We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer
Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth. --Basil of Caesarea
Once you learn to discern, there's no going back. You will begin to spot the lie everywhere it appears.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service. 1 Timothy 1:12

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas-Time Scripture Abuse

Did you know the Bible specifically tells us that having a Christmas tree is wrong, and that it is idolatry?  No?  Well neither did I.
There are those who love to find all sorts of reasons in pagan rituals as to why we can’t use various symbols for Christmas celebrations.  And I agree that many of the things we use for the Christmas season did indeed originate as part of pagan celebrations.  But even if they did originate in that manner, is it really true that we can’t use such symbols for our own reasons and not the reasons used by the pagans?  After all, isn’t all of creation God’s, and doesn’t everything belong to him?  
I submit, that for the most part, it is what we use things for that matters, not what the object is.  A child can play with a doll while someone else can use it for worship; does this make the doll wrong or the heart of the user in the wrong?  While a pagan may have used holly in idolatrous worship ceremonies, can I not use holly just for decoration?
Just some thoughts to start you off with!
Here’s the scripture which supposedly refers to the Christmas tree, and why it is wrong to have one:
This is what the LORD says:  Do not learn the way of the nations or be terrified by signs in the heavens, although the nations are terrified by them, for the customs of the peoples are worthless.  Someone cuts down a tree from the forest; [it is] worked by the hands of a craftsman with a chisel.  He decorates it with silver and gold.  It is fastened with hammer and nails, so it won’t totter.  Like scarecrows in a cucumber patch, their idols cannot speak.  They must be carried because they cannot walkJeremiah 10: 2-5a (HCSB)
What is the context?  Is this a tree that is described?  NO!
They start with a tree, yes.  But the passage says that a craftsman works it with a chisel.  And what does he end up with?  An idol!  And one which is likened to a scarecrow which can’t speak or walk.  It seems to be an image of a man carved from a tree!
This passage is abused by legalistic Christians every Christmas in order to “prove” that a Christmas tree is something Christians should not have.  
What about the origin of the Christmas tree; is it pagan?  I have read that there were indeed various pagan belief systems which used evergreen branches in their worship, and perhaps even used trees.  But it is a non sequitur logic fallacy to say therefore the Christmas tree is of pagan origin.
My understanding of the origin of the Christmas tree is that Martin Luther admired the beauty of the evergreen trees in the forest in the moonlight after a snow, and this led to a tradition of bringing a tree into the home to decorate it with candles to simulate the shine of the moon on the snow.  It became a winter tradition in Germany to decorate with an evergreen tree, and, since Christmas happens during the winter, it became associated with Christmas.
Whether that is the true story or not, does it really matter?  Can I not decorate my house with plants without it being related to pagan worship?
The main issue is, however, that the passage in Jeremiah has nothing whatsoever to do with a Christmas tree, and if you have been taught that it does, then you have been lied to.  If you are teaching it, then you are lying to people.  If you don’t want a Christmas tree, that is fine, but don’t tell others that having one is idolatry.  Don’t twist Scripture to force a legalistic idea.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Stan said...

FYI because it's interesting to me, the origin of the Christmas tree (from a book of "Where did that come from?" stuff) was a story from Saint Boniface. A missionary to the druidic folk of Germany, he one time felled a large oak to demonstrate that there were no spirits in it. It fell on a small sapling that was undamaged. He used the small fir as an example of Christ, undamaged by the world's sin. He called it the Christ tree.

Although the story of Martin Luther's experience with the tree is really fun, too.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Now THAT is an interesting story!