Friday, November 25, 2011

Merry Christmas Trees & the Second Commandment

Sooner or later, I know the "Should we have a Christmas Tree?" conversation will inevitably come up. So I am going to get it out of the way now. My conclusion will be stated right up front. Christians may in fact be wrong for having Christmas trees. There I said it. But hold on....

Now in reality, I don't really care, but I am one that strives for consistency. So when my Jehovah's Witness friend comes over, I know in his mind, as he stares at the evil tree in my living room, he is thinking that the Watch Tower is right. I'm just a pagan. But I am not going to go out of the way and eliminate a cultural decoration simply because some JW thinks I am a pagan.

However, one could argue that, just as we go out of our way for our conscious stricken brothers over alcohol, we should go out of our way to not unnecessarily offend a JW. True enough. But if I did that, there would literally be no end. I would probably have to live at the bottom of the ocean in order to become acceptable to everyone.

Another argument that has come to my mind is the fact that I have argued against using improper means to get people to "experience Christ". Are we using the tree to get people to hear the Gospel and feel closer to the Lord? Again, I think this is where the Christian must be careful. In my opinion, Christmas Trees and other artful things are just that, cultural icons. If we use them as spring boards into Gospel conversations, then I'm not seeing the connection. However, if I have to gather my family and friends around a tree in order to feel more worshipful, then I am indeed being inconsistent.

The New Testament is clear about worship. We have the physical experiences we need in Baptism and the Lord's Table as instituted by Jesus Himself. Yet I am not convinced that Christmas Trees are necessarily something that cause us to violate the Second Commandment. If so, then many of the Old Testament icons such as the Ark of the Covenant would be problematic. Of course, those were provided by God. Christmas Trees were not.

So basically, my initially stated conclusion may be correct. It just depends on what we mean to do with Christmas Trees. As for now, I'll still set one up. My kids enjoy the season. They get gifts. Isn't that why we do this in the first place? To teach the importance of giving and the anticipation of receiving something wonderful? Hmmmm, but are we back to that experience argument again? I don't think so. My kids experience all kinds of things from me. If some of that helps them to find Christ, the supposed inconsistency becomes invalid.

So Merry Christmas, and if your conscience allows, let your kids open those gifts placed around that tree. Just don't look to it with prayer and worship. It's just a tree.

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