Summary: This Christmas Eve sermon talks about the signifigance of 3 Christmas trees - in the garden, on the hillside, and in heaven.
Dec. 24, 1999 Christmas Eve Service
It’s Christmas time. I suppose that this time of year is filled with more family traditions than any other. I know that if I were to poll this group of people, we would find that each of you has your own special ways that you celebrate at this time of year. Some of you celebrate by gathering the whole family together for a time of food and fun. Some of you celebrate by cuddling before a roaring fire. In our family, we have begun a couple of new traditions over the last two Christmases. Last year, we decided that we wanted to go out to eat for Christmas, so we drove all over town looking for a restaurant that was open. Finally, getting off the highway, we saw a cardboard sign that someone had put on the exit ramp that said “Subway is open”. We ended up going to a Chinese restaurant. A new tradition for us this year is that we are actually going to wait until Christmas morning to open our gifts. This service here tonight is a new tradition for us as well.
Many of the family traditions that each of us have at Christmas center around the Christmas tree. Almost everywhere that I have gone in the last month, I have seen temporary stands along the side of the road where people are selling Christmas trees. Many of you probably purchased a tree at one of those places. Maybe in your family, it’s the job of dad to go and find the perfect tree and then bring it home for the family to decorate. In the old days, dad would have to go out into the woods and cut down the perfect tree. When I was growing up, the tradition was that the artificial tree would come out of the attic after the Thanksgiving meal, and all the kids were responsible for decorating it. Even in homes where there are no presents, there is almost always a tree. It may look like Charlie Brown’s tree, or it may look like the 45-foot tall tree that stands outside the White House. There’s something about Christmas that is incomplete without a tree.
The Bible is the record of the story of Christmas, because it records the love of God for mankind which is what Christmas is all about. But the Christmas story is not just those words that Linus quoted standing in the circle of that spotlight. The story begins in Genesis, the first book of the Bible, and it is not completed until Revelation, the last book of the Bible. And throughout the story, there are trees that mark the beginning, the climax and the end of the story. These are the trees of Christmas.
1. The trees in the garden. (Gen. 2:8-9)
The love relationship that God has with mankind began in a garden thousands of years ago. And it began with the first two humans, Adam and Eve. On the 6th day of creation, God took the dust of the earth, formed it into the body of a man, and then breathed life into that body. He made man in His own image. And then on that same day, He caused Adam to go to sleep, and formed for him a beautiful wife. The first gift ever given was a wife – and she wasn’t even wrapped! Both Adam and his wife Eve were perfect. They had no physical imperfections, and more importantly, they were without sin. That meant that they could enjoy a relationship with God with nothing standing between them. God placed these two perfect persons in a perfect environment. There was no danger, there were no sicknesses, there was no cause for crying. Their only responsibilities were to have lots of babies and to take care of a garden that took care of itself. In the middle of that garden, God placed two trees. The Bible speaks of them in Gen. 2:8-9. [read] God put one simple requirement on the young couple. He said, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil . . . “ (vs. 16-17) And He said that if there ever came a time that chose to eat of that tree, then there was going to be a consequence. “. . . when you eat of it, you will surely die.” It’s kind of like those presents under the Christmas tree that are marked “Do not open until Christmas!” You remember the warning that you received from your mother or your wife: “If you open them, then I will kill you!” The difference between the warning that mothers give and the warning that God gave is that God wasn’t kidding.