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Q & A

Isn’t the Christmas tree pagan? Doesn’t Jeremiah 10:3,4 forbid the use of a Christmas tree as a pagan practice?

Jeremiah 10:3,4 says, “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” (NKJV).

On the surface, it sounds like this verse is describing a Christmas tree. But Jeremiah 10 has been taken out of context for years. By reading the surrounding verses, it is apparent the passage does not refer to a Christmas tree, but to the making of an idol. Verse 5 says the idol can’t speak — that’s because he has a mouth that has been carved in wood.

The Christmas tree has a much later — and valid — tradition for use by Christians in the season celebrating the birth of Christ. In the 16th century, Martin Luther popularized decorating trees. One night while walking home shortly before Christmas, he felt a strong love for God and His creation. He placed tapers on a little evergreen to symbolize the forest and the stars.

The custom of decorating the tree spread throughout Europe, reaching England in 1841 and the U.S. in 1851. A young pastor named Schwan in Cleveland, Ohio, created a furor by bringing a lighted tree into his church. People thought it was a pagan custom. Later research proved this to be a Christian tradition.

Today, the evergreen Christmas tree represents the Holy Child in His everlasting nature — and the eternal life available to all through Christ.

— Ken Horn

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