Summary: Final Sermon in the series that weaves carols and customs of Christmas traditions around the world throughout the message.
Christmas Around The World—Part 4
Today we’re taking the last leg of our Christmas journey around the world. And our last stop is Germany.
The Christmas tree is an integral part of German Christmas celebrations. The Christmas tree actually originated in Germany. Cutting and displaying an evergreen tree is a custom that goes back many centuries. A green tree that never loses its leaves or needles was considered to be symbol of eternal life. Because Jesus came into our world to secure our eternal salvation and gift us with life everlasting, such a symbol seemed appropriate for Christians to embrace at Christmastime.
Long ago, Germans decorated the Christmas tree with white candles (obviously before the days of fire marshals and fire codes). The lit candles were an obvious reference to Jesus being the Light of the world.
A unique aspect of more modern German Christmas decorations is that, kids can not take part in the beautification of the Christmas tree. Hence, the Christmas tree is decorated on Christmas Eve, prior to the evening feast. The father usually keeps the children in a separate room while the mother brings out the Christmas tree from a hidden place and decorates it with apples, candy, nuts, cookies, cars, trains, angels, tinsel, family treasures and candles or lights. The gifts are kept under the tree. Nearby, beautiful plates are laid for each family member and filled with fruits, nuts, marzipan, chocolate and cookies. The decorations finished, a bell is rung as a signal for the children to enter the room. The Christmas story is usually read during this time and carols are sung. Often, sparklers are lit and gifts opened too.
Song: O Christmas Tree
Martin Luther was a German monk who spent his life seeking the portal to heaven. He had been taught that God’s grace could be earned or even purchased with money through what became known as selling indulgences.
He was told of Jacob’s dream and imagined an arduous climb filled with struggle and effort in order to gain God’s acceptance. Then after a lifetime of self-punishment, works and sacrifices hopefully he would accumulate enough good works to earn admission to heaven—climbing Jacob’s ladder.
Genesis 28:12 (NIV)
He [Jacob] had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
By far and away the best contribution to Christmas by Germans was the recovery of a sacred idea. An idea that originated in the heart of God, was passed on to his people, and ultimately materialized in the Gospel of Jesus. But over fifteen centuries of church history the sacred idea had faded and had become all but lost to the Christian church. The idea was—justification by faith.
Martin Luther read the bible for himself and discovered that the sacred idea was all over its pages. That faith in Jesus justified man—not religious works and rituals. He returned the sacred idea to the church and many reforms followed.
JESUS—THE PORTAL TO HEAVEN