Jeremiah 10 and the Christmas Tree
Last week I posted a blog entitled A Kosher Christmas Tree? which received quite the response on both the blog itself and Facebook. At First Fruits of Zion, we neither endorse nor condemn the Christian celebration of Christmas. As advocates of Messianic Judaism, a discussion about Christian Christmas tradition is outside of our purview. My family and I do not celebrate the holiday in our home. Nevertheless, there is an annual question about whether or not the observance of Christmas should be avoided by Messianic Jews and God-fearing Gentiles. Plus, it's always interesting to see the explosive results when Christmas tradition, superstitious paranoia, and fanatical dogmatism collide.
In the responses to my blog, one issue that came up, again and again, is the supposed connection between Jeremiah 10:3-5 and Christmas. Many of the most outspoken critics of Christmas in the Hebrew Roots movement see a direct link between the pagan practice Jeremiah condemns and the modern Christmas tree. But let's examine the verse in context.
For the customs of the peoples are delusion; because it is wood cut from the forest, The work of the hands of a craftsman with a cutting tool. They decorate it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers So that it will not totter. Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field are they, and they cannot speak; they must be carried, Because they cannot walk! Do not fear them, for they can do no harm, nor can they do any good. (Jeremiah 10:3-5)
While at first glance one might be tempted to connect this passage with the Christmas tree, upon closer examination of the context, it becomes obvious that the passage is about cutting down a tree and then carving it into an idol. It is not about cutting down a tree and putting it whole, foliage and all, into one's house.
The tradition of putting up a Christmas tree most likely was derived from some superstitious, winter custom of pagan religions, but we must be careful not to retrofit this back into biblical texts that do not fit the context. To directly link the Christmas tree with Jeremiah 10 is anachronistic and a violation of context.
If we want to argue against observing non-biblical Christian and secular holidays, we have to be careful to leave the emotion and junk scholarship out of the discussion, otherwise our criticisms lack credibility. For a balanced and fresh perspective on Christmas, paganism, and all things idolatrous, I recommend checking out our audio teaching, What About Paganism.
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