Whoa. I just scrolled down through this page and realized I’ve written almost nothing of theological significance in the last several weeks. Zoinks. It’s probably one of two things: either I am a hopeless sinner blinded the trivialities of daily life, or I spend every day talking about God’s precious word and his sovereignty in human history, teaching third, fourth, and eighth graders about this beautiful, broken world God will one day redeem, and by the time I get home, I’m all theologied out. Or maybe both.
So… there’s a sizable kerfluffle in the blog world over the issue of whether or not Christians should celebrate a particular holiday with supposedly pagan roots. A holiday whose celebration, detractors claim, sends Christians inevitably down an idolatrous spiral of demon-worship. A holiday whose practices are outlawed by chapter and verse in Jeremiah. Pagan worship! Outright idolatry! Animism!
Well, good heavens, you might say! What is this pernicious, godless event that we’ve thoughtlessly allowed into our homes, welcoming with it the very blackest forms of paganism?
It’s not Halloween. It’s Christmas.
Apparently, Jeremiah 10:2-4 condemns the practice of putting up and decorating Christmas trees. Leaving aside the kinda comical levels of anachronism we’ve got here, let’s not be hasty. Judge for yourself:
Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.
OK. So what we have here is… God telling the people not to put up Christmas trees? Huh. Weird.
Because it seems to me that what’s actually happening is that Jeremiah the prophet is warning Judah that their sin is fixin’ to bring down God’s wrath and judgment, and this passage is part of God’s case against them. It just so happens that last week’s Bible lesson at school was “The Ministry of Jeremiah.” So tell me, third and fourth graders, what was the main sin of Judah that caused God to send judgment on them?
And why is idolatry not only sinful but also stupid? Because, as Isaiah says, idolaters take a log, carve half of it into a statue they bow down to, and throw the other half onto the fire to make their dinner. Because, Jeremiah reminds them, the idols are mute, they’re nothing, they can’t even move from place to place but have to be carried (10:5). Condemnation of Christmas trees? Ummmm… I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that that’s NOT a responsible exegesis of this passage.
There are more legs to their argument (the only birthdays mentioned in the Scriptures are those of pagans whom God struck down so we have no business celebrating Jesus’ birthday, Yule celebrates demonic pagan deities and harkens back to weird druidy times, etc.), and I could pick each one apart, but I just can’t… be bothered. It’s all so silly! Surely there are other things we could focus on, right?
(Incidentally, this is a great example of what one blog I recently read called “The Arithmetic Method” of theology. Thought-provoking article. Check it out.)
So, here are a couple things you could focus on if you felt like it:
1. Listen up, Church. (I’m about to get fired up here, so watch out!) Stop letting Joel and Victoria Osteen off the hook. Stop justifying their heresy. Stop nurturing the notion that they’re merely addled — like that sweet but dim-witted cousin everybody loves while being slightly embarassed about — and get it in your head that they are preaching a different Gospel. Go read Galatians 1:8. (Go ahead, I’ll wait…) The Osteens are inviting a curse on themselves. Stay far, far away from their “ministry” and, if you love your brothers and sisters in Christ, warn them about it too.
2. Open iTunes (or the legal online music acquisition apparatus of your choice) and download the following albums immediately: Shai Linne’s Storiez, Flame’s Our World Redeemed, and LeCrae’s Rebel. Then revel and rejoice in the work God is doing through these warriors of the faith and their bold Gospel preaching.