In which the exiles begin to dare to trust God for a return home
And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered in one place so that the dry land will appear,” and so it was. And God called the dry land Earth and the gathering of waters He called Seas, and God saw that it was good. And God said, “Let the earth grow grass, plants yielding seed of each kind and trees bearing fruit of each kind, that has its seed within it upon the earth.” And so it was. And the earth put forth grass, plants yielding seed, and trees bearing fruit of each kind, and God saw that it was good. And it was evening and it was morning, third day.
On that day I will raise up the fallen shelter of David and I will stop up its breaches and its ruins will I raise and rebuild it as in days of yore, so that they take hold of the remnant of Edom and all the nations on which My name has been called, said the LORD, Who does this. Look, days are coming, said the LORD, when the ploughman shall overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes the sower of seed. And the mountains shall drip fermented juice, and all the hills shall melt. And I will restore the fortunes of My people Israel, and they shall rebuild desolate towns and dwell there and plant vineyards and drink their wine. And they shall make gardens and eat their fruit. And I will plant them on their soil, and they shall no more be uprooted from their soil that I have given them, said the LORD your God.
In biblical imagery, trees stand for people, sometimes a person of interest, sometimes nations. Fruit stands for the culture a society produces, whether characterized by justice and mercy or by injustice and indifference. Seed stands for the ability of a given group to reproduce their values.
In my culture, we put up trees in our homes in December, and decorate them, often with baubles that tell family stories, perhaps made by our children or grandchildren or placed on the tree with their help, making memories. As you put up your tree, and while it takes room in your home, hold those people and memories before God in prayer, not forgetting those whose lives lack security this Christmas.
Biblical texts: Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary