Jeremiah 10:2-4 reads as below:
2 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.3 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.4 They decorate it with silver and gold; They fasten it with nails and hammers so that it will not topple.”
Isaiah 40:19-20 reads
19 The workman moulds an image, the goldsmith overspreads it with gold, and the silversmith casts silver chains.
20 Whoever is too impoverished for such a contribution chooses a tree that will not rot; He seeks for himself a skilful workman to prepare a carved image that will not totter.
Isaiah 44:14-15 reads
14 He cuts down cedars for himself, And takes the cypress and the oak; He secures it for himself among the trees of the forest. He plants a pine (A fir..an evergreen tree), and the rain nourishes it. 15 Then it shall be for a man to burn, For he will take some of it and warm himself; Yes, he kindles it and bakes bread; Indeed he makes a god and worships it; He makes it a carved image and falls down to it
Jeremiah 3:11-13 reads
1 Then the Lord said to me, “Backsliding Israel has shown herself more righteous than treacherous Judah. 12 Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say: ‘Return, backsliding Israel,’ says the Lord; ‘I will not cause My anger to fall on you. For I am merciful,’ says the Lord; ‘I will not remain angry forever. 13 Only acknowledge your iniquity, That you have transgressed against the Lord your God, And have scattered your charms to alien deities under every green tree, And you have not obeyed My voice,’ says the Lord.
Many quote verses like these and say that at Christmas, people take an evergreen tree cut from the forest; decorate it with ornaments of silver and gold, and then fall down before it when they place their presents under the tree and conclude that this is idolatry. Some believe these condemn the celebration of Christmas and especially the use of the Christmas tree.
What is the message in passages like Jeremiah 10? Is Jeremiah telling us to avoid the customs of the nations? Here are some matters that merit thought…
This passage in Jeremiah and others like it in Isaiah had to do with idolatry. It is a command to avoid those customs that are contrary to the revelation of God that HE gave to Israel. First, Jeremiah warns against the worship of the sun, the moon, and the stars. Second, he warns against going into the forest to cut down trees to be carved into an idol in some form whether human or animal, and then worshipped and prayed to for guidance, for protection, and blessing (Isaiah 44:14-17) . Some have tried to tie the reference to the green tree in Jeremiah 3:6,13 to the reference in 10:3,4 to further justify condemnation of the Christmas tree, but this refers to the idolatrous groves of trees used as a place for idol worship and revelry.
Jeremiah 10 is a denunciation of the making and worship of idols and not the decoration of evergreen trees in the home.
Did you know that the names of the days of our week also had their origin in pagan beliefs? Sunday and Monday were related somehow to the worship of the sun and the moon. Tuesday stood for Tiw, the god of war. Wednesday is derived from Woden, the chief god in Germanic mythology. Thursday originally stood for Thor, Germanic god of the sky or of thunder. Friday comes from Fria, the goddess of love and Saturday is from Saturn.
All of these ancient meanings with their beliefs and associations were lost long ago.We don’t think about Fria, the goddess of love on Friday. Neither do we think about Saturday as Saturn’s day, but as our day off! The same applies to the traditions of Christmas.
If one observed the days of the week or the Christmas season with their ancient associations in mind, certainly it would be wrong. But many of these things, as with our Sunday, have been given Christian connotations.
The evergreen tree is a symbol of the eternal life which Christ, the Son of God, offers to man via another tree, the cross (Revelation 2:7; 22:2, 14)
The presents under the tree can remind us of God’s gift and our need to give of ourselves to others as those who have received God’s gift of life through Christ.
Even without seeking special significance in the traditions of Christmas, you could still celebrate this season for the joy and family fun the season can bring.
There is a possibility that believers can capitalise on the Christmas season as a family tradition and as a learning experience much like the Old Testament Passover was to be used by Israel. It all depends on the spirit and attitude in which it is done. We can be very negative and critical, or we can be positive and use the season as a time to remember and commemorate the birth of the Savior. We can use it as a time to demonstrate love for others in a special way and to be together as a family.
We can make something evil out of it or something good. That is our choice – not the tree’s fault.