Archive | November, 2012

Does the Christmas tree have roots?

24 Nov

A few days after Thanksgiving day and the trees are already up. What a wonderful holiday tradition! And aren’t traditions wonderful? They serve to unite and build communities and uplift our spirits. The singing of the national anthem before a game, numerous wedding traditions, graduation ceremonies, Thanksgiving dinner, anniversaries, the list goes on and on. Traditions are there as reminders of our past, some sort of recognition or celebration, and sometimes they even point to a future hope. In short, they tell us who we are and where we are going.

So where do the roots of the Christmas tree lie? Last night I took a few minutes to nerd out on the significance of the Christmas tree. I found numerous explanations, most I have heard before, but I also found a “new” one.

There is the one where the Christmas tree is a borrowed custom from pagan rites commemorating the feast of saturnalia, where the evergreen symbolizes life even in the midst of death. That would be a bit of a bummer, IF it were the real story behind the Christmas tree.
Maybe it is an interpretation of the yule log of Germanic paganism. Snopes.
Some explain that the tree has three corners, symbolizing the trinity. Geometrically speaking; that’s just not true, unless there is some breed of conifer I’ve never heard of.
There is the theory that the tree points to the sky, reminding us of things above our human situation. Ever seen a tree that does not point up?

No satisfactory explanations of the Christmas tree tradition could be found. Nothing really pointed to the past or towards the future, nothing in these theories helps the tree significantly anchor our identity.
Around 1650 Lutheran theologian Johann Dannhauer wrote in his The Milk of the Catechism that “the Christmas or fir tree, which people set up in their houses, hang with dolls and sweets, and afterwards shake and deflower. . . Whence comes this custom I know not; it is child’s play . . .”
Seems pointless… but wait for it.

“Karas has amply demonstrated that evergreens have been a symbol of rebirth from ancient times. Bringing greenery into one’s home, often at the time of the winter solstice, symbolized life in the midst of death in many cultures. The Romans decked their homes with evergreens and other greenery during the Kalends of January. Living trees were also brought into homes during the old German feast of Yule, which originally was a two-month feast beginning in November. The Yule tree was planted in a tub and brought into the home. However, the evidence just does not exist which shows that Christians first used trees at Christmas as a symbol of rebirth, nor that the Christmas tree was a direct descendent of the Yule tree. On the contrary, the evidence that we have points in another direction. The Christmas tree appears to be a descendent of the Paradise tree and the Christmas light of the late Middle Ages.
From the eleventh century, religious plays called “mystery plays” became quite popular throughout Europe. These plays were performed outdoors and in churches. One of the most prevalent of these plays was the “Paradise play.” The play depicted the story of the creation of Adam and Eve, their sin, and their banishment from Paradise. The play would end with the promise of the coming Savior and His Incarnation (cf. Gen. 3:15). The Paradise play was simple by today’s standards. The only prop on stage was the “Paradise tree,” a fir tree adorned with apples. From this tree, at the appropriate time in the play, Eve would take the fruit, eat it, and give it to Adam.”
http://www.orlutheran.com/html/chrtree.html

Finally!!! So now we have a decent story of the Christmas tree. But how did it get off the stage and into our homes? Easy, someone banned the plays. But by then they were such a part of the tradition that people just cut down trees and put them in their homes. They would decorate the trees with apples (symbolizing the fruit of sin) and homemade wafers (symbolizing the fruit of life).
There you have it; the Christmas tree is a powerful tradition, full of reminders of the past and celebration of the future.

We Didn’t DO anything! (kaizen)

11 Nov

It was my wife who encouraged me to begin writing again, and so I thought it fitting that I begin with writing a letter of encouragement for her.
Jen, My Lady, this one’s for you.

The name of my blog came from a movie, here I will explain why I chose it.

A divorce-what have I done! I haven’t done anything- What have I done!
Larry, don’t be a child. You haven’t “done” anything. I haven’t “done” anything.
Yes! Yes! We haven’t done anything!

You might remember this somewhat humorous exchange between Larry Gopnik and his wife Judith.

We live in a broken world; things don’t stay the way they are, and everything is in a constant state of decay. We are either growing or dying. Improving or decaying. Larry and Judith didn’t necessarily “do anything” wrong, but it seems obvious that they had not been “doing anything” to maintain their marriage.

The same goes for pretty much everything in life. Left on their own; gardens don’t stay watered and pest free, bicycle tires do not stay full of air, dishes do not stay clean, repetitive jobs do not stay exciting, coffee does not stay warm, and beds do not stay made. In short: life is messy.

How’s that for encouraging? Don’t worry, that’s only half the story.
The good news is the Gospel. We have been forgiven much. Christ loved/loves us, enabling us to love each other, and to love others. How does that love materialize? So many ways! That’s the exciting part. There are thousands upon thousands of ways that you and I can reflect the love of Christ into this dark and dying world.
We’ve already talked a little bit about how a holy/loving marriage is a huge blessing to others. Did you know that working hard with a good attitude can do the same thing? It’s something I struggle with acting out, but people notice it. If they don’t, God does. Work can be an act of worship, a service to Christ. A graceful response where a slap in the face is warranted, a small personal act of service where none was required, a large and cheerful sacrifice where none was asked for. These things do not come naturally, to quote Chris Lazzo, who I think was quoting someone else: “we do not drift into holiness”. Active pursuit is necessary, and never forget that we have access to the Creator of the universe, who is able to do more than anything we could imagine. (Eph 3:20, Romans 8:26) Also: I’m here for you too. 🙂

There is a Japanese term “kaizen” that I’ve been thinking of. It means something along the lines of “continuous/daily improvement”. The idea is that perfection is never reached, there is always something to be improved on. The same concept can be applied to our pursuit of Christ and each other.

While the idea of kaizen may be discouraging to many, it should be a source of joy for us.
Because kaizen just says there are obstacles, but the gospel says we can overcome them!
ALL of them!!!!!

“Run, Daniel, run,” the law commands
But gives us neither feet nor hands.
Yet better news the gospel brings;
It bids us fly and gives us wings.

As I write this, I am thinking of you alone behind that desk, praying that your day goes well.

Eph 3:14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your heart through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Hello world!

11 Nov

Welcome to WordPress.com! This is your very first post. Click the Edit link to modify or delete it, or start a new post. If you like, use this post to tell readers why you started this blog and what you plan to do with it.

Happy blogging!