O Tannebaum, O Christmas Tree

“…The forest keeps different time; slow hours as long as your life…So you feel more human; persuaded what you are by wordless breath of wood, reason in resin…Ah, you thought love [applied only to humans] till you lost yourself in the forest…these grave and patient saints…pray and pray and suffer your little embrace.Forest, by Carol Ann Duffy, the Scottish poet

This holiday season, as we hastily adorn living rooms, front porches, and workplaces with either real or artificial pine trees – what if we’re also trying to feel more human?   Yes, the Christmas tree is a much-beloved holiday tradition.  But what if trees, “these grave and patient saints,” actually slow us down, calm our fears and provide a canopy of beneficence unnamed but longed for?

Imagine if our yearnings for continuity, and to be in close proximity with those whom we love – also points to this ineffable but ancient connection to all of nature itself, and in particular, trees?   What if something seemingly common and expendable as a tree – holds not only the link to our distant past – but grasps the key to our future?

In the nineteenth century, German composer Ernst Anschutz wrote a traditional folk song, O Tannebaum, which translated means, O Fir Tree.  Later it was adapted as a Christmas carol, giving voice to our yearning:

“O Tannebaum, O Christmas Tree, how lovely are thy branches!”  O Tannebaum, O tannebaum, how lovely are thy branches!”

In this Season of Advent, be with us, Divine Maker, so that we may behold our kinship with all of creation as you ordained it, including trees.  Amen.



Author: Jessica McArdle

These are dark and corrosive times. As a writer and ordained minister with the United Church of Christ, I use prayer, poetry, reflection, and scripture to re-align our embattled spirits with the uniqueness and urgency of our God-given identity and call.

4 thoughts on “O Tannebaum, O Christmas Tree”

  1. Dear Jessica. You blog brought me such comfort this morning as I navigate my way through such deep gray grief again. I lost
    my beloved Jack this past October. I often look back and reflect on my life ( I am at that age) and remember with such fondness
    your friendship and care during another dark time of grief and loss. Thank you. May the Advent message of hope, peace, joy and love be with you knowing that the deeper tasks of this season are to wait, to imagine, and to inwardly prepare for the coming of the Light of the World. God breaks through, God is with us and within us, Emmanuel, Love is on the loose…
    Shalom with love alwasy,
    Elsa Marshall

    1. Dear Elsa, I am so deeply sorry to learn of your loss. Even now I am holding you in prayer, trusting that the promise and light of Advent will provide a measure of comfort during these days. I too recall your friendship and care, giving thanks for the times we spent together in fellowship. Yes, Love is on the loose. Grace and blessings to you, dear friend. Jessica

  2. Such a beautiful reflection and, indeed, I found deep peace just decorating the smaller-than-usual tree (new puppy) in the dining room and having it there for every meal. There is a stilling to it.

    1. Congratulations on the new puppy ! Trust s/he is filling the space left by your beloved beagle. Thankful to know of the stilling that comes with the presence of a tree in your home.

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