Christmas music warms my heart like no other. The lyrics are packed with rich truths that lend themselves to unique opportunities for contemplation year after year. Even songs that are so familiar, ones that you think couldn't possibly offer new insights, can surprise you with new and exciting truth. My kids and I stumbled across one such carol this season I thought I'd share with you.
One evening while watching a Hallmark movie, and marveling at the cheesy nature of the young couple in love singing, "O Christmas Tree," over and over again, a word popped up that struck me as odd. While there are many versions of this classic carol, this particular version repeated the lyric, "O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, You stand in verdant beauty."
Since I've been studying Latin, words hit me differently than they used to. Verdant seemed a strange word to pair with beauty. Why would verdant make something beautiful?
I remembered from my geography study that Vermont, which is home to the Green Mountains, means "green mountains." In addition, I know that verde Mexican sauces are green. So I went and Googled the word to see if I was getting close...and I was correct.
Doesn't that seem random? I had to pause the movie and chat with the kids to figure out why something would be considered beautiful for being green. I mean, isn't that what a tree is supposed to be?
So we started with some questions...
In which season do people sing this song?
Winter - Christmas time. That seems like a pretty obvious fact.
Does it make any difference?
What does winter look like?
It's generally gray. Or white.
The color of death.
That means that green would actually be a friendly sight to winter sore eyes.
What does green-ness represent?
Green-ness represents life. In the bleakness of winter, green is hope of spring, life, rebirth. I imagine those first Europeans that landed on American soil on the waning days of autumn, felt the full desperation of winter. Would they survive the harsh conditions that stifled life all around them?
And then they would see an evergreen...and hope.
How does this green-ness connect to Christmas?
We bring these beautiful symbols of life and hope into our homes every December. Can it be a coincidence that a symbol of life and hope is used to celebrate the birth of a Savior that would bring life and hope to the world? I can imagine the bleakness of the Israelites as they experienced 400 years of silence from their God - cold, harsh, wintery. They clung to the hope offered to them through prophets like Isaiah.
Handel paints the picture of the evergreen hope the Israelites clung to in his masterful work Messiah. He strings together the promises in Scripture that lead up to the great fulfillment of the promise of the end of all winters, of all separation, of all death.
When I look at our tree featured in the living room this season, I'm going to be looking not only at a beautiful symbol of life sustained through the bleakest of times in an evergreen tree, but also an enduring symbol of life reclaimed amidst the deepest of sin by the life of Christ. He's our Christmas tree that stands in brilliant aliveness offering us all hope for rebirth beyond the depths of the great winter we face - death.
I challenge you this Christmas, as you sit snuggled up with your loved ones and watch the twinkle lights adorn your family tree, to speak of the verdant beauty of Christ as represented by a simple evergreen and lead them to worship His advent, His ministry, His death, and His life everlasting.
O Christmas tree
O Christmas tree
You stand in verdant beauty.
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