Many Christians have become involved in bitter disputes about certain elements and traditions associated with Christmas. My previous post introduced readers to a series of articles I have been working on for Answers in Genesis. In this post and the next few, I would like to cover some issues that have caused confusion and, in some cases, animosity between believers. Hopefully, these brief articles will help you view these issues in a proper perspective.
Claim: The Bible Forbids the Use of Christmas Trees
No it doesn’t. People who make this argument almost always go right to Jeremiah 10. The first five verses of this chapter state:
Hear the word which the Lord speaks to you, O house of Israel. Thus says the Lord:
Do not learn the way of the Gentiles; do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven, for the Gentiles are dismayed at them. For the customs of the peoples are futile; for one cuts a tree from the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with nails and hammers so that it will not topple. They are upright, like a palm tree, and they cannot speak; they must be carried, because they cannot go by themselves. Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, nor can they do any good.
If you take just a moment to examine the context of this passage, it becomes painfully obvious that these verses have nothing to do with Christmas trees. The prophet is in the process of warning the Israelites to not make idols like the Gentiles often did. The trees were cut down and made into idols by craftsmen. This just simply is not about Christmas trees.
Now, Christmas trees can become problematic if one focuses more on the tree than on the real reason for the season. We need to keep Christ first at all times, including Christmas. If anything comes between our relationship with Him, such as focusing on a Christmas tree or other traditions, then these things become idols and would then be sinful. But the Bible does not forbid the use of Christmas trees.
Claim: X-mas Stands for Christmas
Well, sort of. It is true that since the mid-sixteenth century, some people have used an x as an abbreviation for Christ. This was done to reduce the cost of printed materials during the days of the printing press. “Xians” (Christians) would abbreviate Christmas as xmas; however, they still pronounced the word as Christmas—not x-mas.
There is no doubt that many people in our society today use the x just so they don’t have to mention Christ. Some businesses use it so they don’t offend certain non-Christians who don’t like to be reminded about Christ (after all, He is their Judge, and they don’t want to be held accountable by anyone).
So is it wrong for a Christian to use the x in place of Christ? Since the Bible does not offer an explicit command or teaching on this, I believe this comes down to a decision that each person must make for himself or herself, guided by conscience and the Holy Spirit. It is not sinful to use abbreviations, but if a professing believer does it because he or she is ashamed of Christ, then that is sinful. As for me, don’t expect to ever see me using the abbreviation, except for in the example above.
Have a Merry Christmas!
The verse used in the passage is not accurate. Clearly, this person changed the words himself because in every bible that I have read it clearly states that people used to worship this tree and decorate it. Idols cannot do us any harm, for they cannot movenor sspeak. Idols cannot walk, for they need to be carried. This is an inaccurate argument. And those argument with this person is wasting their time. Read the bible brothers, and pray that you are in your spirit when you are doing so.
I’m not sure if you were saying that the verse I used in the passage is inaccurate. I cited the verse accurately, so if you were referring to my quote, your claim is inaccurate. As I’ve mentioned before, Jeremiah 10:8 clearly explains that the prophet is talking about wooden idols and describing their worthlessness. Yes, he uses the word “tree” because that’s what wooden idols are made of, particularly after the craftsman works on it (Jeremiah 10:3, NASB). In the New Testament, we are told a few times that Jesus was hanged on a tree (Acts 5:30; 10:39; 13:29; Galatians 3:3; 1 Peter 2:24). But Jesus didn’t die on a tree. He died on a Cross, which is made of wood, which comes from a tree. So it is perfectly legitimate to refer to the Cross as a tree. In the same way, a wooden idol can be referred to as a tree–that’s what it’s made of.
I do agree with you that people should read their Bibles, and ask the Holy Spirit to guide and instruct them as they seek to discover the meaning of the text and how to apply it.
Ha! The creation story must be taken literally, but Jeremiah gives a blatant and obvious description of a Xmas tree, says nothing about idol worship, and we’re supposed to believe the verse is about idols and not Xmas trees. Now there are some mental gymnastics!
I think both passages should be taken in a straightforward manner according to the proper principles for interpreting various genres. Genesis is written as historical narrative and Jeremiah in prophetic language. In that case, even if Jeremiah 10 were talking about a Christmas tree, it still would not apply directly to me. These words were spoken by Jeremiah (from God) to the people of Judah. I am not an Israelite under the law, so your claim falls short on that count. However, there are certainly principles that I can learn from this passage and should follow: God alone should be worshiped. But there are other problems with your comparison.
One of the first principles to follow in hermeneutics (interpretation) is that we need to look at the context. You say that it “says nothing about idol worship.” Let’s see if that claim can be supported. In verse 2, God tells Judah not to be like the Gentiles and then proceeds to give an example of something they do wrong in vv. 3–5. They cut down a tree, it is worked on by a craftsman, decorated with silver and gold, fastened with nails and hammers so that it doesn’t tip over, but they should not be feared because they cannot talk or walk and cannot do anyone any good. (Since when do craftsmen shape Christmas trees?) Verses 6–7 talk about how God is superior to all of the pagan gods—none are like Him, and He should be feared. Verse 8 continues with the contrast between God and false gods and says that they (meaning the gods of the Gentiles) are stupid and foolish, and instruction from a wooden idol is worthless. Verse 9 says that a craftsman uses gold and silver on it, but v. 10 repeats that Yahweh is the true God, the living God, and everlasting King.
So if this passage “says nothing about idol worship” then why does verse 8 mention wooden idols?
Finally, I don’t know of any Christian who has ever worshiped a Christmas tree. I do know that these things can be unnecessary distractions for some people, and if that is the case, then they should be avoided. But if not, then, unless you’ve been otherwise convicted by conscience or the Holy Spirit, there is nothing wrong with using a tree in celebrating the birth of Christ.
For the record, lest I be accused of trying to justify my own practice, I don’t put up a tree, but it isn’t because of any conviction having to do with this passage.
Hi Tim, I am feeling wracked with guilt about verses 3,4 & 5. Isn’t the tree cut by the workman? What I mean to say is, isn’t the tree the final product of the workman? Isn’t the felled tree the result of the hands of the workman with the axe? please clarify.
I would encourage you to look at the surrounding verses. First, this was an instruction from God to the Israelites not to act like the Gentiles who were dismayed by signs in the heavens and who made idols. Second, The description being given here is of a woodworker crafting an idol. Verse 8 makes that extremely clear — a wooden idol is a worthless doctrine. Verse 5 instructs the Israelites not to be afraid of them because the idols can’t harm them.
If this was about Christmas trees, why would anyone worry about being harmed by one (unless if fell on them)? If someone makes an idol out of their Christmas tree, then perhaps this passage could be relevant to the discussion. The point in this section of Jeremiah is to warn Israel to refrain from the idolatry they had so often fallen into prior to the Babylonian Exile.
Is it sinful to have religious imagery? Are all religious images idols, even if they depict a scene from the Old or New Testament and even if I don’t pray to them? I have met people who say that having an image of Jesus is tantamount to having an image of the hindu god siva or vishnu or krishna. Should I then get rid of my Moses holding the ten commandments wallpaper? Should I then get rid of my Last Supper painting or my Nativity set? Should I then get rid of my cherubim ceramic? What else do I need to get get rid of? But those same people try to justify the cherubim on the ark of the covenant. Isn’t that a catch 22?