An Apple For Christmas
I must admit I’d never thought of an apple as extremely Christmasy, since then I found out that the French in the Alsace region, and people in China would disagree. For the French, the tradition stems back to around 1521, where Christkindel apples, also known as Pomme de Noel, were used to decorate Christ trees, or Christmas trees. Legend has it that in 1850, due to a shortage of the apples, artisans began making the glass ornaments we know today.
For China, it is tied to language. The word Apple in Chinese is 苹果 (píngguǒ) and Christmas Eve in Chinese is often called 平安夜 (Píng’ān yè, literally meaning safe night). Some say the word for Christmas Eve comes from the carol Silent Night. I find it ironic that a fruit we so often associate with the fall of man, others associate with The Christ child.
While Genesis doesn’t say the forbidden fruit was an apple, it’s what comes to mind for most people. Yet in certain areas of the world, instead of the tragedy of Genesis, they see the Miracle of The Nativity. What a beautiful transformation this is! It’s a reminder that everything changed on that Silent Night.
It was silent in the sense that the world was sleeping, mostly unaware of what was happening. However, a few took notice. They say that Christkindel apples aren’t produced on a large scale in France, even for commercial use. Instead, local growers raise enough for their own consumption and decoration. Those who took the time to plant reaped, just like on that night.
The people who experienced Jesus had invested something in at least paying attention to God’s announcement. The Shepherds were awake, watching over sheep, and responded to the angel. Mary and Joseph waited with great love for The Child that was about to be born. While the Wisemen would actually arrive later, they were paying enough attention to notice the star.
The thing about apples in desserts is that the apple goes through a process. Whether it’s cooked on the stove with sugar, baked in a pie shell, or folded into a cake, a transformation occurs. The peel is removed to reveal what is inside. Christ would pull back the curtain of Heaven to reveal God’s plan for salvation.
It does strike me that the Chinese word for apple uses two Chinese characters, whereas Christmas Eve uses three. When Christ entered the world, He added the component no mere man could add. Mankind was present, and like our general impression of the apple, our sins were evident but God brought hope.
Just as I hope these facts will rewrite your view of the apple, The Lord Jesus rewrote our stories. His hope outshined our helplessness. He made it possible for all of us to be transformed. To be reborn, not as part of a fallen family, but as children of a loving God.
Bishop Livingston used to say the problem wasn’t the apple on the tree, it was the pair on the ground. With the birth of Jesus, The Lord gave us all a chance to change our stories through His love. To choose a new path, and grow into something totally different than how we began. This is the promise of Christmas!