I have posted this previously elsewhere, but seeing as it is Christmas once again, and I have this new blog, I thought I would post it anew.
The ancient Scandinavians envisioned the Universe as a giant ash tree they called Yggdrasil or Mimameidr, the World Tree. Yggdrasil was described in the poems of the Poetic Edda1 as “ever-green” (Voluspá2 19).
A few years ago, I stepped back from our just-decorated Christmas tree to admire it in the dimly-lit room and suddenly this Scandinavian universe-as-tree imagery came pouring into my mind. I found myself looking at a small model of the cosmos, full of stars, and worlds, and beings, and sap; of chaos as well as order—each branch a fractal image of the whole.
This impression remained with me for many days afterward and I sat frequently gazing at the tree and thinking about the new symbolism that the tree could be given. At the time I had been reading a lot of poetry by John Milton3 , John Donne4 , and Gerard Manley Hopkins5 and I was inspired by them to try to capture my impressions in verse. While the resulting poem is far from perfect, it endows the Christmas tree with a new symbolism that still moves me, regardless of my imperfect attempts to communicate it.
Merry Christmas everyone! May the Lord bless you and your loved ones as we celebrate His Holy birth.
The Christmas Tree
Miniature universe, great world-tree,
Whose lofty branches the firmament form
Adornéd with lights as through God’s own decree
All hung from celestial bows, stelliform.
Here are the heavenly hosts signified:
Thrones, Principalities, Powers, all set;
Reflecting in glorious spheres, simplified,
The cosmos in symbolic rev’rence here met.
Lo! Here’s a seraph! And there, cherubim!
Who sing the glad tidings in a worshipful song,
As they fly through the sap-smelling, heavenly scheme;
_‘Mid the twinkling lights and celestial throng._
And affix’d at the top a new star shines forth laud;
Announcing salvation: the Condescension of God.