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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Advent Journey: Day 12, Evergreen

Evergreen

Years ago, I was reading a book by Stuart Briscoe, where in one of the chapters he explored the themes found in Psalm 1. From that, I was inspired to write the song “Evergreen”. I don’t even think it was winter when I wrote the song, I believe it was summertime...but I was so moved by this scene of the evergreen tree that he depicted that I couldn't help but write a song.  (It is interesting how there has always been a direct correlation between my reading habits and my songwriting...words and themes and theology and ideas seem to jump off the pages and the songs just flow.  The same happens with sermons, as well as spending time in creation.  For those of you who ask, "how do you come up with songs?" - there you have it- reading Scripture, reading lots of books, listening to sermons, and being out in God's nature.  Of course, life events and personal experiences, as well as the experiences and journeys of others, are always a huge inspiration as well...)


Evergreen trees are amazing pieces of creation. Through storms, through the frigid cold, when it seems like all else is dying or hibernating in nature, the evergreen trees stand tall, steadfast, and strong.  Evergreens are a symbol of eternal life and have been since ancient times.  Pagans used to worship evergreens, but as Christians, we have turned this symbol into a reminder of the eternal life we have in Christ.   The word "Evergreen" comes from the Old English word "aefie" meaning "always" and "gowan" meaning "to grow".


In an article called "Symbolism of Christmas Evergreens" at Pathos.com, an online magazine, writer Margaret Rose Really describes the symbolism of many specific types of evergreens:

"The most commonly used evergreen for wreaths is balsam and it has the symbolic meaning of eater anticipation; a familiar emotion associated with Advent.  Frequently used in garlands as well as wreaths and swags are fir boughs, symbolizing a lifting up, and pine that conveys the meaning of eternal life.  Spruce boughs represent hope in adversity, and isn't that a lovely sentiment when we think of what Mother Mary faced before the birth of Jesus.  Cedar is one of the more fragrant and longer lasting evergreens and indicates incorruptibility and healing, and so it is associated with eternal life through Christ.  Juniper symbolizes protection, and that they do well! If you've ever had to trim juniper branches you know how prickly and hash they can be. (A great shrub to plant under windows to ward off intruders!) Holly carries a few different symbolisms. In the language of flowers it means to foresee as in to understand in such a way as to predict, to prophecy. Holly is also used as a reminder of where Jesus' birth and life will lead; its prickly leaves are reminiscent of the Crown of Thorns and the red berries of the blood He shed upon the Cross"


Thank you, Margaret Rose Really, for this incredible description of the various evergreens and the symbolism they hold at Christmas!  I'll never look at these trees the same again! 

So let's explore Psalm 1 together, and then I want to jump to Jeremiah 17:
Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.T
he wicked are not so,
but are like chaff
that the wind drives away.
(Psalm 1:1-4)


Thus says the LORD:
"Cursed is the man who trusts in man
and makes flesh his strength,
whose heart turns away from the LORD.
He is like a shrub in the desert, 
and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness
in an uninhabited salt land.
"Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose trust is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit."
(Jeremiah 17:5-8)

How beautiful are these verses- such promises from the Lord. If we dig deep into His word, if we meditate on it day and night, if we delight in the Lord and trust in Him, we too can be like Evergreen trees, strong, steadfast, tall, everlasting.  Our eternal life is found in the one who hung on a tree. 


For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
(1 Peter 2:21-25)

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 6:23)


As we consider the Evergreen tree and it's symbolism of eternal life, let us give thanks to Christ Jesus, the ultimate Evergreen who conquered sin and death and is alive, reigning in Heaven, and has offered us the free gift of eternal life!


Evergreen
Music & Lyrics by Caitlin Jane © BMI 2011

In the winter of the soul
Where nothin’s bloomin’ all is cold
There’s a root that never dies
Whether hidden by dark or bursting through sunlight

I’ll be an evergreen
Cause that’s what You made me to be
Yes, I’ll be an evergreen
Cause that’s what You made me to be

Through the wind and snow and rain
I’ll stand tall in light of grace
My soul renewed here day by day
By eternal love, that won’t pass away

I’ll be an evergreen
Cause that’s what You made me to be
Yes, I’ll be an evergreen
Cause that’s what You made me to be

Furious storm, drought of my heart
I will not be shaken
Roots that run deep, into the Word
Life that breathes life inside me
Planted beside River of Hope
Branches green awaken
Into the night, frigid and bare
I will not fear when I sleep

Suffering Savior of the world
Tried and tempted, yet endured
It is You who overcomes
Evergreen who hung on the cross

I’ll also be an evergreen
In the image of You, Lord, I will be
Oh I’ll be an evergreen
Cause that’s what You made me to be

I’ll be an evergreen.