Luke 21:29 He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees.”
If you read this quickly you might make the mistake of reading fir tree instead of fig tree. In our culture evergreens of all types are used as Christmas trees and while other trees are shedding their leaves on our lawns outside we bring these into our houses and churches and create shrines around them. I imagine visitors from another planet arriving here during Advent and reporting back that the earthlings worship green trees, adorning them with lights and placing offering under them as an act of homage. For the most part I think we use Christmas trees as a way of reminding us of the wonder we had as children during this season. Many of us have warm associations of family pulling together to make something loving and surprising and beautiful around this tree and we enjoy trying to recreate it year after year. When Jesus told his followers to look at the trees he was instructing they use them as a reminder that “when they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.” We held a “hanging of the greens” service this past week as a way of trying to associate some of the various customs surrounding Christmas; lighting the tree, hanging wreathes, holly and mistletoe; with the faithfulness of God. If these things serve only to give us a moment of nostalgia then they might be doing us more harm than good spiritually. If they remind us to be alert to what God is doing in our midst this year then they truly are a symbol of the season. Look at the fir tree and all the trees. What do you see?