesies of scripture in the time of Daniel, offered worship and costly gifts to the baby Messiah. (Matt. 2:1-6; 9-11). Frankincense (meaning “to cause to smoke”) was very precious, came from distant lands and was used for holy worship to God (Lev. 16:12-13; Jeremiah 1:16).
Myrrh was an expensive and prized perfume, used for anointing kings and in purification ceremonies (Ex. 30:23; Esther 2:12). Knowing scripture, the Magi recognized that God would provide His perfect Lamb as our redeeming sacrifice. The myrrh, used for burial preparation, was an extremely valuable confirmation of His earthly purpose (John 19:39).
God created everything that is; Jesus created the heavens and the Earth (Gen.1:1; John 1:1-5). God created the earth on the first day and proclaimed peace over it on Jesus’ birthday when God became man to reconcile man to Himself.
God gave us rules to live by, to protect us from potential danger and to make our lives full of purpose and peace—to be intimate and constantly close to God Himself for the fullness of His blessing, protection and provision.
The human race decided to do things our own way, not staying close to God, under God’s protective umbrella. The eaten apple reminds us of our pride and disobedience (sin) against God and the pain and destruction that continues to cause throughout history (Gen. 3:2-6). What is your choice—your way (death) or God’s way (life)? (Joshua 24:15; Romans 6:23)
The cross is the purpose and ultimate accomplishment of Jesus’ coming to Earth as a man (John 3:17) and He did this voluntarily—no one could force God to humble Himself and die (Phil. 2:8). Because we chose to do things our way, not God’s way, He went through that horrid torture and death because He wanted us to have one last chance to be in heaven with Him eternally (John 19:30). He paid with His life the debt we could not pay (Rom. 3:22-25).
Noah & the Ark
Gen. 6-9 and Jer. 17:9 remind us that man is desperately wicked by himself and that though God is patient and long suffering in holding off judgment for rebellion and wickedness, He will not wait forever—each man must himself choose to turn to God before death (which can come at any time) or be eternally in suffering. (The way of salvation: Rom. 3:23, 6:23, 5:8, 10:9-10)
God came to Earth in the form of a man, Immanuel (“God with us”), being born to a young virgin. Jesus gave up His position as Creator God to come to Earth and show us how to really live, to pay our debt of death for sin and to give us eternal life. Only God can redeem man through His perfect, sinless sacrifice for us. (Ps. 49:7-15; 1 Cor. 15:22; John 14:6) Reflect on this sacrifice as you hang the Christmas ornament.
The fully God, fully man, Jesus, tells us to remember who He is and to keep our priorities straight. In Matt. 6:25-34, He reminds us that He will provide for us at the proper time, if we will just ask and allow Him to do what is best every moment of our lives, in joy and pain. By seeking His will above all and truly trusting Jesus, we receive His blessing and have contentment, peace and joy beyond circumstances (Rom. 8:26-28).
Fish, Pole and Basket
Jesus fed thousands of people, meeting their needs as He spoke to them about their condition and eternal choice. For many, the worldly food was all they wanted, they did not want God, Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life, or eternal life that He offers. (Jn 6:66) Jesus showed that He is the source of all our needs. He demonstrated a fraction of His awesome person, potential, and power in this miracle. We, as followers of Jesus, are called to be “fishers of men” and share the Good News of Jesus with others in our daily lives and work. (Matt. 15:32-39; Matt. 4:19; Mark 1:17)
The angels praised God and told men of the miracle birth on that first Christmas night. An angel Christmas tree ornament is always a delight (Luke 2:13-15; Psalm 91:11)
The Escape to Egypt
All through scripture we are told to trust in God. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus escaped to Egypt just before baby boys, two years old and younger, were slaughtered in Bethlehem – Jesus was protected. Whether or not the family suspected such horror, God made their need to escape known. They trusted and obeyed. God is sufficient for ALL our needs. (Ps. 56:3-4, Rom. 8:28)
As soldiers of Christ, we must put on His armor (Eph. 6:10-18) and stand firm in His truth against a seducing world that at times looks great on the outside but results in death (2 Tim. 2:3-7). We must choose moment to moment who we will serve because that determines our eternal destiny. (Joshua 24:15)
A Christian candy maker wanted to glorify God with his gifts and talents and turn eyes and hearts to Jesus at Christmas, so he made a candy cane:
- Hard to remind us that God Himself is unchanging and that God’s promises are everlasting and absolute [Ps. 33:11; James 1:17; 1 Kings 8:56; Rev. 22:13];
- white for the purity of Jesus’ sinless life – the necessary requirement to pay for our sin by His death; [the final atonement and Passover Lamb – Isa. 53; Ps. 22:14-18; Eph. 2:4-5; Heb. 10:10];
- a broad red stripe for the blood He shed at the cross as payment for our sins [Ps. 14:1-3; Rom. 5:8-9; 1 Peter 3:18];
- thin red stripes for His lashing [Isa. 53:4-5];
- formed in the shape of a “J” for the name “Jesus” and because it is the shape of a shepherd’s crook, since Jesus is our holy, heavenly Good Shepherd [John 10:11- 15].
The Christmas candles and lights
Just as the Jewish holiday Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of God’s provision of light, Jesus is the Eternal Light, come to Earth to show us how to live God’s way, not our own, in protection, provision and blessing. (Isa. 9:2, 6-7; John 1:4-9). His glory is brilliant and awesome and eternal (Rev. 21:11, 23). Understanding of spiritual truths is given by the Light of the World to all who submit to Him and accept His gift. (Ps. 119:105; Isa. 53:11)
Green reminds us of living and growing plants, which give us vital food and oxygen. Jesus is our source of eternal life and we need to depend on Him alone to sustain us and give us life abundant and eternal. Our focus must be on Jesus alone – He is sufficient for our every need so that we can grow in Him and serve Him well and faithfully. (John 10:10; 2 Peter 3:18)
White beads and balls
White reminds us of the sinless perfection and life of Jesus (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 John 3:5) and of all God has given us–and of God’s requirement to give back to Him first, the finest and best of what He has provided for us. (Ex. 23:19). Remember, it all belongs to Him (Lev. 1:3; Matt. 5:48).
Red beads, bows, and balls
We must remember the gift of sacrifice and life given by God when He came to Earth as a man to pay the price of our disobedience (Heb. 9:12; Heb. 10:10). Jesus’ gift of His blood is our only hope in this life and our joyous anticipation for eternity in paradise with Him. (Rom. 5:9; Rev. 1:5)
Jesus came to Earth the first time in humility, not as He truly is – the Eternal Living God, but as a man to serve and as a Lamb to be sacrificed. When He soon returns, He will come in glory, represented by returning on a powerful white horse, prepared for battle – in judgment and in victory. Be ready to meet Him! (Rev. 19:11-14)
The pine cone reminds us to plant seeds of God’s word and promise wherever we are (Matt. 13:3-23). The battle belongs to the Lord and He will prepare hearts and give us His words – we must be willing as He presents opportunities and not miss those moments or act in our own strength.
The bells call us to attention, joyfully. The bells were put on the robe of the priests so that the people could hear the priest interceding for them in the Holy of Holies in the temple (Ex. 28:33-34), and the bells were on the horses’ harnesses to sing praises to God (Zec. 14:20)
Even the story of Hanukkah, that celebration of God bringing Light to His people, points to our Savior and Messiah, Jesus. John 8:12-13 reports that Jesus again spoke to them, saying, ” I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” Will you choose this day to live in His light, in His joy, protection and provision or rely on your own strength and the darkness and lies of this world? (John 1:4)
This is a reminder of God’s surprise blessings if we are willing to step out in faith and not lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-10). Isaiah 30:18 says, “Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him.”
This star-fish skeleton reminds our family of a time when we were financially empty – retirement was gone, our cars were decrepit but functional and we were living off of the Y2K stores we had put away. In the middle of all of this, God provided a surprise opportunity to go to Bermuda. This trip required no money, no effort, just the willingness to step through the doors that God opened. Dennis and I had a great time on the “date” God provided for us in Bermuda! Hang a Christmas tree ornament with similar significance for your family.
A Creation Reminder from a trip
Alaska Mukluks, origami crane, Plumeria, etc.: The beauty and diversity of this world and the people in it are powerful testimonies of the wonder and creativity of our Creator God. Phil. 2:8-11 says, “Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that EVERY TONGUE WILL CONFESS that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Isaiah 45:23; Philippians 2:10-11)
Moses Parting the Red Sea
Have you ever been in a situation that seemed impossible to solve? Moses and thousands of Israelites had the privilege of seeing God’s mighty hand at work. Unfortunately, they forgot and Joshua had to challenge them, “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15 NASU) Ours is the God of the impossible (Matt. 19:26) – check with Him before you panic or react.
The clown fish reminds us of the normally unseen world of wonder and beauty in the sea depths that we have been blessed to enjoy during our scuba diving. The beautiful fish and coral, the massive whales that can travel from the surface to 5 miles deep, and more. This pretty fish reminds us that God asks us to step out of our comfort and understanding. Into unknown waters to walk on the surface and experience the impossible or dive deep into His love and care, in total trust to see and experience amazing wonders and the fullness of His unique plan and purpose for each person.
God died for you and has special plans and wonders specifically for YOU, His precious son or daughter. Don’t crawl out of His hand. Accept His love and live under the umbrella of His plan, protection, provision, and direction to experience joy beyond your wildest imaginations! (Jer. 29:11-13; Matt. 14:22-33; Eph. 2:8-10; Eph. 2:8-10)
May you see, hear, and feel God’s love for you. His love for you is as real as a tree in a forest.