Why Christmas Trees Have Lights

"You will recall the belief that in the time of the Messiah five things would be restored to the temple: the fire, the ark, the Spirit, the cherubim and the menorah.  Since the asherah was remembered as a stylized tree, the older translations of the Bible, made before the discoveries at Ugarit revealed the existence of the goddess Athirat, translated asherah as 'grove,' following the Greek.  It was forbidden to plant a grove of trees near any altar of the LORD (Deut. 16.21, AV); Jezebel had 400 prophets of the groves (1 Kings 18.19, AV).  The asherah removed by Josiah would have been a stylized tree, and the only stylized tree associated with the temple was the menorah, the tree of fire which was the tree of life, and therefore a symbol of the Lady who was being removed.  This menorah was remembered as the true menorah.  There was a seven branched lamp in the second temple--it is depicted on the arch of Titus among the loot from the temple which was taken to Rome--yet people still looked for the restoration of the true menorah in the time of the Messiah."

--Margaret Barker, Temple Theology: An Introduction (London: SPCK, 2004), pp. 90-91.

Curiously, Barker does not go on here to talk about Christmas trees, but rather the image of Mary in Byzantine icons of the burning bush.  But she really should have made the connection with Christmas trees.  And, no, I don't really expect this quotation to make sense all on its own.  I am struggling with paraphrasing Barker's account of the Lady in the Temple for the next chapter of my book, and these are the images swirling around in my head: the Lady as the Asherah destroyed when King Josiah "reformed" the temple (2 Kings 23), the Asherah as a stylized tree, Wisdom as the tree of life (Proverbs 3:18) "growing tall like the cedar in Lebanon" (Ecclesiasticus 24:13), Mary as the shoot that grew forth from the root of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1), the tree of life that stood beside the throne of the Lamb (Revelation 22:1-2), the menorah as the tree of light that stood in the outer court of the original temple.  Something to think about when you are decorating your tree in honor of the Son of the Queen of Heaven.


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