Haman, undone by Mordecai’s refusal to pay him homage, follows the counsel of his friends and wife to build gallows for the Jew. The word in Hebrew for gallows is “tree”; Haman builds a tree to hang Mordecai on. Of course the story reverses the plot, exalting Mordecai to Haman’s position and Haman gets hung on the tree he built for Mordecai.
Christ was crucified on a tree according to Peter, and for all we know, it may have even resembled the sort of gallows Haman had built. And all of this is part of the rich symbolic menagerie that surrounds our celebration of Christmas. A tree in one’s living room conjures all of the biblical lore, millenia of providence and faith. From the garden trees in Eden to the trees that were built into arks and temples, from the gallows of Haman to the staff of Moses and the rods of Aaron and Jesse, we invoke the same Spirit into our homes as we celebrate the birth of the King of all the earth. The same Spirit that parted the roaring waves of a sea with a length of ordinary wood in the hand of a man, engrafts us into the tree that is Christ. And we form the tree of life that is for the healing of the nations, whose leaves do not whither, that produces its fruit in season.
So deck the halls with bows of holly; string a million lights around that gallow-tree and put a star on top to guide the wisemen from the east. Christ is born in Bethlehem; Christ is born to die. Christ is our ark, our rod, our gallows. Christ is Mordecai on Haman’s tree.