Sheffield and Edinburgh this week.
Sheffield Again

Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, we bow down and worship thee . . .

Tree-1Just kidding. Its only a stupid tree. But there are some people in our spiritual community that feel Christmas trees are a pagan addition to an already pagan festival. Thus they will not be pulling any crackers this season and they did not turn up at our town's Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony (pictured).

Which causes me to ask two questions:
1. Is Christmas pagan?
2. How do we get along with anti-Christmas believers in our community?

1. The Pagan Factor: Our family has been discussing Christmas and the various pagan associations with it. Are we participating in a pagan festival with the face of baby Jesus on it? What about Jeremiah 10 and the use of trees?

John MacArthur argues for a pagan-free Christmas tree, referencing Luther and giving a sure and certain word in his post on Christmas Trees - "There is no connection between the worship of idols and the use of Christmas trees. We should not be anxious about baseless arguments against Christmas decorations."

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This is very different from the Reformer's view of Christmas in this country which, like the Grinch, squashed Christmas for hundreds of years. I tend to agree with MacArthur's conclusions on how to treat Christmas, and his challenge to focus on Jesus, but I am not as certain as he is that there is no connection between paganism and Christmas. In fact, it is very possible, yea, even likely, that missionaries redeemed the German Yule and its solstice rituals (mistletoe, holy, ham, etc) and turned it into what we now call Christmas. But that should not freak us out and that does not mean we cannot make good use of it for God. Thats what we plan to do this season.

2. The Ecumenical Factor: What about getting along with those who disagree with us?
Not every believer will come up with the same list of holy days. "One person regards one day as holier than other days, and another regards them all alike. Each must be fully convinced in his own mind" Romans 14:5

So, if your conviction is to celebrate Christmas, by all means put on that party hat, decorate that tree and roast that turkey but don't push that particular conviction on to other believers lest you become a stumbling block. "Therefore do not pass judgment on one another, but rather determine never to place an obstacle or a trap before a brother or sister." Romans 14:13.

And if God's good people are giving you hell because of your Christmas tree, and if you are convinced in your own mind that you are celebrating Christmas to the glory of God, then stick up for what you believe. "Therefore do not let what you consider good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God does not consist of food and drink, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit." Romans 14:16-17

And in sticking up for what you believe, give them some space for what they believe also.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Tell you what it means to me . . . now i feel a song coming on . . come on now . .

And in my opinion, we wrestle more with the idolatry of materialism and consumerism at Christmas time than with possible historical connections with earth religions. This is the real battle.

In case you are interested, I am preaching at the local Baptist church this Sunday on Christmas and a theology of celebration, in light of the Scottish Covenanters and the Reformed disapproval of the "popery" of Christmas. It will be honest, and accurate, but it will also have a happy ending and i hope, a satisfying finish for those who like the tree and those who don't.

Our Post-Reformation Christmas (2005)
How Your Emerging Church can Stay in Calvary Chapel will show you why Christmas displays may be the highlight of your year, as well as pointing you to the origin of the nativity scene [hint . . . an Italian with a tonsure]
Yule on Wikipedia

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