Holiday Tree Versus Christmas Tree

22 12 2011

Over and over again, I hear, “It’s not a HOLIDAY tree, it is a CHRISTmas tree.” Where is there a Christmas tree in the Bible? If you have a tree up, you’ve already bought into a secular Christmas. If you buy presents for those who have no need of even one more gift, you’ve bought into a secular Christmas. If you bought a magnet that said, “Keep Christ in Christmas”, you’ve bought into a secular Christmas. I always find “what would Jesus think” a good rule. I often imagine Christ shaking his head when he hears such things, saying, “They do not know me.” I doubt He would even want to have a day of His own where we celebrate His birthday. When I read the Gospels, what I take from them is that we are to be walking the path of Christ every day, not just one day a year. We are to model His example of feeding and clothing the poor, ministering to the sick, being compassionate, being at peace, not making war, forgiving others, etc. If you think writing a check or buying a gift for someone less fortunate meets your obligation for making Christmas about Christ, you would be wrong. Christ would never phone it in. If you are yelling about putting “Christ” in Christmas, how are you spending the rest of the days of the year? Are you focused on things about yourself instead of others?

If only it were this easy to just put a magnet on your car and be done with any other obligations.

Is it wrong to participate in Christmas then if you participate in both the secular and Christian aspects of it? No. Just stop being a hypocrite about it.  While decorating evergreen trees was popular in the 15th century, Christmas trees did not start catching on until the 19th century with the first US trees occurring anywhere from 1777 to 1816 depending on which claim you believe had the “first” tree in America.  The custom is only a few hundred years old.  Christ died 2011 years ago.  Historians will tell you based on the star in the night’s sky, the Star of Bethlehem, Christ was actually born sometime in June.  Does it matter that Christians decided on a date close to Pagan holidays such as Winter Solstice to celebrate Christ’s birth so they could be converted?  No, it does not.  Because Christ would not care.  He would care more about how you are living your life based on his life.  When you are focused on what people call the name of a tree that does not matter, that is part of a secular Christmas, you’ve missed His message.

If you truly want to keep the Christ in Christmas, perhaps this is a better road map for spending your Christmas season instead of arguing about a name of a tree:

1. Take time to be alone and ponder your relationship with Christ, not only at Christmas, but the relationship you have every day.

2. Read the story of Jesus’ birth and note how people responded, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, Simeon and Anna. Remember that every other day of the year as well.

3. Praise God at Christmas and join others in celebrations of music and praise. Continue this tradition every week of the rest of the year.

4. Help those in need every day. Follow the example of Jesus whose heart was filled with compassion for those who were suffering.

5. Keep your “to do” list as short as possible. Limit your social obligations so there is time for reflection.

6. Use cash when you buy gifts to avoid holiday debt. Invite your relatives to support a charity instead of giving you or your family a gift.

7. Tell others about our Savior.

8. Remember Christ’s church (not a particular religion) around the world. Some are enduring great hardships.

9. Live like Christ every day. Be compassionate, forgiving (especially in mall parking lots, SCHOOL ZONES, harassed sales staff, other people being rude and un-Christ-like). Be sensitive to the people in your own life.

10. Be joyful.


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7 responses

22 12 2011
JulieAloha

I have to agree that the true focus of Christmas has been lost beneath a camouflage of gifts and decoration, commercialism and hype. I’ve even wondered at using the cross as an outward sign of my inward faith; if I were Christ, that’s the last thing I’d like to see approaching me around millions of Christians’ necks. Would that we could keep the spirit of hope, peace and mercy alive all year long and in every aspect of our lives as Christ certainly intended. So, I don’t have a tree and I don’t decorate the house, but I do give gifts; gifts which I purchase all year round whenever the perfect thing for that special person presents itself. There have even been times when I didn’t have a gift for someone because I wouldn’t compromise on a “it’s the thought that counts” gift; I’ve received too many of those unwelcome things in time.

I’ll continue to keep Christmas where it belongs, in my heart, my words and my actions, and I hope those who look upon me will see Christ in me no matter the season.

22 12 2011
PBMom

Beautifully said. You should write your own blog about this. There is nothing wrong with buying gifts, especially as thank-yous to others. That is exactly what we do. We buy gifts for each other, too, but have a limit: One gift for the child from each (less than $50); gifts that total no more than $50 to Jeff or myself. The dog gets a tennis ball; she’s easy. But I KNOW this is the secular part of Christmas and that is totally okay. It’s okay to have fun. But some people think that if you attack the Christmas tree, you attack the presents, you are attacking Christ. Couldn’t be farther from the truth. It’s okay to participate in the secular part of Christmas: The tree, the gifts, the family food, the traditions there AND particular in the Christian part of Christmas: Going to church, giving to the food bank, etc. BUT some people think that giving to a charity once a year by writing a check is all they need to do to help. It’s the people who are volunteering their time, talent and treasures. Let’s say, though, they can’t afford to give money. Well, there is time and talent. And there are opportunities to do that all the time that just takes some of your time. Time is valuable for people for giving time to others is a sacrifice. Or maybe you are down on organized religions, so some way on this day you find time to thank Christ and God for all that you have and ask for the tools to continue to do his work so “Thy Will Be Done” can be carried through. Seeing Christ in others every day, including the homeless man on the street. Christ said he would return and what better way for him to return than a person who is begging on the street, a person who is mostly scorned by drivers who judge them as people on drugs, hustlers, etc. I don’t necessarily give them money, but this one man on one corner I encounter on the way to Patrick’s school, I make a paper bag of lunch that has a PB&J sandwich, a piece of fruit and a bottled water. If he throws it out, he throws it out, but I don’t turn him away. I know everyone cannot give to every cause, too. So many causes out there. We do what we can, the best we can, and just hope that is enough.

23 12 2011
Angel

I am not actually a Christian (there were a few things in reading the bible – which I have done – that I just couldn’t get behind, but general ideas of Jesus I do agree with) I am however a pagan.

I celebrate Christmas day to fall into line with with the holiday, and to be with others (being a solitary witch makes life a little lonely when you want to celebrate) but for me I am celebrate the end of the long times of the year, that days are getting longer, spring is not too far around, and life is re-emerging. I celebrated that last year, I wished all and sundry a Blessed Solstice.

My belief system does have very similar ethos’s to Christianity though, but it holds me to keeping them in mind and practice everyday, solstices just get extra things you can do to have a good progression or times like beltane are wonderful for marriages or engagements.

For me the e ethos’s that I follow are simple;

Do good because it is there to be done.
Help others
The only way to truly value what you have is to give to another more deserving
Hold a civil tongue (yes, on buses I sometimes struggle with this one – one reason I listen to ipods – i get oblivious to conversations that way!)
Be patient and polite
Look after those around me, without judging them for whatever situation emotional or physical.
and to remember the threefold law of return – the highest ‘law’ of being pagan – what you put out into the universe, comes back to you three times three (either three times the strength, or three times over)

I have to say since I began following those ideas and considerations I have been happier as a person. As for the insanity I see at Christmas time (buying enough food to feed five families not one, thinking of the self with regards to presents, yeah I hunker down and think ouch.

I actually am not looking forward to the gifts, that isn’t what I am into – I love giving them though. What I am looking forward to is heading over to my boyfriend John’s eating the food, bringing out the games and LAUGHING and teasing and hugging EVERYONE. I did enjoy this year, starting early, and sending everyone I could Christmas cards. They have really lit up my year (and really how much does it cost to send one of those?

23 12 2011
PBMom

Love this. I think those rules are good things for everyone to do every day. Let me ask you something: Is using the term Pagan correct or is there a better way to categorize the group. I know within that group there are Wiccans. Pagans are something Christians refer to people who are not Christian as a whole, so perhaps it is vulgar? I want to make sure I am embracing all belief systems so I don’t want to use the wrong terminology. Thanks for your help in this.

23 12 2011
Angel

Pagan isn’t offensive to me, for me and I think most people who follow older or alternative earth worshipping practices it is a way of making a conglomeration of practices. A shorthand if you will. Given the sheer amount of witchcraft practices you need a banner term. It’s much like the word Christian is a banner term for Catholic, Protestant, and then from that you break down into a million and one different denominations. The word Pagan actually means country dweller or rustic. The unfortunate side of things is that it was used and still can be by Christians as a pejorative against those with polytheists.

I am a solitary eclectic witch, which means I practice witchcraft and dip in and out of various traditions of witchcraft for various reasons, but there is a man locally who is affectionately called the wizard man (seriously he looks like Gandolf if he was colourised in robes of red and gold and purples) who practices a Druidic tradition of beliefs, even within witchcraft there are different traditions, there are Celtic traditions and there are European traditions for each country. Then you have people who follow Native American beliefs. Not to mention a group of pagans who follow a form of Mother Goddess worship which relies solely on the archaeological record of a certain group for their practices.

Then you have Wicca which is a highly organised form of witchcraft which has heirachy. Then there are covens who don’t follow Wicca but follow witchcraft – yes life is complex there. I think you get why I use the term pagan, there is so very many different ways of follow old earth mother goddess beliefs that we even call it pagan as a form of crude shorthand.

I was actually brought up by mum who was a Sunday school teacher to read about ALL religions to have understanding and compassion. She refused to baptize me saying that if I were to make that commitment to god, I would do it with full understanding of what it meant. When I asked to be baptized she told me to read the Bible cover to cover, ask all questions and if I was happy enough to do then I would go ahead. by the time I was finished I had misgivings (mostly old testament, but some new testament) that I had to begin looking at me as to why and work out from there. I would up with Witchcraft because it was something that I didn’t argue with. Doesn’t mean it is an easy road by any means, I wouldn’t want one that was.

To be honest considering the sheer array of polytheistic beliefs out there, pagan is as I have said shorthand to me. But, like with all things, you are bound to offend SOMEONE irrespective of intent or what word you use. People are so darned touchy!

24 12 2011
JulieAloha

I had to look it up – “Paganism (from Latin paganus, meaning “country dweller”, “rustic”) is a blanket term, typically used to refer to non-Abrahamic, indigenous polytheistic religious” – Wikipedia. Evidently “pagan” is to Christianity as “gentile” is to Judaism. Christians (or some calling themselves so) do tend use the term pejoratively, but the simple definition really describes a set of beliefs outside the beliefs of Christianity.

As a Christian myself, I feel I am directed by my faith to be all inclusive of others’ beliefs – the first gift we were given after life itself was choice. It’s a difficult concept for many who profess religious faith because so many religions hold to the “us” against “them” standard. I like to think of humanity as we are all “us;” I think so many people have a hard time with that because that kind of makes all of “us” responsible for and to people who do and think things we don’t like – I suppose that’s where forgiveness and mercy come in. 😉

Thanks for the great topic, Hilda!

29 12 2011
Angel

Here is the thing, someone can use any word pejoratively. If it isn’t received that way however, it takesa heck of a lot of the zing out of the zinger!

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