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Friday, December 2, 2016

December 2: The Christmas Tree of Life

"And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden . . . " - Genesis 2:9-10, ESV

"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— Galatians 3:13, ESV

"He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed." - 1 Peter 2:24, ESV

"Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him." - Revelation 22:1-3, ESV

The Christmas Tree of Life: A Tale of Three Trees
That What Was Lost Might Be Restored

I love trees, and not just Christmas trees. Strong, old trees have a majesty and beauty unique to their gnarled forms. Some of my favorite authors have made good use of trees, including C.S. Lewis in Prince Caspian and J.R.R. Tolkien in The Two Towers. The story of Christmas is a story of redemption, one that begins, climaxes and culminates with trees. 

When God created Adam and Eve in His image, He put them in the Garden of Eden with two special trees: the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God told them not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, telling them that eating from it would bring death to them. 

Some people have wondered why God would put an evil tree right in the midst of His very good world. But the tree of knowledge was not evil, for God does not create anything evil. It was forbidden, which is different. It was there as a test, for while Adam and Eve were on probation and under trial by God, they must not eat it. Interestingly, God did not forbid Adam to eat from the tree of life- at least, not until after he fell into sin.

Thousands of years after Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and were barred from the tree of life, one of their descendants - one who was uniquely the seed of a woman (more on that tomorrow) - was born and laid in a manger, probably made of rough wood. His tender infant flesh, wrapped in strips of cloth, was laid on wood. Nearby shepherds were told to come and see this precious lamb. All of this prefigured what Jesus would do 33 years later on another piece of wood, before being wrapped in other strips of cloth. 

Jesus purchased our ransom, paid for our forgiveness and satisfied God's holy justice by hanging on a tree. As Jesus hung there, outside of Jerusalem's gates, He who was the Word made flesh, He who was the Truth and the Life, made the Way to God in His own flesh by being cursed upon a tree for us. In the death of Jesus, the cruel cross of Roman execution became the tree of life for God's dearly loved people. He become cursed that we might be blessed. He drank death that we might receive life. 

When Jesus rose again and went back to His Father, He began building the New Jerusalem, the church triumphant, puchased by His blood and made His body. When He comes again, He will bring the New Jerusalem with Him, which will come down from heaven like a bride prepared for her bridegroom. And in the middle of this most holy city, the heavenly city, is a tree, planted beside a stream of water.  

Didn't you wonder, at the end of Genesis 3, what happened to the tree of life and how we might find our way to it? Well, the tree is in heaven with Jesus, and the only way to gain access to it is through Him. His cursed death on the cross not only transformed the cross into a tree of life, but it re-opened way back to the tree of life for all who trust in Him.

And so, humanity was cursed because we ate from a forbidden tree. As part of our curse, we were barred from another tree, until Jesus came and died upon a tree that restored the tree of life to us. Creation. Fall, Redemption, Glory. I do love trees! 

Lord Jesus, Thank You for taking my sins upon yourself on the tree so that I might be purchased back to God. Thank You for restoring the tree of life at the cost of Your own death. Thank You for becoming a curse that I might be blessed forever. May I never lose sight of Calvary's tree and may I never cease to praise You for what You did there for me. Amen.  

Jesus Christ, the Apple Tree

The traditional carol, "Jesus Christ, the Apple Tree," may strike us as a little strange, but it's a celebration of Jesus as the tree of life, the fruitful tree Who is also the tree of knowledge, the knowledge that comes from faith and brings true joy to our souls. The music for this version was written by Elizabeth Potson:

Here are the lyrics, with thoughts by Jay D. Weaver:

Jesus Christ the Apple Tree

The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.

In this poem, we immediately see that Jesus Christ is that Tree of Life. It's interesting that we often refer to the forbidden fruit as an apple. Here, the Tree of Life is referred to as an apple tree.

His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne'er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

The second verse says that our knowledge of his beauty is based on faith rather than on the forbidden tree.

For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
I missed of all; but now I see
'Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

In the third verse, we find that all pleasure comes from this Tree of Life. We no longer need the idyllic Garden of Eden.

I'm weary with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest awhile:
Under the shadow I will be,
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.

Remember all that toil that the human had to do to survive. Now in the fourth verse, we find a place to rest.

This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

Finally, in the last verse, the poet provides the denouement to the poem. The fruit of the "Tree of Life" truly keeps us alive and gives us the desire to be grafted onto the apple tree itself. 

- The Old Professor

Thoughts to the poem Copyright © Jay D Weaver - February 11, 2006

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