Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Tree or Tammuz Tree?

My blog explores many ambiguities of the Bible. This is just one of the blogs I was unable to side-step. This entry is meant only for the purpose of exploring the scripture passage below and to bring some answers to why we erect a Christmas Tree. Please do not be offended. Read through.


Jeremiah 10:1-5
God and Idols
1 Hear what the LORD says to you, O house of Israel.
2 This is what the LORD says:
"Do not learn the ways of the nations
or be terrified by signs in the sky,
though the nations are terrified by them.
3 For the customs of the peoples are worthless;
they cut a tree out of the forest,
and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel.

4 They adorn it with silver and gold;
they fasten it with hammer and nails
so it will not totter.

5 Like a scarecrow in a melon patch,
their idols cannot speak;
they must be carried
because they cannot walk.
Do not fear them;
they can do no harm
nor can they do any good."



Prior to Christmas 1976, when I was eight years of age, my Grandmother Leasure, who felt a great responsibility to live out her faith, explained the Nativity Scene under the Christmas tree to my sister and me. Then, I asked, “What about the tree? Why is there a tree?” in reference to the Christmas tree under which the Nativity set was placed.

I’ve been struggling the past two days for what I should write on this blog entry. But, I can not escape this topic. In fact, I’ve been ignoring it for at least the past two weeks. Having only suggested I may write about it.

My Grandmother could not answer my question concerning the tree. I don’t feel she was ignorant. In fact, one of the very basic reasons some foundational elements of certain faiths continue to exist, is we humans are followers. I certainly include myself in this accusation. We tend to not ask questions. We are born into a world filled with customs, traditions and superstitions we do not question.

Having made those statements, here is an example; I recall a Buddhists teaching her child to respect the Buddha by having the child place a bowl of rice and a peeled orange in front of the Buddha’s cabinet. The little girl went to bed and mom ate the fruit and rice. In the morning, the food was gone and to the little girl it was mystical. There was a sense of reality that favored the Buddha having eaten the food.

Concerning the memory of my eighth Christmas, I kept those memories near the far recesses of my mind. But, not so far that I was going to just forget about wanting to know why there is a Christmas tree.

For about the last ten years, I have had information concerning the origin of the Christmas tree. I struggle with its presence in the world. Once, I had seen footage of Jews in Israel, attacking a person and the tree the person was towing. Some Christians said it was because the tree is a symbol of Christ’s birth. But, I think there is more reason on behalf of the Jews than it being a symbol of Christ’s birth. Which, by the way, I would not; even if I were not aware of what the tree represents call a Christmas tree a symbol of Christ’s birth.

Before I go any further to explain my findings, I want you to understand that I am only sharing my research. That is my main objective for blogging. I study, assimilate my results and record them in a form that is easy to understand. So, my goal is not to have a long standing tradition expunged. Nor, do I wish to shame anyone. I am not Jehovah’s Witness or House of Yahweh. I am a Christian and a member of the West End Assembly of God whom currently have several Christmas Trees on display at the church building. So, why do we have a Christmas tree?

Jeremiah 10:1-5 reminds me very much of our modern day Christmas tree. Then, when I add to the imagery of Jeremiah’s statements, the mythology surrounding a Great Grandson of Noah by the name of Nimrod (Genesis 10:8-12; Genesis 11:1-9), his marriage to his mother, Semiramus and the fabled resurrection of Nimrod, I see that Christianity has adopted a pagan symbol, as a cursor to the birth of Christ.

Nimrod

The Bible tells us that Nimrod attempted to build a tower in Babel(Please read my understanding of what Nimrod was attempting and what the Tower of Babel represented by clicking on this link. Find it under "Tower of Babel"). God found it to be an offense, and so, He confounded the language of these people, causing them to scatter throughout the Middle East region. Though the language was confused, the memory of Nimrod did not fade. In what ever region of the Middle East we find a story of a mother and son, we find the memory of Nimrod and his mother/wife Semiramus.

In Egypt, Semiramus and Nimrod are known as Isis and Osirus. Baal and Ashtaroth is who they were to the Canaanites . Through out the world, especially Europe, these two God’s are known by other names. But, it gets complicated when a son is born after the death of Nimrod to Nimrod and Semiramus.

After the death of Nimrod, Semiramus claimed to have witnessed a shoot growing out of a dead tree stump. The legend states Semiramus as celebrating Nimrod’s resurrection as the God of fertility. Annually Nimrod would come back to leave gifts on an evergreen tree at the beginning of the Winter Solstice. December 25th was the start of the Winter Solstice according to the Julian calendar. It is a well known fact that we do not know the exact birth date of Jesus. It is somewhat accepted that Jesus was born in the Spring months. However, would anyone wonder if the date chosen to acknowledge Christ’s birth was a coincidence or intentional? Was December 25 intentionally designated as the birth date of Jesus? Why?


In all fairness, I would like to say, there are several teachings on the origin of the Christmas tree. One teaching names the tree, “Paradise Tree”. Another teaching says that the Tree became a symbol of Jesus’ birth as Jesus completes The Holy Trinity and the tree comes to three points from whatever side it is viewed.

In my effort to understand this tree, I have found that people came to find my reports a nuisance. I often find this to be the case when something of a possible truth is presented against a popular tradition that has many theories of its origin.

When I consider these four points:

• Jeremiah 10:1-5,
• that Nimrod is said to have been resurrected through a tree coming to life,
• also knowing that Nimrod was of the line of Ham and the understanding of what the Tower of Babel was to Nimrod;
• and let’s not forget December 25th in the Julian Calendar,

I conclude what we erect yearly, for no reason other than the fact we enjoy it, is a tribute to a man who was declared to be a god.

If you can find a reason to erect the tree in memory of Christ’s birth, continue doing so. My objective here is to keep myself from knowingly tainting the relationship between God and my house. Vicki and I do not erect a tree. We say merry Christmas often and we enjoy visiting light displays. One of which we saw recently was in sync with the music on a radio station. So, just know, my effort is not to ruin your lives by striking your conscience. My blog explores many ambiguities of the Bible. This is just one of the blogs I was unable to side-step.
Merry Christmas! Give your Christmas tree a purpose for Christ.

Additional references

When Christmas was illegal in America
Semiramus
Madonna and Child/Mother and Child image from secular perspective

18 comments:

Vicki said...

Dear One,
I am glad that you have written this truth. We must all deal with the traditions that we have always held dear and ask for the root, and then for the meaning which we place on them. We must worship the Christ and not any part of our tradition. People have mixed up secular beliefs with spiritual truths. I've seen movies with religious fervor about believing in Santa Claus.
When one of us inside God's kingdom has a continual thought that just won't go away and the thought aligns with Biblical truths, it needs to be spoken, or published. Often times this is difficult for others to accept because we don't like to shake up our routine.
My hope is for truth. And I believe that truth often presents struggle. Thanks for writing your convictions.
Blessings and Love,
Vicki

satire and theology said...

'If you can find a reason to erect the tree in memory of Christ’s birth, continue doing so. My objective here is to keep myself from knowingly tainting the relationship of my house with God. Vicki and I do not erect a tree. We say merry Christmas often and we enjoy visiting light displays. One of which we saw recently was in sync with the music on a radio station. So, just know, my effort is not to ruin your lives by striking your conscience. My blog explores many ambiguities of the Bible. This is just one of the blogs I was unable to side-step.
Merry Christmas! Give your Christmas tree a purpose for Christ.'

Interesting article. I am no expert, but there are many originally pagan references within our lives.

To me the Christmas tree is no struggle whatsoever, although we do not have one, but that is more for convenience.

Not an exact comparison at all, I realize, but food sacrificed to idols was one thing to those sacrificing and another to Paul (1 Cor. 8), and a Christmas tree can be similar. The meaning taken from something can be changed and different for the believer.

The main focus of Christmas for a believer should be Christ, but as you state 'If you can find a reason to erect the tree in memory of Christ’s birth, continue doing so.'

Merry Christmas,

Russ

Nitewrit said...

Jim,

I respect your convictions on this manner. personally, I have no problem with the Christmas tree or many other accouterments surrounding Christmas or Easter, even though I know most have come out of Pagen or other practices and were adapted into Christian celebrations. They have lost there original meaning to most people and have simply become a long tradition associated with the holiday. Many such things, such as trimming the tree have become something a family does together as a mutual activity and the ornaments upon the tree often have memories attached to family moments such as the birth of a child.

It is my personal opinion that being under Grace, we are free to enjoy the color and brightness of these things because their originons have no power over us. Of course, I never though of erecting as a sumbol of Christ's birth. It's just a tree (artificial) lit up to me.

I look at them kind of as Jeremiah quotes God:

Do not fear them;
they can do no harm
nor can they do any good.

Larry E.

jeleasure said...

Thanks Russ,
The reference you made from I Corinthians 8 is an effective one. Not apples-to-apples but did indeed create problems for those who were new in Christ. The legalism of the Law was still lingering in that day. So, not surprising that there was that struggle. Jews always learning to be careful to not approach the line of reproach. To follow up on I Corinthians 8...
"Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. (I Corinthians 10:31)

jeleasure said...

Hi Larry,
That is correct. They are just things.
As I was saying, I only blog on these issues for understanding. I'm sure there will be people happening along this blog item who have never considered the origin of a Christmas tree. I would rather a person come to my blog and have liberty in Christ to "do all to the Glory of God" (I Cor 10:31) than to struggle the way I did for years.
This very item, which so many times becomes the center peice of Christmas was preventing me from enjoying the season. So, that is not my objective from here.
I used to be appauled at how many times I had heared a competitive statement for how many Christmas trees a family had in their home.

jeleasure said...

Thanks Hun.
As you are aware, Christmas for us is a time of reflection as we begin to prepare our hearts for Resurrection Day. Without the birth, there could not have been a resurrection. And so, I say thank you to our God for taking that moment in time to come to us and struggle as we struggle so that He may give Himself as a sacrafice. Not just a sacrafice, but one who sympathizes with us and has defeated the error of the flesh. (As you know, this last statement can take a turn if I just say what Hebrews says concerning the perfection of the flesh through suffering).
Though it is difficult to make unwelcome statements, it is only for the sake of understanding. I think I Cor. 10:31 covers us in all spiritual concerns relating to our idiosyncrocies and how we worship Christ.

satire and theology said...

Thanks, Jim.

Yes, there are all kinds of things (hypothetically even foods and trees) which may at times have benefits for those in Christ, which come from non-Christian, and sometimes pagan sources. Some of these can be used for the glory of God by Christians.

nutuba said...

Hi Jim,

This was an informative and interesting post! Yeah, our Christmas tree is just a dead tree, but it and all the other decorations are visual reminders for my family that we're celebrating the birth of Jesus. Actually, we like leaving the tree up as long as possible ... we should celebrate Christmas every day in our hearts, thankful to the undeserved gift that God has given us. We almost always have the tree up until mid-January and one year when the tree stayed green we actually hit February. That's partly because we really enjoy Christmas and partly because we tend to procrastinate. :-)

And when we take the tree down, it merely gets pitched into the woods so that birds can use it for a home.

I'm really enjoying getting to know this community on blogspot! This is a friendly, loving group of folks.

Jim, I hope you and your wife have a wonderful Christmas!

Cheers and Regards,
Joel

jeleasure said...

Hi Joel,
Yes, it is the reason for the season we celebrate. And that reason is the "undeserved gift" (your words on my blog) with emphasis on 'gift'. That is why we should celebrate the birth of Christ. Our gift giving should be, not as the "Wise Men" gave gifts, which I hear so commonly. But, our gift giving should reflect that God gave us a gift.

Christ said to partake of communion in remembering Him. I see nothing in scripture that says, we shall not celebrate the birth of our messiah, nor do I see (as some legalistic folks declare) anything in scripture that says we shall and can celebrate the birth of Christ. So, again, I Corinthians 10:31. Do it to the glory of God!

I know I can speak for those of us in this network of bloggers, you are a delight to have.

Gigi said...

Wishing you and Vicki a most blessed Christmas...may 2009 be a year of happiness, health and much love for the both of you.

jeleasure said...

Thank you Gigi.
At the start of writing this note, I had thought to be careful for the words I use. Then, I considered what Patty Hickman wrote in her blog concerning loss.
With that being said, It is Vicki's and my desire that you enjoyed your day with your son on this day at which we celebrate our redeemer's birth. You are doing wonderful. Experience new experiences. That is Patty's advice from her own loss.
Jim

the_thinking_frog said...

Greetings Jim,

I trust that you and your family had a great time celebrating the fact of God becoming human and living among us.

Not only do I struggle with the "Christmas Tree" (I appreciate your sharing your extensive research with us!), but I question the reasoning that God demonstrated in not giving the church any holy days (holidays) to celebrate. Why does the Bible not encourage us to celebrate either Easter or Christmas? Are we to be so enamored with Christ that these special occasions are not needed? Was God concerned that these may become commercialized to the point that God is just a sideward glance in the midst of our activities?

Or are we to so celebrate the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ on a weekly basis that we overflow with worship each of the times we as the Body of Christ gather? You have introduced some excellent food for thought!

I wish you the best of God's blessings in 2009!

Joyfully Serving,

Kermit

jeleasure said...

Hi Kermit,

"Are we to be so enamored with Christ that these special occasions are not needed?"

Could be, Kermit.
First, I would like to complement you on how surprising it is to find someone willing to reflect honestly on scripture. I appreciate your maturity.
The idea of God wanting us to be totally consumed with our righteousness in Christ is not at all far fetched or even a fine line. I think you are exactly right on the money with this logic. In fact, I only need to be honest with myself as to how little I do reflect on Christ when it is not Christmas or Easter. I have to wonder, has the commercialism of these two holidays caused us to become callous?
Thanks Kermit
Jim

Tamela's Place said...

Hello Jim,

I am so thankful that things are starting to slow down some so that i can read some of my favorite once again.

I appreciate your convictions on this.

We celebrate Christmas and do put up a tree. I take great pleasure in taking what was once born out sin and turning it around to be used for the glory of God. After all isn't that what the Lord has done with us?

Blessings to you and Vicki :)

jeleasure said...

Hi T.
That is a good point. One of the views I hold on the tree is, evergreens appear to not suffer a dormant state. Not appearing to suffer a dormant state would be the appearance of life among the seemingly dead.
Spiritually speaking, if one is not a 'born again' than that person is spiritually dead. So, there is a kind of correlation in what you have said here,

"I take great pleasure in taking what was once born out sin and turning it around to be used for the glory of God. After all isn't that what the Lord has done with us?
"


Thank you for braving a comment on this. You did it so well. No offense intended, no offense taken.
Looking forward to a new year.
Jim

Vicki said...

Happy New Year, My Darling,
I am looking forward to the days that the Lord may give to us to love one another and those around us in 2009.
We've had a lovely day today. Even doing chores, like strengthening the fence, is a joy and a blessing when doing the work together.
I love you and I'm proud of your work ethic and Bible study.
Your wife.

Great Googly Moogly! said...

Hey Jim,

'Tis the season...that never ends with things to do!! :-)

I'm finally getting back into the "routine" of life and trying to catch up on my "blogging". I recently discovered I had a "facebook" account, so I've tried to figure that thing out as I've had time.

Anyway, I hope you and Vicki had a wonderful Christmas celebration and are geared up for another year of ministry. You both (along with the contributors here) are very encouraging to me, personally, and to the Body at large with your dedication to each other and our wonderful Savior. While there may be certain doctrinal issues and nuances of understanding the faith that we may not share (as is characteristic of all of God's Children at some point or another as we each, individually, grow in our understanding), you and your wife and all who contribute here are a source of God's grace to me.

Thanks for your ministry and have a blessed New Year!

GGM (Jason)

preacherman said...

I want you to know that you and your family are always in my thoughts and prayers. Keep up the great work you do with your blog.
God bless.
Preacherman