Why I’m Skipping the Christmas Tree This Year

Over the past few months, I’ve been browsing through documentaries, articles, videos, and posts related to Christmas. I’ve been trying to process difficult feelings of surprise, anger, and sadness after discovering the meaning behind some of the decorations I’ve used for years.

My closest relatives and friends know that I love to share what I’m learning, even if I haven’t fully organized the new information I’ve obtained. My interests often tend to gravitate toward controversial topics, but sharing with others helps me move through my internal processing journey despite the risks.

Unfortunately, people sometimes perceive my explore-and-share process with a different lens — one in which I seem to be stating, “I’m [better, wiser, etc.] than you,” or, “If you don’t think like me, then you’re [lesser than, bad, etc.].”

Consequently, I decided to type this post for clarification around my recently shared thoughts and feelings around Christmas.

During my new journey in attempting to follow the Messiah better than I have in the past, I am redirecting my life to be more purposeful and intentional about the way I worship the Father.

A friend recently stated on social media, “I’m not supporting Christmas trees or Santa Claus or materialism or any traditional activity done in observance of Christmas. But God has never said there is ever a time when we should not do good or worship Him.”

I can give gifts to others any time of the year. I can donate to charities or work at a homeless shelter any day of the year. In fact, I can worship the Father and His Son any day of the year.

There’s nothing wrong with celebrating the coming of the Messiah as it occurred in Scripture, but I will not be decorating for Christmas or attending Christmas parties this year.

(Creative Commons)

Scripture tells us how our God desires to be worshiped, and it warns us not to worship our God the same way as pagans have worshiped their gods.

There’s an explicit warning found in Deuteronomy 12:29–32, which says:

“You will enter the land
and take it away from the nations
that the Lord your God will destroy ahead of you.
When you force them out and live in their land,
they will be destroyed for you,
but be careful not to be trapped by asking about their gods.
Don’t say, ‘How do these nations worship? I will do the same.’
Don’t worship the Lord your God that way,
because the Lord hates the evil ways they worship their gods.
They even burn their sons and daughters as sacrifices to their gods!
Be sure to do everything I have commanded you.
Do not add anything to it,
and do not take anything away from it.”

Scripture clearly warns us to worship the Father His way instead of the way pagans worship their gods. While most of us are not sacrificing children around December 25th (only our budgets), people are still unknowingly holding onto dishonorable pagan traditions such as the following one (from Jeremiah 10:2) that sounds too close to modern day idolatry for comfort:

“Learn not the way of the nations,
nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens
because the nations are dismayed at them,
for the customs of the peoples are vanity.
A tree from the forest is cut down
and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman.
They decorate it with silver and gold;
they fasten it with hammer and nails
so that it cannot move.
Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field,
and they cannot speak;
they have to be carried,
for they cannot walk.
Do not be afraid of them,
for they cannot do evil,
neither is it in them to do good.”

Some skeptics deny this passage’s application to the Christmas tree, but I think it’s alarmingly similar to what was going on back in Deuteronomy and Jeremiah. If there’s even a small chance, I cannot take the risk of bringing idols into my home.

Before you scroll down to read further, please take a few minutes to watch the following video clips (the rest of the post is below the videos):

Bruce C. Daniels explains the early church’s perspective on Christmas.
Self-identified heathen priest and shaman explains the meaning behind several Christmas traditions.

I will not be decorating with or singing about trees, holly, or Santas this year. I’ve also chosen not to participate in the often stressful, consumer-driven part of this holiday (good news for my nearly empty bank account).

There is nothing inherently wrong with trees or holly or being generous. Evergreen and Christmas songs are beautiful aesthetically. Generosity and quality time spent with our loved ones can be heart-warming. Memories of Christmas from childhood are nostalgic. And of course there is certainly nothing wrong with celebrating our Messiah’s coming!

It is the combination of bringing evergreens into our homes and decorating them with metal and gifts around December 25th specifically that creates a displeasing cocktail of pagan practices.

The scariest part is that many people have no idea! People who follow the Messiah don’t want to worship false gods or displease the Father.

Photo by Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing

I’ve been struggling this month with feeling isolated from Christmas activities. A friend reminded me of the three bold men who refused to worship anything other than the Father (the first of the famous Ten Commandments) despite their king’s threat to throw them into a furnace to die.

Daniel 3:13–18:

Furious, King Nebuchadnezzar ordered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to be brought in. When the men were brought in, Nebuchadnezzar asked, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you don’t respect my gods and refuse to worship the gold statue that I have set up? I’m giving you a second chance — but from now on, when the big band strikes up you must go to your knees and worship the statue I have made. If you don’t worship it, you will be pitched into a roaring furnace, no questions asked. Who is the god who can rescue you from my power?” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar, “Your threat means nothing to us. If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up, O king. But even if he doesn’t, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference, O king. We still wouldn’t serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.

While there is currently no king forcing me to worship false gods, I still want to be as bold in my resistance toward pagan practices as these faithful men. This doesn’t mean I won’t feel sad during this season about missing fellowship and community with many well-meaning, Christ-loving people, some of whom I love dearly.

Among all the changes I’ve recently chosen to make in order to live out my faith more purposefully, the transition out of societal Christmas traditions has been the most difficult.

The most encouraging response I’ve heard so far came from a recent phone conversation with my dad. I was telling him about my decision to begin observing the annual Biblical feast days and the weekly Sabbath (an entirely separate blog post). I was explaining why I now wear tassels on my clothes (Numbers 15:37–41), why I don’t eat pork anymore (Deuteronomy 14:8), and why I’ve started to readjust my life so I can observe Shabbat (Exodus 31:13–16).

I nervously waited for his response, but when he spoke, I felt respected, understood, and loved.

My dad replied, “If this is something that brings you closer to Jesus and helps you feel you are following Him better, then that is great. That’s all that matters — that you are following Him. If that’s what you’re doing, I respect that.”

Cue the teary eyes.

Finally someone understood my heart. All I want to do is follow Yeshua. This new journey — as controversial as it may be — is the way I’ve been personally convicted to do so.

Since I intended for this post to focus on my decision to skip the Christmas tree this year, I will not use this space to talk further about my decision to honor the commandments found in the Torah. However, I am planning to write another post soon where I can attempt to thoroughly explain this.

For now, I will simply clarify that I am living my life differently NOT FOR my salvation, but BECAUSE OF my salvation.

Read that sentence again, please. And again.

Ephesians 2:8–9 states:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

I could unpack much more in the letter to the Ephesians, but I will save that for another post.

I’ll conclude with Joshua 24:15:

“If it seems bad to you to worship Adonai, then choose for yourselves today whom you will serve — whether the gods that your fathers worshipped that were beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will worship Adonai!”
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