Authored by Steve Hearts
Some people believe that the Christmas tree is idolatrous, based on these words recorded in the book of Jeremiah:
“Do not learn the ways of the nations or be terrified by signs in the heavens, though the nations be terrified by them. For the practices 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 cucumber field, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm neither can they do any good.”1
The mention of “idols” in these scriptures addresses the direct worship of trees. But do you actually know anyone today who worships, fears, or prays to their Christmas tree? I sure don’t.
We are meant to enjoy God’s creation and its beauty. Revelation 4:11 says, “Thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” The wrong thing is to worship the creation instead of the Creator.
Because I’m blind, I obviously can’t appreciate the sight of the tree with all its lights and decorations. But I sure love the scent it gives off. Who doesn’t enjoy smelling an evergreen?
The Christmas tree can also symbolize the task we’ve been given as believers to shine Jesus’ light in a dark and lonely world. As a kid, I performed this little song time and again:
“I’d like to be a Christmas tree
With lots of colored lights on me.
I’d shine my stars so bright above,
To tell the world of Jesus’ love.”
“I’d like to be a Christmas tree
If we were to boycott the Christmas season altogether, it would mean doing away with Christmas carols. I would be incapable of that. To me, the carols are the best part of the season!
Granted, many “Christmas” songs don’t honor Christ. But there are also many beautiful carols that move me deeply. I often sing them even when it isn’t Christmas. Many such songs also trigger special memories.
One of these is “O Holy Night!” When my mother was in the hospital during her last few weeks, a group of carolers from our church went to visit her. They asked her which carol she wanted them to sing and she requested “O Holy Night!” She also insisted I sing with them. They were glad for this, since this song wasn’t on their list of well-practiced carols.
They passed me the guitar and I played the song. Considering that it had not been rehearsed, it came out wonderfully—with harmonies that blended in beautifully. One of the hospital staff members said, “That sounded truly angelic.”
Although Mom was too weak to talk much, I was later told that throughout the song, she was smiling radiantly.
Since then, that song has always held special significance for me. I also think it best describes what the shepherds must have felt when they heard the voices of the angels. They probably did indeed “fall on [their] knees.” I know I would have!
In today’s world, Christmas celebrations are often extravagant, shallow, and lacking in meaning. But I can still remember the year I was four, when our family lived in India as missionaries. Given the small percentage of Christians there, the Christmas spirit couldn’t exactly be felt everywhere we went. Yet that didn’t stop us and our team of missionary families from enjoying the season. I was so young that some of the finer details of that celebration escape my memory. I know that it was far from extravagant. I’m not even sure if we had a tree. If decorations were used, they were certainly simple. The same could be said of any gifts we may have exchanged. I don’t recall what we ate that day—but I know it wasn’t turkey, dressing, or ham. I do remember the cake we baked being made with dates. And that I loved it.
Whatever the celebration may have lacked materially, the joy and meaning we felt more than made up for it. I remember singing Christmas carols to honor the birth of our Savior together, and how I was filled with the true essence of the season.
As I think back on that simple yet joyous Christmas, I can’t help but try to imagine what the shepherds must have felt when, true to the angels’ word, they found Mary, Joseph, and newborn baby Jesus in the stable. Mary and Joseph didn’t decorate the stable or put up a tree in preparation for Jesus’ arrival. There was no big feast that day either. Nevertheless, the joy they felt over all the marvelous things that had happened must have been unprecedented. No Christmas celebration today, no matter how well prepared or extravagant, could begin to match the excitement and happiness that was felt that day in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago.
On the other hand, circumstances permitting, we can go all out to celebrate the Christmas season and make it extra special—so long as we don’t lose sight of the meaning behind it. God loves to see us, His children, enjoy ourselves. He only asks that we do so for His glory. “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”2
The fact that Christmas is abused and misused by so many today should not keep us from remembering its real meaning and helping others to do so.
1 Jeremiah 10:2–5
2 1 Corinthians 10:31 NIV
Read by Amber Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2015 by The Family International