A fresh evergreen Christmas tree is a symbol of everlasting life. Legend has it that Martin Luther cut down a fresh fir tree after seeing the bright stars twinkling through the lofty pines. He took it home and decorated it with candles to recreate for his family the wonder of God’s creation.
The custom spread in Germany and then throughout the world. When Queen Victoria married the German Prince Albert, he brought the tradition to England in 1840. The first electric lights on Christmas trees were used in New York in the home of a friend of Thomas Edison in 1882.
Jesus is proclaimed in the Gospel as the ‘Light of the World’, so the lights on the tree serve to remind us of this.
The tree is decorated with white, gold and silver stars and red baubles. White, which refers to God’s purity and perfection, is the liturgical colour for Christmas. Gold and silver are a symbol of the glory and majesty of God, and red evokes the colour of blood, reminding us of Christ's death for us on the cross.
The star on the top of the tree represents the star that led the wise men to the baby Jesus. In the book of Revelation, Jesus calls himself 'the bright morning star'.
- The Bethlehem star or natal star is usually drawn to represent a cross. It is a reminder of Jesus' birth and the purpose for which he was born. It is also symbolic of the four points of the compass and the need to spread the good news of Jesus in all directions.
- This epiphany star reminds us how the wise men were drawn to Jesus.
- It also indicates Jesus humanity, with one point each for his head, arms and legs.
- The Creator's Star reminds us of the 6 days of creation. It is also known as the Star of David, as the two interwoven triangles represent the traditional shape of David's shield.
- This reminds us of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: prophecy, serving, teaching, exhortation, contribution, leadership and mercy. Seven is also the number of perfection, as are the numbers ten and twelve.
- As eight is the number of regeneration, this is a reminder of baptism. This star is also sometimes known as the Bethlehem Star.
- 24 years ago the rose window above the main door of Bethlehem church was glazed and illuminated to celebrate the centenary of the laying of the foundation stone of the building. An eight-pointed star for this window represents the cardinal points of the compass. The golden shafts of light stand for the gospel emanating from the triune God out into the universe.
- This reminds us of the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
- We are reminded of the 10 commandments.
- This represents the 12 tribes of Israel or the 12 apostles.