This post is adapted from a discussion on Facebook about Jeremiah 10. I’ve faced this dilemma before while considering traditions I’ve learned from my cultures, so I decided to share what I have concluded.
- I haven’t seen many Christmas trees “worked by the hands of a craftsman with a chisel“.
- The context is about idol makers who used silver from Tarshish and gold from Uphaz to decorate their gods – I’m not sure who worships Christmas trees, but I don’t.
- While many Christmas traditions date back to the Roman syncretism with Saturnalia and practices from Yule (not to mention Santa Claus: the merger of St. Nicholas, Father Christmas, Odin, and Coca-Cola advertising), I’ve found no significant historical reason to believe that the Christmas tree is one of them.
- In fact (well, at least in Reformation tradition), the Christmas tree dates back to Martin Luther, who one night observed the glory of God in the beauty of stars shining through some evergreen trees and reflecting off the snow on their branches. He chopped one down, took it home, and adorned it with candles in an effort to recreate the scene to share with his family. The candles also represented the Light of the World, Jesus Christ. They still decorate them that way in Germany.
Christmas trees are OK with me. Actually, I love them for that very reason (#4)! However, the warning of Jeremiah 10 is still pertinent and relevant to Christmas:
“Do not learn the way of the nations” – don’t do ANYTHING just because your culture does it, whether that be because it’s rooted in pagan tradition OR because it’s worthless or sinful and doesn’t glorify God. Throughout her history, Israel did that over and over with very poor results.
Rather, do what you do in response to the glory of God, just like Martin Luther.
“Jacob’s Portion is not like these because He is the One who formed all things. Israel is the tribe of His inheritance; Yahweh of Hosts is His name.” (Jeremiah 10:16)
Celebrate THAT with your Christmas tree! WooHOOO! Can I get a witness?