Nicholas Mynheer’s “Rest on the Flight to Egypt” from the Methodist Modern Art Collection, © TMCP, The Methodist Church of Britain, used with permission.
Tree of Life is an ancient symbol for the creating, nurturing and sheltering nature of God. It came into Christianity through our Jewish roots and finds new meaning in the cross of Jesus Christ, the tree of Crucifixion and the symbol of God’s enduring love that cannot be destroyed.
Tree of Life is the theme for our Advent and Christmas observance at Global Ministries this year, featured in our worship and decorations. Staff explored the several understandings of the symbol in festive unit displays that also included commitments to local charitable causes that nurture life.
Our 2018 theme art on our Christmas card is Nicholas Mynheer’s painting of the Holy Family taking refuge under a sheltering tree while escaping the wrath of King Herod, a scene adapted from Matthew 2:13-15. The English artist calls it “Rest on the Flight to Egypt.” It speaks not only of rest and shelter for parents, child and animal, but also of peace and renewal, even of play.
I experienced a place of holy rest and, yes, play recently at Christ United Methodist Church, San Diego, in a room sheltering 19 refugees. These Haitians, expelled from Brazil when their labor was no longer needed, sought refuge in the United States. Among them were twins Luciene and Luciena, age 4 months, born in Mexico as their parents were in flight. What a joy to play and laugh with these precious infants.
For us as Christians, the cross transforms into the Tree of Life, which transforms pain, rejection and exile into happiness and abundant life.
Christmas calls us to experience hope, peace, security and laughter; it is a time of renewal for the work ahead of planting trees of life in many places.
Will you join us in planting trees of life in your Christmas celebration?