Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A pastor friend of ours has this to say....

I usually don't do posts this long, but I though somebody might enjoy this.

The Christmas Tree
1 Peter 2:24 (KJV) Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

History. While many of the things associated with the modern celebration of Christmas clearly have a pagan connection with their origin, the Christmas tree is different. In the seventh century a missionary to the Germans came across a group of pagans who worshiped the Oak tree as a god. He suggested they were foolish to worship something that died every year and lost its beauty. He went on to use the evergreen tree to teach them that the living, God is the same yesterday, today and forever, and provides eternal life for His children. He said the triangular shape symbolizes the trinity. The evergreen tree quickly became a symbol of the gospel message to those living in Northern Germany. Ironically the Roman Catholic church denounced the use of the tree claiming those who failed to trust in the Roman church alone for salvation were heretics. The symbol of the division became so great, that after Martin Luther left the Catholic church he went on to use the evergreen tree as an illustration in the Gospel message in defiance of Rome. Expanding the illustration he placed candles on the tree to show how it was Jesus and not Rome that was the light of the world. By the twelfth century the common practice was to hang the tree upside down from the ceiling. It was considered a symbol of those who rejected the Catholic church for salvation. Rome countered declaring all those who placed a tree in their home or place of worship incapable of earning salvation.

The first claim to the use of a Christmas tree in America is much debated. A city in Connecticut claims a foreign soldier put up a Christmas Tree in 1777. A city in Pennsylvania said a German immigrant was the first to erect a Christmas tree in 1816. The German reportedly used it in teaching fellow believers about Christ, eternal salvation, and the Trinity. Traditionally, Christmas trees were not brought into the home until Christmas Eve and then taken down on January 6 the date first thought to be the birthday of Christ.

Some Christians feel the practice of having a Christmas tree is prohibited in the book of Jeremiah 10:1-5 (KJV) 1 Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel: 2 Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. 3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. 4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. 5 They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good. A careful reading will help us understand this has nothing to do with the use of a Christmas tree. The trees of Jeremiah had no connection with the birth of Christ, the story of salvation or Christmas. The trees were worshiped as gods having supernatural power. I have never known someone today to pray to a Christmas tree, believing it could hear and answer.

Regardless of the origin of the Christmas tree, there is no doubt that the world had secularized it. It no longer represents to the average person the spiritual teachings of Christians from an earlier time who used it for good or the false teachings of the prophets of the groves or those from Jeremiah’s day. For most the tree is simply a part of the Christmas tradition. A tradition that has forgotten the Christmas message delivered on the first Christmas eve to the shepherds, Luke 2:10-11 (KJV) 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

Trees have always played an important part for good and bad in the Scriptures. Like every other spiritual symbol, Satan loves to counterfeit and corrupt.

Trees are mentioned 287 times in the Bible. It is first mentioned in Genesis. They played an important part in the Garden story.

Genesis 1:11-12 (KJV) And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

Genesis 2:9 (KJV) And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Genesis 2:16-17 (KJV) 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

Genesis 3:6 (KJV) And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

Trees played other important roles in Bible. Used in construction of Temple. Moses placed a branch of a tree in the bitter waters to make them sweet. False prophets often used trees to carve idols and to hide in tree groves when performing their wicked deeds. Psalms 1:3 speaks of the blessed or saved man, “And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”

The most important reference to a tree is the one in our text.

1 Peter 2:24 (KJV) Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

Galatians 3:13 (KJV) Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:

Whether we choose to have a Christmas tree in our home or not is a personal decision. Whether we see it as a symbol of God’s son, salvation and sovereignty or another invasion of the world into spiritual things and a commercialization of that which is spiritual is left for each to decide. What is important however, is that we understand the real Christmas tree and the gift associated with it was given to us when Jesus hung on the wooden cross and gave his life that we might have eternal life.

Jim Preston

Lighthouse Baptist Church

12140 Indian St.

Moreno Valley, Left Coast 92557


Anonymous said...

This is very informative. Thanks for sharing this!!

Mrs.B. said...

Thank you for sharing this!

Anonymous said...

This is interesting though quite different to the story of the Christmas tree I've just read in the book I'm reading 'Keeping Christ in Christmas' by Steve Russo. He tells the legend of Boniface that the pagans were about to sacrifice a child to the god Thor around an oak tree. He chopped down the tree in protest and planted a fir tree which he taught represented the everlasting life in Jesus Christ. There are also two other legends, one that the Christmas tree was instituted by Luther (won't go into lengthy story) and that is why the Roman Catholics initially rejected it. And then there was another very far fetched legend. I don't think we really know the origin of the Christmas tree. But the heart of this sermon is quite correct that it is what is in our hearts as we celebrate Christmas and not the outward 'symbols'. I note you had a candy cane on your lovely tree, there is a story behind those too...I might do a post on the history of Christmas, but I doubt I will have time. :)

Sarah Joy said...

I enjoyed reading that. We've heard Pastor Preston several times. I went to school with his daughter.

Your tree is lovely. When I was small my parents got a tree every other year, and in the in between years we got out a manger, decorated it, and put the presents inside. I always went out and got some kind of evergreen branches-pine, juniper, or something-and used it in decoration just to make it smell "right"!