Christmas beauty is in full parade with garlands, wreaths, and Christmas trees decorating homes everywhere—perfect invitations for gardeners to dig into the book of Isaiah. Cedar, juniper, cypress, pine, and fir trees are all named throughout this prophet’s praises and predictions, with forests clapping for joy! Yet one passage listing the enchanting conifers includes olive among God’s promises to renew and refresh. Rereading this holiday favorite led me to wonder…whom on my gift list might enjoy a potted olive tree? Or rather, who wouldn’t want this lasting symbol of God’s peace in ever-greenery?!?
I will fill the desert with all kinds of trees—cedars, acacias, and myrtles; olive and cypress trees; fir trees and pines. Everyone will see this and know that I, the holy Lord God of Israel, created it all. Isaiah 41:19 CEV
This faithful olive beams elegant among evergreen boughs, its deep green leaves a stunning colorblend. Leaves’ underside is a contrasting, silvery white that reflects the light, emanating a lovely, eye-catching vitality and creating a mini-focal point for the room. What’s more, adding potted olive trees to home décor at Christmas time proclaims the heavenly host declaration in botanical imagery—
Suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude from the heavenly army, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward mankind.” Luke 2:13-14 EHV
—because peace is the unstoppable symbolism of the olive.
The olive branch has become a universal metaphor of peace, rooted in the story of Noah and the flood (Genesis 6-9). Once the waters began receding, the dove returned with an olive leaf, indicating to Noah that vegetation was restored to the earth.
So Noah waited seven more days and sent out the dove from the ark again. When the dove came to him at evening, there was a plucked olive leaf in her beak. So Noah knew that the water on the earth’s surface had gone down. Genesis 8:10-11 HCSB
Not just any leaf, but one from the highly productive, enduring olive tree. This was a botanical blessing communicating God’s faithfulness, promising that Noah’s life after the flood’s cataclysmic upheaval would be grounded and prosperous once more. From this particular mention, the olive branch has become a gesture of peace and willingness to restore relationships throughout time. Consider how poignant it is, then, that the peace Christ brought us—
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5 NIV
—was ushered in on the Mount of Olives.
Mount of Olives
Our Christ suffered his own upheaval as he battled to wipe way our sins, his supreme torment that was foretold by Isaiah coming to fruition in Gethsemane, a small garden area on the Mount of Olives.
When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives…They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. Mark 14:26, 32-33 NIV
The restoration implied in the little leaf in the dove’s beak found its ultimate expression as Christ poured himself out at the Mount of Olives, then on the cross, and onto victory in the garden tomb. No wonder the angels sang triumphant in the skies at his birth!
Wander with me, forest-like, through these Words of God to take in this evergreen peace.
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder. And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end Isaiah 9:6-7 KJV
Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness will abide in the orchard. The effect of righteousness will be peace, and its result will be quiet and security forever. My people will abide in a peaceful land, in secure dwellings and peaceful resting places. Isaiah 32:16-18 NCB
When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Luke 19:37-38 NIV
“I leave the gift of peace with you—my peace. Not the kind of fragile peace given by the world, but my perfect peace. Don’t yield to fear or be troubled in your hearts—instead, be courageous! John 14:27 TPT
I will make peace your governor and well-being your ruler. Isaiah 60:17 NIV
And as they were saying these things, [Jesus] Himself stood among them. He said to them, “Peace to you!” Luke 24:36 HCSB
Potted Olive Trees
Potted olive trees are available at garden centers and botanical retailers; remember most of us must grow this zone 9 plant in a container, keeping it indoors during winter’s freezing months. I am grateful for Jackson’s Home and Garden in Dallas, TX, where I found this graceful sapling pictured at the top of the post, grown by The Pinery. Monrovia also has a special dwarf cultivar, ‘Little Ollie’® suitable for table top decoration and topiary, pictured to the left. Check your local Monrovia supplier or shop online at www.monrovia.com. May God bless you and give you peace in the hustle-bustle of hurried shopping and holiday preparations! I know I need His help in every way to truly enjoy celebrations of his birth.
“‘“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”’ Numbers 6:24-26 NIV
Dig into deeper meanings of olive trees in God’s Word for Gardeners Bible, in the Garden Tour series on Mount of Olives, beginning on page a-18, and the Garden Work series on Choosing, beginning on page a-20
Find Olive in our Plant Guide, www.gardenindelight.com/plant-guide/olive/
Photo Credits: ©Dorren Wynja for Monrovia for the ‘Little Ollie®’ dwarf olive shown as a potted topiary; all other photos by Shelley S. Cramm
EHV notes Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, Evangelical Heritage Version® , EHV®, © 2019 Wartburg Project, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
HCSB denotes Scripture quotations taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
KJV denotes Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, King James Version published in 1611, authorized by King James I of England, which is public domain in the United States.
NCB denotes Scripture taken from the SAINT JOSEPH NEW CATHOLIC BIBLE® Copyright © 2019 by Catholic Book Publishing Corp. Used with permission. All rights reserved.”
NIV denotes Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.®
TPT denotes Scripture quotations taken from The Passion Translation®. Copyright © 2017, 2018 by Passion & Fire Ministries, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ThePassionTranslation.com