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Are Christmas Trees Pagan?

An Article from Pastor Paul Boutan

“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.” Jeremiah 10:3-4

As the song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Well it is also that time of the year, when families will go to the forest, find the perfect evergreen tree, cut it down (with a permit of course), bring it home and decorate it for Christmas. Others prefer the convenience of an artificial, pre-lit tree (these are my kind of people). Regardless of which Christmas tree tradition you hold to, there’s a good chance you’ve had a little of your Christmas cheer stolen from you by a well-meaning, but overzealous fellow Christian. Perhaps, you invited them into your home for a “white elephant” Christmas party. They see your evergreen (or artificially green) Christmas tree on display in your living room. Rather than compliment your decorating abilities, they say, “Did you know Christmas trees are PAGAN?” then they proceed to back up their assault on your greenery by quoting Jeremiah 10:3-4.

Admittedly, at first glance any modern-day reader of the Bible could easily think the prophet Jeremiah was condemning the Christmas tree. However, the problem is that the custom of decorating a tree to celebrate Christmas, is a modern-day custom. One that did not even exist in Jeremiah’s day. The very first tree that was ever decorated for Christmas by Protestant Christians happened in 16-century Germany (thousands of years after Jeremiah). So, the question arises, if Jeremiah was not condemning the Christmas tree, what was he condemning? That’s a good question, and I’m glad you asked it.

In a nutshell, Jeremiah was pronouncing judgment against the pagan practices of his day. The Bible Knowledge Commentary sheds some light on this passage.“A person in that day would cut down a tree. Strip it of its leaves and branches. Then bring the wood to a craftsman, who would then fashion it into the shape or image of the desired ‘god’ they worshiped. This ‘god’ would then be covered with gold or silver and fastened to a base so that it would not totter”(Walvrood & Zuck, Vol. 1, p. 1142). Upon completion, the owner would retrieve this idol from the craftsman. However, he did not take it to his house and display it in his living room. Instead, he was brought out to his field. This so-called “god” was placed like a lifeless scarecrow in a corn field supposedly protecting the harvest. This “tree” was literally a “god” being worshiped by superstitious pagans, who hoped this idol would be pleased with them and make their crops more bountiful.

The good news is that unless you plan on shaping that tree into the image of a pagan god, overlaying it in gold or silver plating, and then quite literally worship it, your Christmas tree is not pagan. Whether you choose to decorate a tree for Christmas or not is simply a matter of conscience. Romans 14:5-6 gives us some helpful principles when dealing with matters of our conscience.“One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord.”

Tree or no tree, just remember the true reason for the season. Christmas is the time when we honor the birth of our Savior Jesus, who thirty-three years after He was born, was nailed to a “tree” to pay the price of your sin and mine, so that by His death we can have life.


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