From where I sit it is both strange and understandable that green is a prominent color of Christmas. In one sense there’s very little green to be seen. Unlike spring that is filled with a variety of vibrant greens, winter in central Illinois is brown until the snow flies. Trees have shed their green leaves, The crops that color our fields have been harvested, frost has beaten back our perennials and killed off our annual decorative plants. The grassy carpets of our yards have gone dormant. The only green to see are the evergreens of pine, balsam, and spruce. Some of these may even take the form of a Christmas tree. But, if you have been following our Colors of Christmas series you may have guessed that there is also a deeper meaning to this color as well.
To connect the dots we must turn the calendar forward again to early spring when the browns of winter are swallowed up with the green of new life. Death giving way to life. Paul wrote to the Romans, “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4, NASB95) While red reminds us of Christ’ death, green reminds us of resurrection, life, and the new life Jesus promises those who choose to follow Him.
The reality that comes when a person surrenders themselves to Christ is so marvelous that one single term or metaphor can’t contain it. We’ve already seen Paul’s description of newness of life. Jesus described it to Nicodemus as being born from above or born again (John 3:3, 7). Peter also uses the term born again connecting new life to the seed of God’s word implanted in our hearts (1 Peter 1:23). Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NASB95) Newness of life, born from above, born again, a new creature (or you could say species). It’s fair to say that something dramatic changes that moment we turn to Christ whether we can identify it or not.
So, what does this have to do with Christmas? Consider the angelic proclamation to the shepherds outside of Bethlehem. “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord…. Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”” (Luke 2:10-11,14, NASB95) A heavenly declaration of peace. Paul summed it up this way, “And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:18–19, NLT) Reconciliation is more than a ceasefire, truce, or peace treaty, but is the highest form of peace where old wounds are forgiven and forgotten.
Perhaps it could be said that the Christmas color of green has a double meaning. It symbolizes the peace that God offers and the desire for peace among each other along with the new life only found in Christ. The cold fact, however, is that Christmas peace is short-lived if not built on the foundation of Jesus. We can for a day set aside our differences and endure the pain as we gather to feast and share gifts. True long lasting peace begins with ending our war of rebellion with God, surrendering to His will and way, and being reconciled to Him through Christ. That new life in Him then begins to affect and change our reactions, responses, and relationships with others, always moving (or at least it should be) in the direction of peace and reconciliation. The Christmas Color of Green is God’s gift of peace to you and me.