Minister’s Message: How Christmas got its festive trees and twinkling lights

There is a tradition of lights and trees going back to before my ancestors converted to Christianity

  • Thursday, December 5, 2019 11:36pm
  • Life

I just put up my Christmas tree and lights. I really enjoy watching the Christmas tree lights twinkle in the evening. There is something about those soft lights twinkling on the tree that just calms a person down. Where did this tradition get started?

I am Scandinavian and am a Lutheran pastor. There is a long tradition of lights and trees going back to before my ancestors converted to Christianity. It was Martin Luther who “baptized the evergreen tree” and brought it into the church. Luther had two evergreen trees brought into his church for Advent (the three or four weeks leading up to the Christ Mass — Christmas). One was decorated with red apples to symbolize the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden. The other tree was decorated with white Christian symbols and candles. It was symbolic of the tree of life in the Garden of Eden. The trees were placed on the left and right sides of the front of the church sanctuary. On Christmas Eve the candles on the tree were lit for the midnight service. The trees were taken out after Christmas and made into a cross that was later used for Lent/Easter.

It wasn’t long before homes also had Christmas trees in Germany. The custom quickly spread to Scandinavian countries, where the State Church is Lutheran. Then the custom spread to England. You get the picture. It caught on throughout most of the world.

At Funny River Community Lutheran Church (the church I serve), we have a Christmas tree in our sanctuary. We also have the candle light service on Christmas Eve, but we have it at 6 p.m. instead of midnight. There is nothing that can compare to the sanctuary electric lights turned off and lit up with a hundred plus candles and singing “Silent Night” as the service ends.

My prayer is that you may find the peace that only Christ can bring on this most Holy of Days.

Written by Rev. Andy Carlson, Sr. M.Div. Pastor Carlson grew up with 22 siblings in a log cabin in the back woods of Alaska (120 miles from the Arctic Circle). He has served 23 years in the parish (five of those years were as a Navy/Marine chaplain). He is a Gulf War Veteran. He has served Funny River Community Lutheran Church since 2015. Sunday services are at 11 a.m., followed by a lunch that everyone is invited to. The church is located at 15 Mile Funny River Road. (Take a right on Rabbit Run and go a 1/4 mile to the church). The church website is www.funnyriverlutheran.org.


Rev. Andy Carlson has served as pastor for Funny River Community Lutheran Church since 2015.


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