Oh Christmas tree! Oh Christmas tree! What controversy surrounds you!
I think no more about putting a Christmas tree in my living room than I do about setting a decorated flowered centerpiece on my kitchen table. It's pretty and I like it. That's all. But those who don't like Christmas trees say that God doesn't like them, either. And once someone says that God says, it's time to look to the Bible.
The ones who worry about Christmas trees stumble over the following verses:
"For the customs of the people are vain; for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold, they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. They are upright like the palm tree, but speak not; they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good." Jeremiah 10:3-5, KJV
Let's look at this closely:
"The work of the hands of the workman" tells us that the objects are deliberately carved.
"Speak not" suggests a mouth has been carved.
"They must needs be borne" means they are moved from place to place.
"Be not afraid of them" suggests that they are said to have power.
Verse 8 says, "A wooden idol is a worthless doctrine."
Clearly this passage is about idols carved from a tree, accented with precious metals.
The New International Version translates it this way:
"For the customs of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter. Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak. They must be carried because they cannot walk"
Read it for yourself in your own Bible. You will also see decorated plates and blue and purple clothing in this passage, but no one ever preaches against those. Maybe because the passage isn't about the tree, or the plates, or the clothes. It's about idol worship.
The Bible does, however, specifically address the use of trees as decorations. Long before Jeremiah, decorative tree carvings adorned Solomon's Temple.
"And the greater house he lined with fir tree, which he overlaid with fine gold, and set on it palm trees and chains" (2 Chronicles 3:5, KJV)
Far from being forbidden, trees were commanded to be used in worship during the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:40).
In the New Testament, Jesus accepted worship from those waving palm branches (John 12:12).
From ancient times, trees and tree branches have been used and accepted by God as ornamentation to worship. For some people today, Christmas trees serve that same purpose. Those who decorate purposefully find the tree enhances their Christmas experience. Christians don't worship the ornamented object. Rather the object serves as a reminder of the One True God.
And for some of us, it's just pretty.
Copyright 2011, Kathryn A. Frazier.
Kathryn lives with her husband and children in Tampa, Florida. It's hot there. And swampy. With gators. She's really brave. PreciousHolidays@yahoo.com
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