Why do we decorate Christmas trees to celebrate Jesus’ birth? And where did they come from and what do they represent? In “Christmas Trees and Jesus,” children will learn the history of the Christmas tree and why we use them as part of our Christmas celebrations. Because Christmas is all about Jesus, decorating a tree presents the opportunity to extend God’s love and message of salvation to others.
TARGET AGES: 10-14
OBJECTIVE: To teach the children about the history of the Christmas tree and how we can use it to share Jesus with others.
MAIN IDEA: Evergreen plants were first used by pagan cultures such as the Romans and Vikings to worship their gods. However, German Christians (like Martin Luther) began using evergreen trees in the 1500’s to celebrate Christmas. Today Christmas trees remind us of the beauty of Jesus’ birth.
SCRIPTURE PASSAGES: 2 Corinthians 4:4-6, Psalm 97:6-7, Colossians 3:17
MATERIAL(S): a map of 16th century Europe, glue gun, Nativity Ornament craft
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Introduction (5 minutes)
ICEBREAKER DISCUSSION: Ask, “What do we use to decorate for Christmas? Does anyone know why we decorate Christmas trees? Today we are going to learn the history of the Christmas tree and how it leads us to Christ.”
PRAYER: “Lord, show us how to see your beauty this Christmas season and share your love with others. Amen.”
Lesson (20 minutes)
- Start by explaining that evergreen plants (such as Christmas trees) were first used as decorations by pagan cultures hundreds of years ago to keep away evil spirits or please their false gods. Say, “Romans used evergreen plants to honor their god, Saturn, and the Vikings used them to worship their sun god, Balder. However, even though the plants began as a part of idol worship they now help us celebrate Christ’s birth. So, is it biblically correct to use a decoration that was invented by idol worshippers?” After allowing some time for discussion read 2 Corinthians 4:4-6. Explain to the class that God’s ability to turn darkness to light means he can take something that started as an evil practice and use it for his glory. Say, “If we look at Christmas trees and are reminded of God’s love and his desire for us to share Jesus with others, then what was once a tool of idol worship becomes a display of God’s grace. What a beautiful reminder!”
- Discuss how actual Christmas trees were first used by German Christians in the 1500’s and show the map of 16th century Europe (Germany was part of the Holy Roman Empire). Say, “The incredible preacher, Martin Luther, is believed to have been the first person to put lights (candles) on Christmas trees as a tribute to God’s creations of the stars.” Briefly outline Martin Luther’s life and how he stood up to the Catholic church for biblical truths such as receiving salvation through faith (and not by actions). Read Psalm 97:6-7. Comment, “The German Christians used Christmas trees as a reminder of God’s ultimate authority and the majesty of his creation. We should also view Christmas trees as more than decorations, but as an instrument to glorify God.”
- Lastly, share with the children a tradition your family has when it comes to decorating the Christmas tree. Ask, “What traditions does your family have with Christmas trees? Remember to share the love of Christ with your family this year as you set up your tree, because it’s an opportunity to reflect God’s goodness to those around us.” Read Colossians 3:17 to emphasize that our actions are to be a reflection of Jesus and our thankfulness to God.
Nativity Ornament Craft (15 minutes)
Pass out the crafts and say, “These nativity ornaments with remind us that Christmas trees are a reflection of Jesus.” Help the children assemble the ornaments and use the glue gun for final touches (if necessary).
Conclusion (5 minutes)
RECAP: Christmas trees were once used to worship false idols, but today they represent the season of Jesus’ birth. We can share what we know about the history of Christmas trees to lead others into a relationship with Christ.
CLOSING PRAYER: “God, thank you for using Christmas trees to remind us of Jesus’ birth and your glory. Help us share what we have learned to lead others to you this Christmas season. Amen.”