Archive for the ‘Symbols of Trust’ Category

Christmas Tree Symbolism

December 3, 2016

Anyone who knows me will know that I am a sucker for symbolism. The language of metaphor and symbolic expression is employed heavily during Christmas and has a rich history. Which is good because I’m also the type of guy that needs a good reason to wrestle a fake fir from the attic once a year and test myriad bulbs to find the one that is burnt out. If I am going through all this tedious work, there better be a good reason lest I become a Grinch.

The tree as a Christian symbol starts in the Garden of Eden where two trees resided, one that gave life and the other death. The New Testament begins with the Gospels and Christ’s death upon a cross (which Paul symbolically calls a tree) and ends with the Tree of Life in the book of Revelation. Similar symbols include the burning bush replicated in the Temple as a candelabra, and Israel as often depicted as an olive tree. It is no wonder that non-Jewish Christians erected Christmas trees as they interpreted the prophet Isaiah’s words, “The glory of Lebanon will come to you, the juniper, the fir and the cypress together, to adorn my sanctuary” (Isaiah 60:13).

St. Boniface used the symbolism of a fir tree to evangelize the Germans in the 8th century. By the 11thcentury churches put on plays in the churchyard decorating evergreens with apples and the children would act out the story of Adam and Eve’s fall. They also acted out the Nativity, Epiphany, Passion, and Pentecost, to teach the gospel in fun and creative ways since most people couldn’t read. Martin Luther in the 16th century brought the tree indoors and lit it with candles.

swirlychristmastree2cardFrom Boniface to Luther the tree took on specific meanings. The lit evergreen speaks to the light, life, and eternal love of Christ, especially in the stark winter where everything else seems dead. It points towards heaven and its triangular shape represents the Trinity. We top it with either a star or an angel, the first messengers of the Gospel to magi and shepherd, imploring us to spread the message as well. So we spread the message faithfully. God even describes himself as this festive conifer saying, “I am like an evergreen cypress, your faithfulness comes from me.” (Hosea 14:8)

I also want to remind you of the power of symbolic language. Not only can a picture convey a thousand words, it can also conceal that same message when it is in danger. Christianity has not always been welcomed and the church has often needed to communicate with stealth. We Christians may be returning to a new era of disdain and our public discourse may be challenged. When the blatantly Christian images are stripped from the public square we can still gather around the fake tree and whisper the truth when our children ask, “why does Daddy wrangle with that tree down two flights of stairs and fiddle endlessly with those lights?”

Why the Trinity Matters

July 19, 2014

Trinity     The crown of Christian theology is the Trinity. Being trinitarian matters. We Christians are not shaped by our worldview, morals, and geopolitical leanings rather these are shaped by our God-view. The Trinity matters. Sadly this doctrine is not often well articulated by the common Christian or applied to why and how we live. Let me briefly explain why the Trinity matters and how this doctrine influences us in two ways.
     Trinity does not mean multiple deities. God cannot be omnipotent if there is more than one; that would make him some-powerful and who wants to worship someone who is only influential in some areas? (more…)

Symbols of Trust: Baby

January 1, 2010

It seems interesting to me that the Master of the Universe uses the most helpless of all human forms to convey His promise of help. The omnipotent (all-powerful) God uses the human form most dependent upon others. God clothes the poor, feeds the hungry, releases the captives and yet He says look for salvation, liberation, protection, and comfort in the form of a promised baby – who cannot clothe, feed, protect, or care for themselves. God says trust me – trust my sign – a baby will be born. A sign of liberation is found swaddled.

Adam and Eve look to the promised “seed.” Lamech names his child, “comfort” in hopes Noah will deliver the people of their toil. And, when King Ahaz is walking the aqueduct system checking his water supply in case of invasion, God sends Isaiah to comfort him with a sign and a promise. The sign? A young woman will become pregnant and give birth to a son. Mary and Joseph are surrounded by those who se the sign of Immanuel’s birth – from cousin Elizabeth to shepherds and foreign magi.

You can trust God because He has shown Himself all powerful, even in the form of a baby. God has given the sign – every time you see a child you see the potential for God to break through – and be reminded that He in fact has already broken through. In these 12 Days of Christmas let us reflect on the promise of God, “For unto us a child is born and the government shall be upon His shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

Symbols of Trust: Rainbow

December 27, 2009

How do I know I can trust God? Because it rains. Before Noah, it never rained. After that first storm I bet Noah and Co. became a bit skittish with every gathering cloud. But our Lord placed a marker in the sky, a rainbow.

Science can tell you the how but not the why. And these signs from God are for those who are looking, not for the skeptics. You wont win over a one who doesn’t fear God with a rainbow – it’s a covenant sign for covenant people. The rainbow is for people of faith to be reminded that God has kept his promises, ever since the first rainfall.

The rainbow is God’s promise to His people. It is an archer’s bow bent and aimed at the heavens. God placed a loaded gun aimed at Himself if he fails to keep His promise. We can trust Jesus because He has been in the trusting business for millenniums. And just to remind us at the end of every storm there is a glimmer in the heavens of His promises. Has God made promises to you? Has God spoken of the coming Messiah – He came in swaddling clothes and will return with robes of righteousness riding those very storm clouds to deliver you again.

You can trust your God. But the sign of trust comes after the storm passes. The rainbow doesn’t appear until the end of the storm, not before the lightning and thunder. But you know with every gathering storm that all storms before ended with a rainbow, so fear not, God will protect you in the storm. The first symbol of trust on our 12 days of Christmas – the rainbow, for God has been keeping promises from the beginning of time.

12 Days of Christmas

December 26, 2009

During the holiday season from Christmas Day to Epiphany (the  12 days of Christmas) I would like to explore some object lessons of faith from the Scriptures. Often it seems the blood of passover bleeds onto the Nativity. By that I mean we evangelicals tend to see the salvation of our Lord primarily through the work of the cross, and the swaddled child and the three years of public service take a back seat to the passion week.

But I believe we are to trust Jesus for more than our eternal after-life. Truly our eternal life begins the moment we trust in Him on our earthly walk. So in the next few days we shall explore the symbols of faith, the life of trusting God to be our glorious redeemer in this life, now. For the Israelites in Egypt, the Exodus was not a metaphor. It was a miraculous deliverance from physical bondage. Our salvation is greater than “Getting out of hell” – it is finding healing, liberation, and sanctification in our lives on earth as well as in heaven. So let us rejoice in the Lord’s birth, the salvation He brings and the deliverance from evil we encounter on our earthly pilgrimage.

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