Jesus Christ the Apple Tree –A curious metaphor for the title of this Christmas carol that first appeared in an1830 broadsheet in London, England. Fifty-four years later, the carol was included in the Divine Hymns, or Spiritual Songs: for the use of Religious Assemblies and Private Christians compiled by Joshua Smith, a lay Baptist minister from New Hampshire.

Whoever penned these five verses, perhaps a man of the soil, would have known about apple trees: their beauty, their blossoms/ fruit, and their shade/protection. From his imagination schooled in Scripture, it was not such a leap to equate these characteristics to the apple tree in the Song of Songs 2:3, to the mustard tree in Luke 13:19, and to the tree of life in the New Jerusalem as found in Revelations 22: 1-2: all slant images of the mystery of the Christ in whom he drew succor. “This fruit does make my soul to thrive/It keeps my dying faith alive.”

Countless worshipers have done similarly.

Do check out this carol’s piercing beauty on YouTube as arranged by Elizabeth Poston, a prolific English composer, writer, and academic. The choir of King’s College offers a moving presentation.

Merry Christmas to you and to all you hold dear in your heart!