Every year, Christmas gets a drubbing by some Christians. Here’s one example sent to American Vision:
Deuteronomy 12:30 says that God hates these things, and we are not to inquire of them to do like-wise unto the Lord. King Ahaz did this very thing, and paid for it, trying to bring something from a pagan temple into God’s temple. It says that doing this is called, “evil in the sight of the Lord.” Not to mention that Yeshua wasn’t even born on December 25th.
Since Christians worship Yeshua and not some other god on December 25, I don’t see how Deuteronomy 12:30 applies. All one has to do is look at the many comments sent by Christians to Christians this day. Here’s just one of the many I’ve received: “Merry Christmas from our house to yours. May you have a wonderful day with family and friends celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!”
King Ahaz self-consciously worshiped other gods. He brought a competing Assyrian altar into the temple (2 Kings 16). Again, I don’t see how this applies to celebrating Jesus’ birth. No one is building an altar to a pagan god and bringing it in a temple. On December 25, Christians worship Jesus. How is worshiping Jesus doing “evil in the sight of the Lord”?
While some have argued that Jesus was born on December 25, I doubt that anyone would make this date a point of doctrine. In fact, David Chilton, in his amazing 700-page commentary on Revelation, Days of Vengeance, followed researcher Earnest Martin’s strongly suggestive evidence that Jesus was actually born in 3 B.C., on … get ready for it … September 11!
December 25th is just the day Christians have chosen to give special attention to the birth of Jesus. Protestants do not regard Christmas as a holy day of obligation as it’s designated in the Roman Catholic Church. There is no requirement to attend church or do any acts of supererogation. The celebration of Christmas is the celebration of Jesus’ birth. This is hardly an evil thing since two of the gospels begin with the birth narrative.
Others argue that December 25th was originally a pagan holiday, the celebration of a supposed Sun god. We know the Sun is not a god. The Sun is a created thing. God created the Sun. If we follow the logic of the Sun-god argument, then we have to ask what we do with the words “Saturday” and “Sunday” and “Monday” since they refer to the god Saturn, the Sun, and the Moon. Are we idol worshipers because we attend worship services on Sunday? We’ve taken back these days. They no longer mean what pagans claimed for them.
I suspect we could find some pagan thing going on in each of the 365 days of the year. Should we stay at home for fear of participating in paganism? God prepared Israel to enter the land of Canaan where many pagan practices were going on. Israel was to take back the land. To argue that pagans did such-and-such on this day or that day is irrelevant. Consider these comments from James B. Jordan:
And so we show that the Romans and other pagan people had a feast at the Winter Solstice to celebrate the rising of the sun in the heavens and the change from cold to warmth—so what? All pagan feasting is a perverse replica of true Godly festivity. The pagan worship of the sun is a perversion of the Biblical analogy of the sun to Christ (Mal. 4:2; Ps. 19; etc.). The pagan recognition of the change in the year from dark to light, from death to life, at the Winter Solstice is but a perversion of the covenant truth found in the Noachic Covenant. What is wrong with reclaiming the Winter Solstice for Christ?
Long ago, Christians took back December 25th from the pagans. Sounds like a good idea to me. Muslims understand this principle better than many Christians. They had no problem building one of their most holy sites on the place where Israel’s temple once stood. Secularists find it delightful in moving into abandoned churches and remaking them into restaurants and museums. Christians often retreat from every temporal advance made by unbelievers and prolong their usurpation of the culture. Defense-only Christianity is not Christianity.
There’s much more that can be said about this issue. One of the best discussions of this subject is Ralph Woodrow’s Christmas Reconsidered. But what about Christmas trees?
Symbols and dominion
Some time ago, my wife was asked by a national Christian ministry to create a quilted backdrop of a large sweeping rainbow for its presentation booth designed to be used for conventions. I attended one of these conventions held in Atlanta. I went to the booth and told the young lady behind the table that my wife had sewn the large background piece. With a frustrated look on her face, she told me that a woman had just left the booth, angrily pointing out that the rainbow is the symbol of the homosexual movement and that Christians should not be using it. I reminded her that the rainbow was God’s creation and that He had posted it in the heavens as a sign to Noah and future generations that He would never destroy all flesh by a flood (Gen. 9:12–17).
So then, who owns the rainbow? Just because homosexuals (and New Agers before them, and Leprechauns before them) have misappropriated something of God’s creation similar to the way they have done with sex, marriage, and the word “gay” itself (The commandeering of the word “gay” has made it difficult to watch The Gay Ranchero (1948) starring Roy Rogers and Trigger, or even The Gay Divorcée (1934) with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.) does not mean we cannot continue to use the rainbow and give it its proper meaning. In fact, we should work to restore the image to its original redemptive meaning. Instead, many Christians refuse to display the rainbow because sodomites hijacked it.
Should we stop using wood because some people seek out for themselves “a skillful craftsman to prepare an idol that will not totter”? (Isa. 40:20). Are all trees pagan because pagans have used trees to create idols? Of course not. God has designated a tree to represent life:
And he showed me a river of water of life, bright as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the midst of the street thereof. And on this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, bearing twelve manner of fruits, yielding its fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations (Rev. 22:1–2).
The Bible tells us, even in a post-fall world “everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude” (1 Tim. 4:4; cf. Gen 1:31), even meat sacrificed to idols (1 Cor. 10:14–33).
For millennia, idol worshipers have bowed down before heavenly bodies—sun, moon, and stars—calling them their gods. There were people in Isaiah’s day who sought guidance from “astrologers, those who prophesy by the stars, those who predict by the new moons” (Isa. 47:13). The people of Israel were warned by God not to lift their “eyes to heaven and see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, and be drawn away and worship them and serve them, those which the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven” (Deut. 4:19).
God created the heavenly bodies to “be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years,” and to “be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth” (Gen. 1:14). Even with the misuse of the heavenly bodies, this did not stop God from choosing sun, moon, and stars to symbolize His chosen nation Israel (Gen. 37:9–11; Rev. 12:1–2). Neither did it stop Him from using a star to announce the birth of Jesus (Matt. 2:2). Jesus is also said to be the “sun of righteousness” (Mal. 4:2; also see Isa. 30:26; 60:1–3).
Pagans believe there is power in inanimate objects like the sun, moons, and stars, but we know better. Notice how the Bible ridicules those who turn God’s good creation into things they claim should be worshiped (Isa. 44:12–20). God’s people know better. We are not fooled or intimidated; it’s just a piece of wood created by God to be used for our benefit and enjoyment. We can burn it for heat, fashion it into a tool, build a boat, or construct a house. Should we cut down the trees in our yards because Jesus was crucified on a tree?
Some will turn to Jeremiah 10:1–10 to make a case against “Christmas trees.” Jeremiah is describing idol worship, and he ridicules it: “Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field are they, and they cannot speak; they must be carried, because they cannot walk! Do not fear them, for they can do no harm, nor can they do any good” (10:5). Who among us believes that a “Christmas tree” is a god to be worshiped? There are carved engraved figures of cherubim and palm trees and open flowers in the inner and outer rooms of the temple (1 Kings 6:29). The two doors are made from olive wood with carvings of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers (1 Kings 6:32). God did not oppose the use of symbols; He opposed the worship of them.
If any Christian bows down to the tree in an act of worship, seeks advice from it, attempts to communicate with God or the devil through it as he would a medium (1 Sam. 28:3–25), then that Christian is an idolater. But using a tree for such things is a far cry from the way Christmas trees function in a faithful Christian’s home. Christians decorate trees with lights and ornaments because it brings them joy and delight as they commemorate the birth of Jesus. If you don’t like it, don’t buy a tree. But don’t accuse another believer of idolatry based on the supposed pagan origin and function of evergreen trees. What happens when the Christmas season passes? The tree is taken to a recycling center or burned in the backyard. No one would ever do this to an idol.
I’ve added the following from another article I wrote on the topic. There’s some repetition. Should we stop using wood because some people seek out for themselves “a skillful craftsman to prepare an idol that will not totter” (Isa. 40:20)? Are all trees pagan because pagans have used trees to create idols? Of course not. The Bible tells us, even in a post-fall world, that “everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer” (1 Tim. 4:4–5; cf. Gen 1:31).
For millennia idol worshippers have bowed down before heavenly bodies — sun, moon, and stars — calling them their gods. There were people in Isaiah’s day who looked to “astrologers, those who prophesy by the stars, those who predict by the new moons” seeking guidance (Isa. 47:13).
The people of Israel were warned by God not to lift their “eyes to heaven and see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, and be drawn away and worship them and serve them, those which the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven” (Deut. 4:19). God created the heavenly bodies to “be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years” and to “be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth” (Gen. 1:14).
These heavenly bodies were not to be worshipped or given divine status. They are created things that point back to God as their Creator: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20; see Ps. 19:1–6).
Even with the misuse of the heavenly bodies, it did not stop God from choosing the sun, moon, and stars to symbolize His chosen nation Israel (Gen. 37:9–11; Rev. 12:1–2). And neither did it stop Him from using a star to announce the birth of Jesus (Matt. 2:2).
Pagans believe there is power in inanimate objects like the sun, moons, and stars, but we know better. Notice how the Bible ridicules those who turn God’s good creation into divine objects they claim should be worshipped (Isa. 44:12–20). God’s people know better. We are not fooled or intimidated; it’s just a piece of wood created by God to be used for our benefit and enjoyment. We can burn it for heat or fashion it into a tool. Should we cut down the trees in our yards because Jesus was crucified on a tree? This is how Jehovah’s Witnesses reason. They don’t celebrate birthdays because they believe they are of pagan origin and no one celebrates a birthday in the Bible except Herod who had John the Baptist murdered during a birthday celebration (Mark 6:24–25). Actually, the angels certainly celebrated the birth of Jesus as did the wise men.
Some will turn to Jeremiah 10:1–10 to make a case against “Christmas trees,” really evergreen or more technically conifers, because idol worshipers used them in their religious rituals. Jeremiah is describing idol worship, and he ridicules it: “Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field are they, and they cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk! Do not fear them, for they can do no harm, nor can they do any good” (10:5). Who among us believes that a “Christmas tree” is worshipped today? When people put packages under the tree, they are not bowing down to worship the tree. The gifts are not for the tree gods.
What happens when the Christmas season passes? The tree is either taken to a recycling center or burned in the backyard. No one would ever do this to an idol.
There are carved engraved figures of cherubim and palm trees and open flowers in the inner and outer rooms of the temple (1 Kings 6:29). The two doors are made of olivewood with carvings of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers (1 Kings 6:32)
In addition, Jeremiah is describing trees that are shaped in the image of their god. Both wood and metal are used in this way (Jer. 10:3, 9–10). I wonder what the Christmas tree critics would say about building the tabernacle, the temple, and erecting a fiery bronze serpent (Num. 21:5–9). These seem to be a violation of the Second Commandment since these earthly creations were representations of heavenly things, the very thing the Second Commandment prohibited:
“You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them. . .” (Ex. 20:4–5a).
Of course, the key prohibition is worshiping and serving them, which we know the Israelites did with the brass serpent (2 Kings 18:4), something that God commanded Moses to manufacture and raise (Num. 21:8-9). This didn’t stop Jesus from identifying it with His redemptive work (John 3:14–15).
Should we stop eating meat because the Israelites who came out of Egypt made a golden calf and worshiped it? Later we learn that calves, bulls, and sheep became part of Israel’s sacrificial system. But this was true of pagan nations as well. By using these once-used pagan symbols, it shows that they don’t have any occult or magical powers. They’re just trees, pieces of metal, animals. They are created by God.
Sex has been used in pagan rituals. Some people worship money. Logic demands that we give up sex and money. Some have done this. Every good thing given by God can be abused.
The Romans were pagans and used trees for crucifixion. Because Jesus was crucified on a tree, and the Bible says that anyone who hangs on a tree is cursed (Deut. 21:23; Gal. 3:13), therefore we should not use trees or hang anything on them? That crucifixion tree became the tree of life (Gal. 3:14). People wear crosses around their neck! Churches locate wood from the forest, cut it down, shape it into a cross, and bring it into their places for corporate worship. Most everyone would say, “Well, we don’t worship it.”
God created trees. He made them for us: for home building, decoration, shade, construction of fences, tables, chairs, sheds, and so much more. Just because pagans might have carved up a tree to make an image of a false god to be worshipped does not mean that we can’t use them to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, God’s “indescribable gift” to us (2 Cor. 9:15).
The Christmas tree, as it is now designated, is an evergreen that reminds us that we have “eternal life” in Jesus Christ (John 6:40). “The association of trees with life has continued. Even today we call needle-bearing trees that do not go through a period of dormancy evergreens, and California’s famous coastal redwoods are known by the species name sempervirens, or ‘always living.’” (Mark Rushdoony, “The Christian Christmas Tree.”)
The shape of the tree reminds us that we are “born from above” (John 3:3). The needles on the branches remind us that Jesus was “pierced through for our transgressions” (Isa. 53:5). The lights hung on the tree remind us that Jesus is “the light of the world” (John 8:12) and through Him we are to be “the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14). It’s a reminder that the “tree of life” and its fruit await us (Rev. 2:7; 22:2).
The ornaments we hang on the tree and the presents we place under the tree remind us that “every good thing given, and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” (James 1:17).
Consider these words from Isaiah that pertain to the judgment of the king of Babylon: “Yea, the fir trees rejoice at thee, and the cedars of Lebanon, saying, Since thou art laid down, no feller is come up against us” (Isa. 14:8).
“The final portion of this passage [Isa. 14:3–8] is extremely eye-opening,” says Joe Kovacs, author of Shocked by the Bible 2. “Once the wicked oppressor, better known as Satan the devil, is done for, even the FIR TREES will be rejoicing, because no FELLER, which is a person who cuts down trees, is going to chop them down for Christmas trees anymore.” I’m shocked by this bizarre interpretation. Isaiah isn’t describing some end-time event related to Satan. Isaiah was describing the “king of Babylon” (14:4), a long-dead tyrant and persecutor of God’s people. Kovacs completely misses the historical context as the following points out:
No feller is come up against us—The literal and figurative senses melt into each other, the former perhaps being the more prominent. It was the boast of Assurbanipal and other Assyrian kings that wherever they conquered they cut down forests and left the land bare. (Comp. Isaiah 37:24 : Records of the Past, i. 86.) As the fir tree, the cedar, and the oak were the natural symbols of kingly rule (Jeremiah 22:7; Ezekiel 17:3; Ezekiel 31:3), this devastation represented the triumph of the Chaldæan king over other princes. On his downfall, the trees on the mountain, the kings and chieftains in their palaces, would alike rejoice. (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers)
John Gill writes something similar:
[T]he fir trees … are represented as singing and rejoicing, as inanimate creatures often are in Scripture, these being now in no danger of being cut down, to make way for his armies; see Isaiah 37:24 or to furnish him with timber for shipping, or building of houses: or else these words are to be understood metaphorically of kings and princes of the earth, comparable to such trees, for their height, strength, and substance; see Zechariah 11:2 who would now be no longer in fear of him, or in subjection to him.
Isaiah 14 has nothing to do with Satan (on “Lucifer,” go here) or Christmas trees.
Here are some wise comments from the article “Jeremiah 10 and the ‘Pagan’ Christmas Tree” by Dr. Richard P. Bucher:
[I]it is abundantly clear that the “decorated tree” to which Jeremiah 10 refers is an idol, very likely the Asherah. Therefore, it is very superficial Bible interpretation and pure silliness to understand this passage as directly referring to the use of a fir tree for Christmas! If, and I repeat, if those who set up a Christmas tree fall down and worship it as a god or goddess, complete with altars and incense stands, then Jeremiah 10 applies here. Or if someone loves their Christmas tree more than God, then such a thing might also be considered spiritual idolatry. But apart from these exceptions, I think it is abundantly clear that Christians who erect Christmas trees are NOT worshiping them as gods or goddesses, nor are they loving them more than their Savior Jesus Christ. They are simply using the Christmas tree as a fun custom, one that can remind them of Jesus who is the branch of David (Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15), the root of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1). One that can remind them of the tree that led Adam and Eve to sin, but more importantly, the tree on which Christ Jesus died to make atonement for the sins of the whole world (Acts 5:30; Gal. 3:13; 1 Peter 2:24).
Instead of condemning the setting up of the Christmas tree as some pagan practice brought into our homes from the pagan cold, it should remind us that God promises us “the right to the tree of life” (Rev. 22:14). If the Bible tells us “to go to the ant … to observe her ways and be wise” (Prov. 6:6), certainly we can learn similar things from God’s other wonderful creations, including trees.
Don’t burden your conscience by superstitions or legalism—whether from pagans or Christians. Remember what the Bible teaches you about Christ, his creation, and his salvation, and exercise his dominion over the symbols.