Saturday, December 6, 2008

Christians and Chritmas Trees

It looks like once again we are back to the old topic of Christmas trees and whether or not Christians should have one. Seems like every year about this time I get someone coming to me for advice who has been upset because someone has told them they should not have a Christmas tree, and they are confused and afraid that they are doing something wrong. Either that or I get people who want to tell me why I shouldn't have a Christmas tree or tell me all of their reasons why they don't have one just as soon as the subject comes up. Frankly, all I can think of say to them is "I see" or "that's nice", because it's such a silly thing to argue about! Walk in what light you have and stop trying to get everyone else to see things your way! I realize that when you are convicted about something that you really feel a need to share your convictions with others, but on non-essentials, beliefs that don't make or break your Christian walk, it's really between the individual and God, isn't it? Maybe just wait until someone asks you.

"Well, what about Jeremiah?" I've heard people try to say that Jeremiah 10:1-4 refers to Christmas trees, and that we can use that passage to say that we shouldn't have a Christmas tree, but, first of all, the Christmas tree is a relatively recent practice, and Jeremiah was way before Jesus' birth... HELLO! Not likely that it's a direct reference to Christmas trees. Other than that obvious fact, I'd say that as long as you are not worshiping your Christmas tree itself, or the works of your hands in creating it, or you are not offering things to it because you fear it, or you think it might go well with you if you do, then it's safe to have a Christmas tree. It's entirely possible that some remote origins have some kind of pagan roots. I've heard that they do, and I've heard that they don't. As for me and my house, we're not pagan, and we're not worshiping the tree or it's decorator. It's just a festive tradition that brings joy and warm feelings to our home and family.

That particular passage of scripture in Jeremiah is talking about idol worship. The people of Jeremiah's day were lousy with idol worship, particularly concerning trees. They worshiped the trees themselves, but they didn't limit their idolatry to the trees, they worshiped and sacrificed many things, including their own babies, to many gods, under the trees. It was common to find them practicing under trees, so much so that reference is made by many historians and scholars to them practicing under "every" tree. Whether that actually means every tree, or maybe it meant most, or every tree in a certain place or of a certain type, I don't know, but that indicates to me that it was very common. In the Bible, any time they are talking about "high places" in conjunction with trees, that's what they mean; idolatry.

In this particular case, there were craftsmen in Jeremiah's day who were taking the creation of God, the tree, and cutting it down, preserving it, decorating it, then propping it back up, and worshiping and giving offerings to it. The people were also praising and idolizing the craftsman who "created" and erected it. Jeremiah was talking about the extreme degree of vanity and madness that was evident among them for them to take God's beautiful and living creation, His tree, "re-creating" it by cutting it down and killing it, and dressing it up and doing all of that, taking credit for it's creation, then falling down before it in worship. It's a picture of how far gone they were. I guess if they had used a mattress in Jeremiah's day instead of a tree we'd be trying to start doctrines about how evil beds are and advocate setting up hammocks for ourselves.

Obviously idol worshiping is sinful. I have a lot less of a problem with a Christmas tree than I do a lot of other things that are considered acceptable today, even preferable. Look what the so called "green" groups are doing today. They aren't killing the trees, but they are surely worshiping the them. They worship the Earth and believe that they are powerful enough as a species to make or break Mother Earth with their own hands. It's the same with wicca and so called "white" witch crafts. They are nature worshipers among other things. They just can't bring themselves to acknowledge a creator or give Him any glory. That would mean they are actually accountable to someone, and that would mean things would have to be re-thunk and changed!

I'm just trying to point out that it's the worship of a thing that isn't God that is the problem, not the thing itself. That seems to be a confusing issue for some reason.

People can take any verse to extremes. If they're convicted about having a Christmas tree then they certainly shouldn't have one, and far be it from me to try to convince them otherwise. ALWAYS be true to your own convictions. Maturity in Christianity will clarify things as we grow, and it offers a fair amount of freedom when you get over into these kinds of issues. I don't feel any conviction about any of that stuff. None. You could conceivably use the same verse to say it's wrong to cut your grass or trim your hedges because it's taking something natural and God-made, and changing it, and admiring the works of you hands. An immature Christian, someone without enough solid learning under their belt, might feel that way. I'm free of concerning myself about it. I am also free to enjoy my Christmas tree if I so choose. Yes, I have a Christmas tree.

One year we had a nice nativity scene on a small table and we decorated the area it was sitting in so that the kids would still have all of the Christmas-y looking things that they enjoy and look forward to so much. It was nice and we didn't miss our tree at all. We had the lights and all of the hand made ornaments that the kids had made in years gone by up around the big front window, and the nativity was set in front of it. It was beautiful. We've been talking about just decorating with a manger scene, and have a "manger" - a decorated box or some such thing - that we could put the presents in and around. I think if I feel any conviction at all about any of this it's that we spend way too much money and place way too much importance on the gift-giving aspects of Christmas, and I think the manger idea would at least focus us a bit more on the Truth. Honestly, though, when you think about it, none of it is really any different... little "dolls" set up in a fake little nativity set and decorated, little "boxes" or trees being decorated, mayonnaise jars, bed frames, tractors, or you name it! Whatever you set up and decorate would be the same. It's just your attitude and your purpose.

We are created in the likeness and image of God, and God is creative. He put it in our make up to be creative, and not everything we create and enjoy falls under the classification of idolatry. We also tend to be festive and traditional folks. It stands to reason that people would make a mess of such simple little things because they think they need to try to be faultless, or maybe appease an angry god or some such thing. I have good news for you if that's the case. God's not angry. You can't perform well enough to earn your acceptance, nor work hard enough to be faultless in His eyes, but I know Someone Who already did it for you! Relax and get to know Him! The rest will fall into place.

Merry Christmas!

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