Dec 092010
 

101_0119

First published Christmas 2009; newly updated for Quivering Daughters.

I think I finally figured out what Christmas trees are really about.

A while ago I found a blog article on the subject of our friend Mr. Tannenbaum. Apparently (the author observed) some folks believe that Christmas trees are pagan symbols that the church has adopted in sinful syncretism. They appeal to Scriptures such as Jeremiah 10 to support the idea: the passage describes trees being chopped down, decorated with precious metals, and worshiped by pagans (“A-ha!” chorus the neo-Scrooges).

Knowing a bit about interpreting Scripture in context, I smelled an opportunity to cry “Humbug!” True, Jeremiah describes pagans chopping down trees for idolatrous worship. But it also mentions the trees being “shaped by chisels” into images of false gods like these. Those don’t look much like Christmas trees to me. Anyone for some eisegesis?

The underlying logic is even more significant. Follow it through: Idolaters once used decorative trees to worship false gods. Therefore, anyone else who uses a tree for decoration ever again must only be pagan.

Bah. Humbug.

I explained in another article in more detail exactly why this genre of anti-Christmas rhetoric is so absurd. Pagans didn’t make trees; God did. So even if pine trees were once misused in pagan worship, it hardly follows that they must always and for all time be unacceptable to people who believe that “only God can make a tree.”

But when a few outspoken commenters started chiming in to quarrel in favor of that phony interpretation of the Bible, my Spiritual-Abuse-Survivor Sense started tingling. Some people seem inordinately concerned with proving that the majority of Christians are sinful pagan syncretists. Not that I’m in favor of bringing paganism into the church, but somehow that obsession struck me as suspiciously like a warning sign of Spiritual Abuse.

Next time you hear one of these Scrooges, pay close attention to the subtext:

  • Everyone who doesn't believe precisely what we believe is unbiblical and pagan! (Exclusivity, dogmatism, spiritual pride.)
  • The vast majority of Christians are evil pagans, so you had better stick with us if you want to please God! (Legalism, elitism, manipulation.)
  • We have standards that you have to follow if you want to be holy, and if you don't follow them you're an ungodly pagan! (Superiority, shame.)
  • Your external actions and displays–whether or not you put up a Christmas tree–are very important. (No mention of the grace of Christ.)

I could go on, but if you know about Spiritual Abuse, you've heard all this stuff before. It's the classic, archetypal sign of abuse, and they're taking the occasion of the birth of Christ to pull it out on us. Forget "Happy Holidays"; here's the real war on Christmas.

But, spiritual abuse awareness aside, what these sorts of people say about the poor pine tree turns out to show the real message of the Gospel better than they know….

The pagans used trees to sinfully honor their false gods instead of the Creator. The devil influenced me to sinfully honor myself above my Creator.

The spiritual abusers say that, since the trees were used sinfully, they can only ever be regarded as sinful. They said that about me too.

God says, "It may have been used sinfully, but I made it in the first place. Don't you go calling anything I made unclean (Acts 10). If I made it good in the first place, that means I can make it good again."

At one time the pagans chopped down a tree, cut it into pieces, and hung it with metal to worship their false gods.

But another time some pagans chopped down a tree, cut it into pieces, and with metal, hung something on it that redeemed our souls.

Jesus came into the world at Christmas to be hung on a tree.

Jesus was hung on a tree for the sins of the world, including idolatry.

Because of what happened with that chopped-down, metal-adorned tree, we are free from the rules that say we can only ever be sinful.

Because of what happened with that chopped-down, metal-adorned tree, nobody can ever say that God is about anything other than grace and forgiveness.

Because of what happened with that chopped-down, metal-adorned tree, anyone who looks at a tree now can see not a symbol of idolatry, but an outward and visible sign of the infinite grace of God.

Because of what happened with that chopped-down, metal-adorned tree, anyone who looks at you now can see not a sinner, but someone who has been cleansed and made new by the infinite grace of God.

The devil intended to use that tree for evil. The spiritual abusers say it could only ever be evil. But God used that tree for the greatest good that has ever happened.

The devil intended to use you for evil. The spiritual abusers say you can only ever be evil. But God intends to use you for a greater good than you can imagine.

The Christmas tree reminds us that everything God created is good.

The Christmas tree shows us that everything God does is gracious.

The Christmas tree tells us that you don't have to accept the label that you're only a sinner.

And as for me, anything that makes legalists and abusers that upset is something I'm glad to decorate my house with. The other reason Jesus came into the world, of course, was to annoy the heck out of legalists.

  • Dawson L

    “Everyone who doesn’t believe precisely what we believe is unbiblical and pagan!” Well, duh! Everyone knows that. That’s why I go to the Church of the One. Not one true God, but me all by myself beause I’m the only one who believes the right way.

    Sorry, I should have resisted. Thank you for this post. Second article of yours I’ve read and I find myself agreeing with your.

    • http://www.ericpazdziora.com Eric

      @Dawson L: Thanks; I’m glad you stopped by!

  • http://littlervonthehillside.wordpress.com/ Abigail

    Oh, another good one I would like to print out to put in my binder! Boy am I aware of spiritual abuse! Yikes! There are so many who are misled and deceived. They mean well…they really do…many of them. They just don’t see the irony of what they are doing out of their love for our Lord. And then there are some who are just plain abusers…they have their own agenda.

  • Dan Hillman

    I agree that those who are opposed to Christmas trees are believing a wacky interpretation of the Scriptures.

    However, I think you have to be careful about the litmus test you propose by which you can identify spiritual abusers.

    In point number 1, you condemn exclusivity and dogmatism.

    Yet, Jesus, the apostles, and the prophets were exclusive and dogmatic – at least on the fundamentals of the faith. True, many dogmatic people are prideful and arrogant. But to condemn dogmatism and exclusivity across the board – without any qualification – would require you to condemn Christ Himself in order to be internally consistent.

    Jesus is the only way of salvation. No one can be saved outside of Christ.

    On point number 2, you have to be aware of the nature of the times in which we live. The Bible warns us about a great apostasy that would happen in the end times. Again, God condemns pride and arrogance, but it is not necessarily prideful to recognize that those who are proudly “broadly evangelical” are oxymoronic. The way is narrow. Jesus said so.

    Point number 3 is a good one. The only standard is the cross of Jesus Christ. Galatians makes this quite clear.

    However, when people get into Paul/Barnabas type of disagreements, believing Galatians does not require us to condemn those who – like Paul – do not believe that traitors should be easily let off the hook and allowed to take part in leadership roles.

    God bless.

    • http://www.ericpazdziora.com Eric

      @Dan Hillman: You have valid points. However, I’m not proposing a “litmus test” so much as identifying a few common characteristics– a spiritual abuser will often say dogmatically and arrogantly, not that Jesus is the only way to God, but that their particular religious practices are the only way to Jesus. The danger, as you rightly point out, is in making anything other than Jesus the dogmatic center of your spiritual life. I’d recommend you check out the Pure Provender website for links to some more detailed “litmus tests” if that interests you. Thanks for your comment!

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  • http://clock-talk.com Michael

    I found this while doing some searching for things to do with the tree rather than throwing it out to the curb, and could not stop reading. It sounds like something that I have always taken for granted as being one of the many commercial driven activities of our society is being associated with an anti-christian tradition. My personal beliefs are honored from my home as I have been very disappointed by the organized worship that I have tried in my earlier years. Is this spiritual abuse that you speak of really that prominent?

    • http://www.ericpazdziora.com Eric

      @Michael: I’ve seen a few religious groups– usually small but vocal ones– that try to cast Christmas trees in an evil light for whatever reasons. Usually it stems from a desire to see oneself as superior or more holy than other Christians, which is often a symptom of Spiritual Abuse. I’m not sure how widespread the bit about the Christmas trees is overall; I had just seen it pop up in a few online forums I visit. But Spiritual Abuse itself is alarmingly common throughout a wide variety of cults and churches. Provender (mentioned above) has the best collection of resources online if you’re interested in reading more about it, which I highly recommend (the site and the reading more about it). Thanks for your comment!

  • http://www.classictuxedo.com Steven

    They just don’t see the irony of what they are doing out of their love for our Lord. And then there are some who are just plain abusers. Thank you for the idea that you share.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/RICARPINA AAviles Ricardo Pina

    I’m sure legalists would be more upset if you worship your tree a little. Should try that too.

    • http://www.ericpazdziora.com/ Eric

      The problem with legalists is that they often can’t tell the difference between an actual sin (such as idolatry) and something that isn’t sinful at all (such as decorating with a tree).

      Thanks for the comment, though!

  • April

    You make a really good point about the redemption of the tree with Christ, and I like that. I think it’s important to also honor the fact that there are some sincere believers out there who are really trying to make sense of some of the origins of our practices in the church. Jesus wasn’t even born during the Christmas season: it is a time that for centuries the birth of pagan gods was celebrated, and the tree was a phallic symbol used in that worship. This is stuff I’m just discovering, and I certainly want to ensure that my worship is pure. I am hoping we can get to a place as a Christian community where we can have honest discussions about these things and not have to label the other side. It’s about balance – our world could certainly use a Christianity that is distinct and full of life and God’s power and we should be receptive to anything God tries to bring up that He wants to change in our lives or our practices. My thoughts right now anyway.

    • http://www.ericpazdziora.com/ Eric

      April – For the bit about Christmas supposedly being a pagan holiday, see the other article I linked above: Is Christmas Pagan? The “facts” about historical practices (both pagan and Christian) that are often put forward have some very significant holes. For instance, to steal a thought from G. K. Chesterton: So if it hadn’t been for phallic worship, would the trees be growing upside down with their roots in the air? As they say about Freudianism, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

      That said, I certainly agree that Christians’ dialogue all around should always be respectful and honest. (Romans 14 even specifically names “special days” as something about which believers can agree to follow their own consciences.) I certainly like to hope I’m accomplishing that! Thanks for the reminder.

    • RECALLTHERINOS

      Jesus was not born on December 25 and to think anyone would think it is ok to use deception to convert pagans is in err…only one deals in deception…God doesn’t need anyone to use deception…the only true conversion comes by His Spirit and His Spirit alone.

      • http://www.ericpazdziora.com/ Eric

        I think it’s fairly common knowledge that we don’t know the actual date of the Nativity. So, if we want to have a yearly celebration of it (or a liturgical calendar), we have to pick *some* date! The early church chose 25 December because it was nine months after the date they celebrated the Annunciation (March 25). It’s not deceptive to say “Today is when we celebrate the truth that Jesus was born for us.”

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  • NoRocketScience

    Look Jeremiah 10 is really simple let’s start with verse 2 its says to be not dismayed by the “signs in the heavens” which refers to the winter solstice. Then it describes the cutting down of a tree. Look at it

    “For one cutteth a tree out of the forest, THE WORK OF THE HANDS OF THE WORKMAN WITH THE AXE.”
    To me this is describing the man who chopped down the tree with an axe and not some chiseling into the tree. Where did chisel come from? Modern translations added that word to the text. If you look at older translations of the Bible they unanimously translate it as “axe.” There is no chisel in older translations of the Bible. Modern translations try to hide the real meaning of this verse. They are deceiving you.

    “They deck it with silver and with gold”
    This is another way of saying,”They decorate the tree”

    “They fasten it with nails and with hammers that it move not”
    Why would an idol need to be fastened as it could be made to be steadied on its own?

    I could be wrong, though. if I am, then be critical of where I am wrong. Thanks for your time.

    • http://www.ericpazdziora.com/ Eric

      Hi NoRocketScience,

      Thanks for your comment. There is more about Jeremiah 10 to consider, however. I think “winter solstice” is a poor reading for “signs in the heavens,” but even if we interpreted it that way, notice that the message is “Do not be dismayed” about it. The winter solstice is just the way God created the earth to move, nothing to be alarmed about or to think of as inherently pagan and evil. Also, the original Hebrew in verse 2 doesn’t mention an axe or a chisel; the word literally translated would be “a cutting.” (By extension, presumably, any tool that you use for cutting.) I recently addressed this more in a comment on another post here, if I may quote myself:

      [Jeremiah] was describing the idol-worship of “the nations” (v. 2) around him at the time (think Ancient Near East c. 600 BC). If you look at pictures of idols from the time Jeremiah was writing — Here are some on Google — you’ll see that they were obviously made in several steps. First a tree was cut down, then a sculptor carved the wood into the shape of the idol, then a goldsmith plated it with gold, and so on. That’s the process Jeremiah was describing, not using trees as seasonal decorations.

      Notice that some of the other descriptions Jeremiah gives don’t fit Christmas trees at all– for instance, “They must be carried, Because they cannot walk!” (v. 5). Idols were carried around in processions to be worshiped; Jeremiah points out that this shows they weren’t powerful enough to walk on their own. This makes no sense as a point against Christmas trees; who tries to make them walk?

      Even if it was the case that Jeremiah was describing something like Christmas trees, though, look specifically at the conclusion that he draws about it: “Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.” (v. 5) He’s not saying “Avoid anything that could possibly fit this description, because it’s evil,” but “Don’t be afraid of them. They’re not harmful; they’re neutral objects.” That’s the point I make in my article on Christmas trees. Just because pagans may have wrongly worshiped something God made doesn’t turn it evil; as God told Peter in Acts 10:15, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

      I hope that explains a bit more why I’m critical! Thanks for taking the time to write.

    • http://www.ericpazdziora.com/ Eric

      Hi NoRocketScience,

      Thanks for your comment. There is more about Jeremiah 10 to consider, however. I think “winter solstice” is a poor reading for “signs in the heavens,” but even if we interpreted it that way, notice that the message is “Do not be dismayed” about it. The winter solstice is just the way God created the earth to move, nothing to be alarmed about or to think of as inherently pagan and evil. Also, the original Hebrew in verse 2 doesn’t mention an axe or a chisel; the word literally translated would be “a cutting.” (By extension, presumably, any tool that you use for cutting.) I recently addressed this more in a comment on another post here, if I may quote myself:

      [Jeremiah] was describing the idol-worship of “the nations” (v. 2) around him at the time (think Ancient Near East c. 600 BC). If you look at pictures of idols from the time Jeremiah was writing — Here are some on Google — you’ll see that they were obviously made in several steps. First a tree was cut down, then a sculptor carved the wood into the shape of the idol, then a goldsmith plated it with gold, and so on. That’s the process Jeremiah was describing, not using trees as seasonal decorations.

      Notice that some of the other descriptions Jeremiah gives don’t fit Christmas trees at all– for instance, “They must be carried, Because they cannot walk!” (v. 5). Idols were carried around in processions to be worshiped; Jeremiah points out that this shows they weren’t powerful enough to walk on their own. This makes no sense as a point against Christmas trees; who tries to make them walk?

      Even if it was the case that Jeremiah was describing something like Christmas trees, though, look specifically at the conclusion that he draws about it: “Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.” (v. 5) He’s not saying “Avoid anything that could possibly fit this description, because it’s evil,” but “Don’t be afraid of them. They’re not harmful; they’re neutral objects.” That’s the point I make in my article on Christmas trees. Just because pagans may have wrongly worshiped something God made doesn’t turn it evil; as God told Peter in Acts 10:15, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

      I hope that explains a bit more why I’m critical! Thanks for taking the time to write.

      • NoRocketScience

        Thanks Eric but I’m only partly convinced. I still have questions.
        (1) Is there any possibility that “workman” could ever be translated as “lumberjack” or “woodcutter?”
        (2) Doesn’t the phrase “the work of the hands of the workman” merely refer to the swinging of the axe?

        • http://www.ericpazdziora.com/ Eric

          A quick glance at the dictionary shows that the Hebrew word there is “charash,” which is defined as “a craftsman, carpenter, smith, or engraver.” That is, someone who takes raw material and shapes it into an object. In context, this would be the person who carves the wood, not the one who cuts down the tree. Thus “work of the hands of the workman” in this case is carving the wood into an idol. Christmas trees aren’t carved. Also, nobody worships them.

          And again, notice in v.5 that even if this was referring to Christmas trees (which is not supported by the context), the conclusion Jeremiah gives is not “Anything matching any part of this description is evil!” but “Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.”

          • NoRocketScience

            Thanks Eric, I really do appreciate your input. I honestly want to believe you and be beyond certain that Jeremiah is not talking about Christmas trees. I finally got the part of the workman being a craftsman. I see your point about verse 5 but from the start of Jeremiah, God did say,”Learn not the way of the heathen.” Does this mean we can’t decorate trees as pagans do? What exactly is the way of the heathen? Is it using things that pagans may have used? Or is there something more to it? By the way are Christmas Trees, Asherah poles? Thanks for your time.

          • http://www.ericpazdziora.com/ Eric

            You’re welcome!

            The answer is that we need to look at the context. “Learn not the way of the heathen…” correlates in this passage with two other negative commandments: “…and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them” (v.2) and “be not afraid of them [idols], for they cannot do evil.” (v.5) The “way of the heathen,” then, is to be dismayed and fearful about things God made, thinking that inanimate objects are evil. Heathenism is a very fear-centered mentality, the dismaying belief that if you don’t acknowledge all the false gods and evil spirits they might get you. There’s some huge irony here: The anti-Christmas-tree doctrine requires us to see trees and seasons as intrinsically evil pagan spiritual objects that we should be afraid of and dismayed about, but that view of them is itself the heathen way of looking at the world, not the Christian one. The way of the heathen is to see the tree as a god; the way of the Christian is to see that God made the tree.

            Asherah poles were idols made specifically to be worshiped as a fertility goddess. Nobody worships Christmas trees.

          • NoRocketScience

            Um Eric, sorry to bother you again, there is a website that says that “to connect the “THEY” from verse 5 to the “IT” in verse 4 would violate the grammatical context.” I met one particular site that says to connect verse 5 to verses 3 and 4, is incorrect. Is there any merit to this? Is there any evidence that Jeremiah is changing the topic after verse 4? Why do almost all older translations say “IT” with respect to 3 and 4 whereas verse 5 says “THEY?” Does that mean that verse 3 and 4 are talking about one thing and verse 5 another? What is you take on this. Thanks again.

          • http://www.ericpazdziora.com/ Eric

            No bother! Admittedly I’m not much of an authority on Hebrew, but my understanding is that their pronouns function quite differently from English ones. So my guess is that that site’s reading is, best-case scenario, superimposing English grammar on the original text. (If any actual Hebraists are reading this, feel free to chime in….)

            In any event, to say “Jeremiah is changing the topic” seems like a big stretch to me. What else could he be talking about in context but the futility of idols? Notice that the opening of verse 5, “They are upright as the palm tree” (or “like a scarecrow in a cucumber patch”) is a direct callback to verse 3, “He cuts a tree from the forest.” I’d take that as a good indication that Jeremiah is still on the same subject. If “they” refers to anything else, then in context it would have to be the idolaters (cf. “they deck it with silver,” v. 4). I suppose someone could make that case, but that would make some extremely odd points out of the rest of the verse, such as “they must be carried” and “neither is it in them to do evil.” If we’re talking about idols that makes a lot of sense; if we’re talking about idol-worshipers, not so much.

            Either way, though, the subject wouldn’t change– the topic, namely, that idols are powerless neutral objects, nothing for those who trust God to be afraid of.

          • NoRocketScience

            Thanks Eric, one more thing: Would God ever do something that violates His principles? For example, would God say,”Do not tell lies,” and then then turn around and lie to believers? There are those persons that use the instance of God killing humans, i.e. entire cities, to assert that God indeed violates one of His commandments (Thou shalt not kill.) Is this valid? Thanks again.

          • http://www.ericpazdziora.com/ Eric

            No problem!

            That question can be a bit tricky, but I look at it like this: If I tore up a painting, said it wasn’t good, and threw it away, I’d be arrested for vandalism. But if the painter tore up his own painting and threw it away, that would be fine– he made it, so it’s his right to decide what to do with it. Now compare Romans 12:19: “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.'” As in the principle in the commandments. we shalt not kill or seek vengeance. But the reason for that is it is God’s job to reward people for their deeds, evil or good. As well as being the Creator, God has the added advantages of being omniscient and infinitely wise. Thus He is incomprehensibly better-qualified than any of us to judge anyone. If there’s any judging going on, only God gets to do it.

            The point is not that God gets to break whatever laws He likes just because He’s omnipotent, but that whatever rules God gives us are rooted in His own nature. By contrast, for instance, we are told that we should not lie because God is the truth and always keeps His word (Numbers 23:19). In each case, the goal is for us to recognize who God is and stay duly humble about it while loving Him and our neighbors.

          • NoRocketScience

            I understand but as I think about it, anti Christmas Christians will use that fact that since God decorates His trees during the winter with ice crystals and snowflakes, it is not not sinful when He does it but it is a sin when humans do it. In other words, the anti-Christmas Christians may say that it is okay for God to decorate His trees but sinful for humans to to so, therefore, Christians should not place objects on trees. Then the anti-Christmas Christian will claim absolute victory over me :(

          • http://www.ericpazdziora.com/ Eric

            Has anybody actually used that argument?! That’s a terrible argument.

            Let me put a finer point on my comment above: In Scripture, “the law” is summed up in two commandments: love God and love your neighbor (see Romans 13:10, Galatians 5:14, etc.). Obviously it would be very unloving of me to kill my neighbor, since (unlike God) I’m not the one with authority over my neighbor’s life and death. And lying would betray my neighbor’s trust, and so on and so on.

            Maybe in a certain context I’d need to avoid exercising my freedom (cf. Romans 14) to be more loving to my neighbor– if, say, my neighbors happened to be tree-worshiping Pagans who had never heard of Christmas trees, it wouldn’t be good to give them the wrong idea. But, as I said in my article, and as Jeremiah says too, to say that makes it always and completely evil is simply nonsense.

            What is unloving toward God or my neighbor about making something beautiful in appreciation of God’s creation? Far from such a thing being condemned as sinful, the Bible says “God… richly gives us all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17). Nowhere does Scripture say that making decorations is inherently a sin. Quite the contrary — read Exodus 35 thru 37 for an account of ministers who were specifically commanded and anointed by God to make decorations out of wood and gold for His tabernacle. Likewise, in our culture, seeing a decorated pine tree will certainly remind many people of the fact that Christ was born for us. That’s why we call it a Christmas tree, after all, not “Piney the Pine God.”

          • NoRocketScience

            The anti-Christmas crusader I spoke with, used that argument. I wonder if placing birdhouses, flower baskets and bird feeders are also a sin but such would be seen as decorating a tree. Exactly what constitutes tree decorating is the placement of foreign objects on a tree and since birdhouses are “foreign objects” that are “placed on a tree, they must be sinful too. By the same logic, we cannot hang swings on trees because it would be a case of placing a foreign object on trees, isn’t that so? Eric thanks for the help, will talk to you later :-)

          • http://www.ericpazdziora.com/ Eric

            Yes, well spotted; it is indeed a pretty clear case of special pleading. Glad to be of help! I may have to steal some of the comments here and make a new post out of them. :-)

      • Gary Stubblefield

        In Deut 12:29-32 our Father tells us not to worship or serve him the way the other nations served their gods. They would erect man made objects to honor or please their gods. Father tells us not to copy these practices when we worship or serve him. Any man made object, decorated tree, crosses,idols or any other object. He tells us not to take on these custom or traditions in serving him shalom.

        • http://www.ericpazdziora.com/ Eric

          If you read those verses in context, however, it goes on to explain we should not do this because “…they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods.” Surely there’s a difference between the practice of human sacrifice and the practice of putting up a seasonal decoration. Elsewhere in the Torah God specifically directed His people to put up “man-made objects” to honor and please Him; see Exodus 35-37. For Deuteronomy 12 to apply to this case, we would have to say that a tree God made is a “detestable thing,” yet the New Testament tells us not to call anything unclean that the Lord has made clean (Acts 10). God Himself decorates his pine trees every winter with snow and icicles, after all.

          • Gary Stubblefield

            Yes at his instructions. But nowhere do we find the Father telling us to celebrate to birth of HIs son, nor do we see the early church practicing this. I guess we could go round and round on issues like this anyway we are all still learning and its nice to discuss things like this in a peaceful setting. Shalom.

          • http://www.ericpazdziora.com/ Eric

            There are several responses to that, some of which are in the post I linked above. It might almost be sufficient to say that the Father does in fact celebrate the birth of His Son: “”I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.'” (Psalm 2:7).

            It’s also worth noting that Jesus himself celebrated Hanukkah (the feast of dedication, see John 10:22-23), although that is nowhere commanded in Scripture. And the book of Esther records approvingly that the Jews turned the events of Purim into “a day of joy and feasting, a day for giving presents to each other” (Esther 9:17-19), despite not having any direction from God to do that. So perhaps a better question would be not “Did the Father specifically tell us to do this?” but “Does this strengthen our love for God and our neighbors?”

            I appreciate the peaceful tone of these comments too. Thanks!

          • NoRocketScience

            God Himself decorates evergreens during winter. Don’t those snow laden trees look beautiful? If this passage is saying that Christians must keep their hands off pine trees, why is God doing what Deut 12:29-31 is forbidding? Why does He decorate pine trees with shimmering blankets of snow? If you look at Deuteronomy 12 in context it has nothing to do with “mere adoption” of pagan practices. It mainly was about location of worship, not days in which pagan gods were worshipped. To say that because a pagan uses something in a pagan ritual, that it becomes forbidden to a believer in future is absurd. For example pagans use evergreens in their worship right? Yet God Himself uses fir (an evergreen) in Isaiah 60:13 to beautify the place of His worship. In Hosea 14:8 God even analogises Himself to a fir tree. Why is God analogising Himself to what is a detestable tree? Not once does God speak against fir trees. The Hebrew word for fir, ber.o.wos, is nowhere to be found in Jeremiah 10:3. Only ets, wood, is used there. As for your comment on “where does God say to celebrate the birth of His Son?” Let me answer that question with a question,”Where does God say to ignore the birth of Christ?” Commonsense should tell you that every single word of the New Testament is to be read as a form of worship. Where did God give instructions to celebrate the Feast of Dedication? Does that mean God opposes it? No.

    • http://www.ericpazdziora.com/ Eric

      Hi NoRocketScience,

      Thanks for your comment. There is more about Jeremiah 10 to consider, however. I think “winter solstice” is a poor reading for “signs in the heavens,” but even if we interpreted it that way, notice that the message is “Do not be dismayed” about it. The winter solstice is just the way God created the earth to move, nothing to be alarmed about or to think of as inherently pagan and evil. Also, the original Hebrew in verse 2 doesn’t mention an axe or a chisel; the word literally translated would be “a cutting.” (By extension, presumably, any tool that you use for cutting.) I recently addressed this more in a comment on another post here, if I may quote myself:

      [Jeremiah] was describing the idol-worship of “the nations” (v. 2) around him at the time (think Ancient Near East c. 600 BC). If you look at pictures of idols from the time Jeremiah was writing — Here are some on Google — you’ll see that they were obviously made in several steps. First a tree was cut down, then a sculptor carved the wood into the shape of the idol, then a goldsmith plated it with gold, and so on. That’s the process Jeremiah was describing, not using trees as seasonal decorations.

      Notice that some of the other descriptions Jeremiah gives don’t fit Christmas trees at all– for instance, “They must be carried, Because they cannot walk!” (v. 5). Idols were carried around in processions to be worshiped; Jeremiah points out that this shows they weren’t powerful enough to walk on their own. This makes no sense as a point against Christmas trees; who tries to make them walk?

      Even if it was the case that Jeremiah was describing something like Christmas trees, though, look specifically at the conclusion that he draws about it: “Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.” (v. 5) He’s not saying “Avoid anything that could possibly fit this description, because it’s evil,” but “Don’t be afraid of them. They’re not harmful; they’re neutral objects.” That’s the point I make in my article on Christmas trees. Just because pagans may have wrongly worshiped something God made doesn’t turn it evil; as God told Peter in Acts 10:15, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

      I hope that explains a bit more why I’m critical! Thanks for taking the time to write.

  • Shana B.

    I’m glad for the person who brought up Romans 14….
    There are some of us….outside of any church influence that feel a conviction not to partake in that tradition. I’ve personally dreaded it every year. So this will be my first year of not celebrating Christmas….however that looks….freedom.
    I do agree , however, that each person has to be fully convinced of these things for themselves and that we respect one another and not enforced or own personal convictions on each other. :)

    • http://www.ericpazdziora.com/ Eric

      Thanks for your comment, Shana!

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  • billyjill tipton

    and if You believe everything you have written you are stupid maybe you should go back and research what a TRUE PAGAN is you dumbass Christian I am a Pagan and at least I see my Goddess everyday All I got to do is walk outside and see she exists more then I can say for your sorry Jesus Christ. NO WHERE can anyone Prove that the dude walked this earth there is NO HARD CORE evidence of it GIVE ME A BREAK!

    • http://www.ericpazdziora.com/ Eric

      You worship the garden; I worship the Gardener.