The Story of the Christmas Tree, Act 2

In Act 1, we learned how the little fir tree initially became important to Christians. Boniface used the tree as an object lesson to teach about God the eternal, creator of all things—Father, Spirit, and Son!

As the years went by, churches all over heard about what happened and they too wanted to use the tree to help others learn about God. This eventually led to something called a Paradise Tree.

From the eleventh Century, (during the middle ages), the church celebrated Adam and Eve day on December 24th. As part of that celebration, they used religious plays called “Mystery Plays” to depict the story of the creation of Adam and Eve, their sin and banishment from Eden. It’s at this point that our story is more practical than spiritual.

If you were tasked with putting together a winter play or pageant about the Garden of Eden and wanted to fill your stage with beautiful trees in winter, what sort of tree would you have to use? The answer should be obvious: An evergreen tree was the logical choice. And at least one tree in particular—the tree of the knowledge of good and evilwas decorated with apples symbolizing the forbidden fruit.

Apples on a fir tree. Seem familiar?

The play ended with the promise of the coming Savior and his incarnation, so gradually flat wafers symbolizing the forgiveness of sins in communion were added to the paradise tree, making it now not just the tree of knowledge but also the tree of life. This resulted in a very old European custom of decorating a fir tree in the home with apples and small white wafers representing the Holy Eucharist at Christmas time. These wafers were later replaced by little pieces of pastry cut in the shapes of stars, angels, hearts, flowers, and bells.

So in Act 1, Boniface used the tree to teach about God. Then in Act 2, believers used the tree on December 24 to teach how Adam and Eve sinned and why we need Jesus. But there’s still one more very important part to our story, and this part wouldn’t happen for at least another 350 years! That's Act 3.
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