As I looked at the new “Christmas starts with Christ” advertising I was reminded of what I first knew as one of the Eton Fables, the story of the three trees on a hillside discussing their hopes and dreams.
One wanted to be part of the hull of a great ship. One wanted to be part of a great treasure chest full of precious things and one wanted to be remembered as the greatest tree of all time….
In the fullness of time, the first tree was made into a fishing boat and when a great storm arose a man calmed the storm and the waves and the tree knew that it had carried the King of Kings in that boat. The second tree became the manger that held the greatest gift of all, the baby Jesus, and the third tree became the greatest of all trees. The third tree became the cross upon which Jesus was crucified.
I was reminded of that modern parable because this year the “Christmas starts with Christ” poster shows a stark, even shocking, image of the scourged Christ carrying not a cross but a Christmas tree, with the simple message: ‘Remember why’.
We have for a number of years in All Saints’ Church kept the Christmas tree and fashioned it into a Lenten Cross. We have hung from the Cross all the symbols of Christ’s Passion and have on Easter Day decorated it with flowers as we celebrate the resurrection. We have tried to keep the connection between Christmas and the rest of the Christian story.
As enchanting as the Christmas story is, it is only the opening chapter. There is much more.
Jesus goes on to become a refugee fleeing the tyranny and violence of a despot determined to destroy anyone or thing in his path.
After many hidden years of preparation he suddenly appears publicly with a new and radical message of love and the Kingdom that seemingly the whole population want to embrace! But the tide eventually turns against him and the crowds begin to call for his blood. He is betrayed and denied by those who were his closest companions and ends up tortured and publicly executed on a wooden cross and dies in humiliation.
And just as all hope in him and his message was lost, the dawn of a new truth begins to spread. The regenerative powers of God overcome his death and new life is offered through the Resurrection. There is new hope! New Life!
There have been so many releases over the years of that wonderful song “Mary’s boy child”
You will remember the refrain:
Hark, now hear the angels sing, a king was born today
And man will live for evermore, because of Christmas Day…
That is why we celebrate Christmas – a story that begins with a star and a stable and singing by hosts of angels and ends with the cross and a resurrection. Without the Babe of Bethlehem there can be no Good Friday or glorious Easter Day.
So if you see this year’s “Christmas starts with Christ” Poster at a bus stop or on a church or on a billboard, it might serve to remind us all that Christmas is but the first chapter in the story of Redemption.
The Lord be with you