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May 16, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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The Three Trees of Christmas
“The angel said, ‘Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master.’”—Luke 2:10-11, emphasis added (MSG)
Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, there’s no denying its impact on everyone nationally and universally. Many other holidays are celebrated throughout the year, but none come close to the global influence and appeal of Christmas. Why is that?
The passage above gives us a glimpse into the universal pull of Christmas. Setting aside the commercial and cultural trappings often associated with Christmas, at its heart is the celebration of God’s Son, Jesus, being born into the world. Notice how the angel God sent to announce this birth phrases the event, “a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide . . .”
Nearly two-thousand years ago, the impact of Christmas we see and feel today was foretold by this messenger from heaven. Christmas is so encompassing because it’s not for a select society, sect of people, or cultural group. It represents something that everyone, everywhere on earth needs and longs for—whether they realize it or not.
Here’s where I’m willing to risk offending a few people to substantiate this statement: Everyone on earth needed Jesus to be born, because everyone on earth needs Jesus. How do we know this? Well, since it’s tree-trimming season, it’s seems fitting for me to explain it by focusing on three important trees in the Bible.
The First Tree
“God commanded the Man, ‘You can eat from any tree in the garden, except from the Tree-of-Knowledge-of Good-and-Evil. Don’t eat from it. The moment you eat from that tree, you’re dead.’”—Genesis 2:16-17 (MSG)
Our first tree is found at the beginning of mankind’s story in the Book of Genesis. It’s there that God told Adam and Eve they were free to eat from any tree in the Garden of Eden that He’d created for their pleasure. Only one tree was off-limits to them. God refers to this tree as, “the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil,” because its fruit would have the effect of removing their innocence. Up to this point, neither of them had been guilty of any wrongdoing in any way. But taking and eating the fruit from this tree would change all of that . . . forever.
Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, their innocence was lost, sin entered their condition, and they begin to die. Death imposed its claim over their spiritual lives as they became separated from God, and it eventually consumed their physical bodies.
Adam and Eve inherited death from this tree; and because all humanity is descended from them, every person has inherited their condition as well. All of us are under the jurisdiction of sin and death. It doesn’t matter if someone is Malaysian, British, Mexican, Japanese, Chilean, Ethiopian, etc. If they’re on this earth, they come into this world spiritually separated from God because they are sinners. Everyone shares the same need of being reconciled, or being “made right,” with God.
It was in this dark and dismal spiritual setting thousands of years after Adam and Eve’s first sin that an angel announced the birth of Jesus. This is so important because Jesus was able to do something no other person in human history could do. He came into this world, not as a sinful son of Adam, but as the sinless Son of God. As the sinless Son of God, Jesus was able to undo the effects of the first tree by going to a second tree.
The Second Tree
“He . . . bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we . . . might live for righteousness.”—1 Peter 2:23-24 (NKJV)
This verse tells us that Jesus went to “the tree,” which is another expression for “the cross.” And on the cross Jesus did something truly miraculous for every ancestor of Adam and Eve. He took our sinfulness upon Himself and exchanged it for His sinlessness. Jesus literally substituted Himself for us, suffering the punishment for our sin. And by doing so, He removed our guilt before God and made us righteous, which is the state of being “right” with God.
This is why everyone needs Jesus, because He alone is capable of undoing what was done at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It took someone sinless to rescue sinners from the eternal consequences of their sin—and God’s Son is the only one able to meet that requirement. This is why the angel announced Jesus’ birth as such a great and joyful event for everyone . . . because it would lead to Him fulfilling the greatest need of mankind.
Those who truly believe this, that Jesus suffered and died in their place as a sacrifice for their sins, are given access to yet another tree that we see. This third tree appears at the end of the Bible in the Book of Revelation. It is there that we are given a glimpse into heaven, where God is seated on His throne with a river proceeding from its base.
The Third Tree
“The Tree of Life was planted on each side of the River, producing twelve kinds of fruit, a ripe fruit each month. The leaves of the Tree are for healing the nations.”—Revelation 22:2 (MSG)
All who’ve received the announcement of Christ’s birth will have access to eat from this tree in God’s presence in heaven. What an incredible contrast to what happened at the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil! Death has been replaced with everlasting life. And this is all because of the tree that stands in between them. The tree where God gave all humanity the most indescribable gift . . . the gift of His Son.
After learning about the significance of these three important trees in the Bible, we can answer the question that makes up the title to this article—“Is there only one way to heaven”—as yes! Let this angelic announcement ring with new meaning in your heart this Christmas. Celebrate the gift God has given you in His Son and allow Him to share it with those around you . . . because Christmas is for everyone.