THE CHRISTMAS TREE
Good afternoon everyone!
I hope and pray this day finds you healthy and centering your lives around Jesus. This time of year people do think more or our Lord and Savior as He became flesh and blood for our sakes. What a beautiful gift!
Speaking of Christmas gifts, lights, the virgin birth and the Bethlehem star, all things to do with Christmas, what of the Christmas tree? Is it alright for Christians to have a Christmas tree? Where did the tradition come from anyways?
Let’s start with the tradition. Many pagan religions utilized greenery at some time during the cold winter season. The earliest tradition of bringing greenery indoors goes back as far as the Egyptians. As the winter solstice approached they brought in fresh cut palm leaves to worship and as a symbol of life’s triumph over death.
The Romans celebrated the winter solstice by decorating their homes with cut branches of different trees and shrubs in a festivalcalled the Saturnalia. This was done to honor the god of agriculture.
In Great Britain many centuries ago, Druids used evergreens in their winter solstice rituals as well. These wood priests placed greenery over their doors to keep away the evil spirits and hung mistletoe and holly too as a symbol to promote eternal life.
By the late “Middle Ages, Germans and Scandinavians placed evergreen trees inside their homes or just outside their doors to show their hope in the forthcoming spring.
“And legend has it that Martin Luther began the tradition ofdecorating trees to celebrate Christmas. One crisp Christmas Eve, about the year 1500, he was walking through snow-covered woods and was struck by the beauty of a group of small evergreens. Their branches, dusted with snow, shimmered in the moonlight. When he got home, he set up a little fir tree indoors so he could share this story with his children. He decorated it with candles, which he lighted in honor of Christ's birth.”1
But it seems it was in America that the tradition caught on and spread. The idea of the tree would have been brought over from German immigrants and even the Hessian troops during the American Revolution. But the tradition spread slowly at first, partially due to the Puritans that banned Christmas celebrations in the 1700’s and early 1800’s.
But “the Christmas tree market was born in 1851 when Catskill farmer Mark Carr hauled two ox sleds of evergreens into New York City and sold them all. By 1900, one in five American families had a Christmas tree, and 20 years later, the custom was nearly universal.”2
Because of the early usage of evergreens in pagan religions, some Christians have raised the question about the use of conifer trees in our Christmas celebrations. They site Jeremiah 10:1-5 as evidence;“Hear the word which the Lord speaks to you, O house of Israel. 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. 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. They are upright, like a palm tree, and they cannot speak; they must be carried, because they cannot go by themselves. Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, nor can they do any good.” If you study this scripture (and also the previous 16 verses) you will understand that though there are similarities to this description and our Christmas trees, the entire passage is speaking of idolatry. There were cultures that have (and some still do) worshipped trees, forests, wood carvings and so forth. God is warning us not to worship the creation, but rather the Creator.
So unless you actually worship your Christmas tree, I would say no worries about having one! And then you have to remember Joseph’s words when he confronted his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done...” (Genesis 50:20). It is just like our intelligent Savior to turn what was once used against Him into something beautiful!
Until next time, God bless and take care,
This week in the night skies; for the northern lats; “Monday, December 15th a Double shadow transit on Jupiter! Both Io and Europa are casting their tiny black shadows onto the face of Jupiter from 1:12 to 2:02 a.m. Tuesday morning Eastern Standard Time (10:12 to 11:02 p.m. Monday evening Pacific Standard Time). Europa itself starts crossing Jupiter at 1:18 a.m. EST, and Europa starts crossing the disk at 2:15 a.m. EST. (for observers in Europe add 5 hours to the times above to get UT.”3
For the southern lats; “Terry Lovejoy has done it again! After C/2011 W3 Lovejoy, which was also a Christmas comet, he has found us another great comet. C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy is brightening rapidly. Currently the comet is around a full magnitude brighter than predicted, and there are multiple reliable reports that is is now (faintly) visible to the unaided eye. There is every possibility the comet may reach magnitude 4. While it will not have the magnificent tail developed by C/2011 W3, and will only be a fuzzy dot to the unaided eye, it will be the brightest comet we will have seen in southern skies since Terry's previous Christmas comet, and you won't have to get up at 4 am to see it. At the moment, the comet is above the distinctive star cluster around the bright star pi Puppis in the eastern sky after 10 pm.”4
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