I love Christmas Trees. I love how the lights (I am partial to white lights) twinkle through the branches. It gives my living room a cozy feel while it is cold and windy outside. But many people have a real problem with Christmas trees, believing that because it was used in pagan culture long ago it should have no place in a Christian's home.
It’s true that people of other religions did use nature to remind them of eternal life, to aid in their worship, to look forward to spring, or ward off evil spirits. During the winter solstice the ancient Egyptians filled their homes with green date palm leaves symbolizing the triumph of life over death. The early Romans decorated their homes during the winter solstice with evergreen boughs as a reminder that soon spring would come and everything would be green and fruitful again.
Here is the problem: it is not the leaves or trees that were bad, it was the way they were used. These other religions missed the One behind the nature who holds all power, who gives eternal life, who has control of all spirits.
Think about this: ancient cultures made idols out of gold and silver. They made temples for these gods, worshiped them, bowed down to them, and made sacrifices to them--yet we have no problem wearing jewelry made out of gold and silver. Why? Because the origin or prior use of something does not determine its current value or significance.
Take for example bobbing for apples. This goes back a few hundred years and originated on the British Isles (though some believe it goes back even farther than that).
It was a way of fortune telling or divination in order to find out whom you were going to marry.
[The apples] are thrown into a tub of water, and you endeavour to catch one in your mouth as they bob round and round in provoking fashion. When you have caught one, you peel it carefully, and pass the long strip of peel thrice, sunwise, round your head; after which you throw it over your shoulder, and it falls to the ground in the shape of the initial letter of your true love's name.
W. H. Davenport (Curiosities of Superstition 1902)
But we do not have a problem bobbing for apples today because it is no longer associated with such silly superstitions.
And consider this. The days of our week and the planets above (and even some cars) are named after pagan gods. I highly doubt that anyone thinks that we are invoking Thor on Thursdays, or participating in the Roman holiday called “Sun’s Day” when we go to church on Sunday. (D. Fortner)
If your car is a Saturn, use it for the glory of God; and laugh at anyone who thinks that you are worshiping the Roman god of agriculture by driving it.
On a more biblical note we can look at circumcision. Circumcision was practiced by the Egyptians long before God told the Jews to use it as a part of their culture. God took something that had pagan origins, but was not inherently wrong, and used it for his good purposes.
So back to our Christmas tree. While the evergreen tree has many connections to ancient customs, no one knows for sure who used the very first “Christmas tree.” The Germans are usually credited with this and there is a nice little legend involving the Reformer Martin Luther that goes like this:
One cold winter’s night Luther was walking home thinking about his sermon when he was struck by the beauty of the stars and how they reflected off the trees. Once he arrived home he decided to recreate the beauty he had seen outside by bringing in a little evergreen tree indoors and putting candles on it.
There is nothing pagan about using a decorated Pine tree to lift our thoughts upward toward God, or even to make our homes more beautiful.
All creation points to the one true God (Rom. 1:20). When we look at flowers, birds and trees our minds should go back to the one who created them.
If anything, the evergreen tree is a wonderful picture of Jesus. It is one of the few trees that is full of color, life, and beauty no matter what season it is. Jesus is the one who is always and forever full of life and gives it freely to those who make their home in him. He is always filled with beauty no matter how bleak and dark our days may seem.
Not everything in our culture is wrong. The Christmas tree is not wrong. I view it as a giant birthday decoration for the celebration of the birth of Christ. It is good to enjoy the beauty of the Christmas lights and the sweetness of Christmas goodies all the while thanking God for his good gifts, especially the ultimate gift of his Son.
(Read The Christmas Controversy Part 1 here)