For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive an abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!— Romans 5:17
There’s a gradual sense in which we settle into the Christmas spirit every year. Around November end or early December, the malls start playing Christmas carols and songs; all businesses start advertising their X’mas offers and the social media blows up with people trying to make their “valuable” opinions about Christmas known to the world. It’s also the only time of the year that you hear the name Emmanuel thrown around a lot. That said, I plan to honor tradition and put up a fully decked-up Christmas tree over at my place in a couple of days’ time, and then I shall have well and truly settled into the Christmas spirit.
We are all part of a grand narrative, the greatest epic ever, the story of the triumph of the Lamb. Every generation including ours, the ones before us and the ones to come have some or the other role to play in this story. We live in that age that’s between Christ’s first and second Advent. We both commemorate His first advent and look forward to His second advent during this season. Of the many types and symbols that run through this story of the Lamb is that of a tree.
At the heart of the redemptive story is the tale of two Adams and two trees. Genesis 2 tells us about a tree that existed tens of thousands of years ago in the garden of Eden. The first man, Adam lived in a beautiful world enjoying communion with God and enjoying all of His creation. He could eat from any tree in the garden, but one, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Adam’s test was to refrain from eating of this tree that was in the garden and as the story would unfold, he fails at it. In Genesis 3 we see him expelled from the Garden, along with his wife Eve. As sons and daughters, we inherit several material traits from out parents and forefathers, say eye color, hair type, complexion, etc. Adam represented all of humanity and His sin brought death and destruction to the world. Being his offspring, all of mankind inherits sin. All who are born after Adam are bound to die, because he sinned at the tree.
Given the background of this story, putting up trees would be quite a horrific thing to do to celebrate Christmas, wouldn’t it? But, as I mentioned earlier, it is the story of the triumph of the Lamb and not one of His defeat. Several millennia later, this Lamb would come down to the wretched world that Adam’s descendants lived on. Unlike the first Adam, this Adam did not enter a sin-free utopia. Though he was the Lord over all creation, he took on flesh to identify as one among the sons of Adam. The bread of life experienced hunger, the fountain of life thirsted. We see many paintings of the Sermon on the Mount, but in how many do we see a sweaty Jesus who’s tired and panting after having climbed a mountain? And that too a mountain which He created with His own hands? The first Adam, in his pride, defies God’s law, but the second Adam humbles Himself and experiences the effects of a fallen world. He was raised to be a carpenter and grew up around trees and working with trees all the way leading up to His adult life; and on a wooden cross He breathed His last. On that second tree, lay the second Adam, cursed and punished.
But, again, this is not a story of His defeat, but the story of His triumph. On that tree, he took upon himself the sin and shame of many (Mark 10:45). For wretched sinners, He became a substitute sacrifice. While the first Adam shifted his blame on his bride (Genesis 3:12), the second Adam shifted His bride’s blame on to Himself. Through His blood of atonement many sons of Adam were cleansed and they were no longer sons of Adam but were adopted into the family of God (Ephesians 1:5). The Son of God became the Son of Man, so that the sons of men would become the sons of God. And this, the second Adam achieved, by destroying death on a tree.
So what’s the tale of the two Adams and two trees you ask?
The first Adam finds a suitable helper in his bride and writes the world’s first song for her and calls her “flesh of his flesh”. He willfully sins at the tree and invites death and destruction. He blames his bride and hides his naked flesh from the flesh of his flesh.
The second Adam cleanses his bride and loves her though she can be of no help to Him. He writes the greatest love song ever, the song of songs, for her. He willfully takes her sin at the tree and defeats death and destruction. He purifies His bride by making her eat of His flesh and drink of His blood.
So brethren, this is why we joyfully put up Christmas trees! Because the story we live out is the story of the Lamb’s triumph. God rest ye merry!