Week of December 9
O Christmas Tree
By Skip Heitzig
I read somewhere that in a recent Christmas season Americans used 28 million rolls of wrapping paper and 17 million packages of tags and bows, sent out 372 million greeting cards, and set up 35 million Christmas trees.
Some of our Christmas traditions are just that, traditions. Jesus was probably not born on December 25, for example. And the Christmas tree is based on the celebration of the reincarnation of Nimrod. The ancient Babylonians burned a “Yule” log (the Chaldean word for infant) in the fireplace, and the next day a symbolic evergreen tree was placed inside the house.
This pagan ritual is hinted at in the Bible, in Jeremiah 10:1-4. But before you get worried, I want you to know that if you come to my church, you’ll find a very large Christmas tree in the foyer! And you know what? Most people born in this country don’t know the origins of these things, and we aren’t worshiping Babylonian gods and goddesses. It’s not about that. (And it’s good to remember that Martin Luther was the first guy to put a Christmas tree inside the home.)
At the same time, what are we to do with some of these traditions? Let’s look at what Jesus did when He was faced with a festival that had a lot of tradition, some of which may have been true and some not. In John chapter 10, He was in the temple for the Feast of Dedication, also known as the Festival of Lights, or Hanukkah. You won’t find it in the Bible anywhere; it dates from the period between Old and New Testaments. But Jesus was celebrating Hanukkah, and He used the Festival of Lights to shine the light on who He really is (see verses 22-30).
And I suggest that’s what we do with Christmas. You can say, “Bah, humbug!” You can get “Santa Claustrophobic.” You can run from it. Or you can use it to shine the light on who Jesus really is.
People are singing the words we preach in evangelical churches every week: Christ by highest heaven adored, Christ the everlasting Lord. Veiled in flesh the Godhead see! Hail, incarnate deity! Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel. Hark, the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn king!”
At least some of them don’t know what they’re singing, but that’s where we come in. We can redeem it by reminding them. Does it matter when He came? No, it matters THAT He came. Since the celebration is already ongoing, I say let’s use it to remind them of Him.
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