Because I Like It

My pastor talked a bit tonight about why he doesn’t celebrate Christmas and why he doesn’t put up a Christmas tree.  Basically, he says that he esteems all days the same, so Jesus is just as much Lord today as he is on December 25 and he should be honored and celebrated every day, not just one day out of the year.  Good and well.  The tree thing has nothing to do with pagan tree worship, as some might assume, but rather that he can’t see how it brings glory to God.  He interacts with Chassidic Jews regularly and when they ask him why Christians put up trees at Christmas time he can’t provide them with a good answer.  He can’t see what they have to do with Jesus.

Now I personally don’t like Christmas trees for pragmatic reasons, i.e., they’re a pain in the butt to put up and take down.  If you like real trees as opposed to fake ones (which I’ve always had) then there’s the added problems of dripping sap, falling pine needles, and the possible critter or two that might be hiding somewhere in there.  But if I liked Christmas trees and someone asked me why I, as a Christian, put one up, then I’d simply say, “Because I like it.”  There doesn’t need to be some deep spiritual reason for it; they don’t need to bring glory to Jesus.  Putting up a tree is no different than hanging a painting in your home that you find aesthetically pleasing.  For the same reason that I don’t have to provide some detailed apologetic about why I like gray shirts (and trust me, I have a whole mess of ’em), I don’t have to provide one for why I like Christmas trees; I just do (for the sake of this post).

Perhaps one could argue that Jesus is glorified in the appreciation of something that is a part of his creation; but I wouldn’t be the one to argue it.

B”H

28 thoughts on “Because I Like It

  1. I like the tree and think of it as a physical reminder of generosity; receiving, giving and waiting. I love to see the presents under the tree and gradually build up in numbers till Christmas Day.

    Its exciting to see the boys pick out the presents and distribute them as they find them.

    I like the tree because it symbolises celebration and of its self is celebratory and as A Christian I can impose my own celebratory philosophy and personal meanings to it that others may not.

  2. I dislike Christmas trees for the same reason you do–they’re a pain to put up and take down. But, I do it because my kids like it. If I can do something to make them happy, I usually do it.

  3. Sorry about publishing this here. I have been sitting on an interview I arranged between Professor Charlie Hedrick and Agamemnon Tselikas a respected Greek paleographer on the question of the authenticity of the Mar Saba document. It is now published at my blog http://stephanhuller.blogspot.com/

    Hope you and your readers might want to check it out. Dr. Tselikas will be publishing an article on the same subject for BAR next year referencing the same material.

    Sincerely

    Stephan Huller

  4. I agree with you. We put up a fake tree every year because we like it (well, my wife likes it…I despise getting it down and back into the attic). It’s just a family tradition regardless of its origins. You’re right…everything we do does not require a theological reason for doing it.

  5. Nick,

    This is an interesting comments: There doesn’t need to be some deep spiritual reason for it; they don’t need to bring glory to Jesus in light of the fact that whatever we do, we are to do to the glory of God. “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). How can you say that something you do, as a Christian, has no “spiritual” significance?

  6. Jason: I hear ya. My daughter likes the tree itself more than the process of putting it up and decorating it.

    Bryan: That’s because you’re clearly a wise individual. ;-)

    Matthew: Couldn’t agree more. And that was part of my pastor’s reasoning for not putting up a tree. He said he didn’t want to just do it out of tradition. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but there’s nothing wrong with doing it out of tradition either.

    Jeff: I think you might be pressing that verse a bit too far. Paul’s talking about taking thought for others in what we do so as not to violate their consciences. Certain things have no bearing on such issues. For example, I decided to go with a gray t-shirt and a gray fleece sweatshirt today (surprise, surprise) and yet God is no more glorified in that than had I went with the navy blue hoody. There’s no spiritual significance to my wearing tan Timberland boots one day and white Nike sneakers the next. So on and so forth… So that’s how I, as a Christian, can say that.

    Theophrastus: Had that been the case then it would have been a valid answer. Of course their problem was that they were impatient, forgetful, and taken to worshiping things that aren’t God.

  7. Bryan: Ha! Not likely.

    Jeff: In principle that sounds great. Now could you explain how that works in practice? I’m not opposed to glorifying God in all we do, obviously, but certain things we do simply have no spiritual meaning (like picking gray over blue shirts).

  8. I believe we first need to established that nothing in life is mundane, etc, God is Lord of all…and so that whatever we do , say, and think should be to his glory. Agreed?

  9. Would you agree with Kuyper here “Oh, no single piece of our mental world is to be hermetically sealed off from the rest, and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’

  10. Ok, I’m certainly not saying that how is an easy question, but you can not say, Biblically that something doesn’t not have any spiritual significance…and therefore, I do something, simply because “I like it.” This is not a Christian position.

  11. Here is a scriptural example:

    13Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.”
    14Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.
    15Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”
    16But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.
    James 4

  12. Christmas trees and other traditional decoration in the old German/N. European context do have a certain amount of Christian symbolism behind them that is too far lost from consciousness these days. In the dead of winter, there were these trees that remained green, a symbol of life in the midst of death. The holly is an odd thing that fruits in the winter, with blood-red berries, taken as symbolic of Christ coming. But when that connection is lost, what’s left? Rote tradition, goofy things like covering the house in silly little snowmen and elves and such really have nothing to do with Christmas, but will all the tertiary buildup of seasonal marketing.

    The Christmas tree is something of a northern equivalent to the ancient Holy Land symbolism of the “luminous cave.” That is, the unexpected juxtaposition of the holy in the midst of the profane, just as the various formerly naturally dark caves associated with Biblical history were turned into shrines brilliantly lit by numerous lamps, representing the illumination of Divine intervention that took place in them, so the tree takes on some of that unexpected juxtaposition. But it really only makes sense in a particular context, and in keeping all of that history in mind.

    God can be glorified in anything, if we take the effort to do so. It doesn’t just happen.

  13. @ Jeff I think that if we live a life of thankfulness for God then what ever we do is for his glory. We do many things out of tradition and habit. Some are good. Some perhaps not as good. Take brushing your teeth on a regular basis or even more mundane things such as the necessity for toileting.

    The question of going to one city or another is to warn against boasting what we are going to do. I see a parallel in that Scripture to Paul wanting to go to a certain city but instead God was calling him to go to Macedonia.

    I think that if we live a life dedicated to God; then we don’t need to know why we do every thing; or even ask wisdom as to every thing we do or don’t do…what shirt will I wear; what socks; shoes etc.

    I see instead the Christmas tree a great example of family time; a time of generosity; a time of celebration; a time of having a Sabbath / rest and many more things. I think traditions like this already fall into God’s plans for us.

  14. Craig,

    Thanks for you comments, and I happen to agree with you 100%. Nick’s example of which color to wear is not something I would debate (i.e. which color glorifies God, or doesn’t, or which does more)…the issue is certainly much deeper that what color to where. The principle behind Paul’s statement and James’ statement is that all things are to be done in a context of knowing that our lives are not our own…they are the Lord’s and everything in the earth is the Lord.

    Therefore, “because I Like it” might be a legitimate thing, if understand that whatever you do is done out of a love for God. But you can not hold that position on the hand, and say on the other that something has no spiritual significance. At this point, (IMHO) the “Because I like it” turns into an unhealthy autonomy.

  15. Interestingly, I went into our bookstore today and found this book. You can purchase this found SGCB. I took it home and read the first chapter to my family and talk about the above conversation.

  16. Nick, I’m a non-observer of Christmas. I see no reason scripturally to honour this religous day. The tree thing seems a bit strange to me as well. Just remember if your Evangelical by all means KEEP ‘mass’ in Christmas. Sadly though, most Christians use Christmas observance as the litmus test for true Christianity. Very little tolerance for non-observers these days…………but from the beginning it was not so.

  17. I don’t know guys. It is kind of a slippery slope.

    Let me give you an example:

    Jews eat matzo (unleavened bread) on Passover because it is a commandment (Exodus 12:8, 18; Deuteronomy16:3,8). It is an inseparable ritual of Passover.

    On the other hand, many people eat matzo because they like it. For these people, there is no time limitation on eating matzo, and it can be found in most grocery stores year-round.

    If people put up trees only because they “like it”, then I would expect that Xmas trees would be put up year round. But with very, very few exceptions, they are not — the tree is put up before the holiday (in anticipation of the holiday), admired on the holiday, and discarded after the holiday.

    Let me be a bit facetious by giving some “over the top” arguments: Imagine a Martian who landed in the US during December. What would he report?

    The Earthlings put up their Messiah-Gathering-Trees and annoint (which literally means Christ or Messiah) the trees with gold and silver decorations. The Earthlings also put angelic figurines about the Messiah-Gathering-Tree, symbolically representing the Messiah-Gathering-Tree’s stature (even the angels serve it). The Earthlings sing hymns of praise which they call “carols” and one of the most popular worships the Messiah-Gathering-Tree, “O Tannenbaum.” Popular mythology is taught to children that a holy saint descends from the heavens and, passing through a tunnel of fire called a “chimney”, venerates the Messiah-Gathering-Tree, and places gift offerings underneath it. The saint is decorated in a priestly blood-robe adorned with the fur of lambs (both blood and the lamb are religious symbols to the Earthlings).

    Now to be sure — I am deliberately exaggerating for effect here — I don’t really think that most people worship the tree (although I am amazed at the hymn O Tannenbaum). But I do think the tree is a little more than just people “liking it” — I think it is a fundamental aspect of the holiday ritual for most people — and one that seems completely out of place at any time other than the holiday.

  18. Alright, I’m back. Lots of action in my absence. I’ll just offer a general response:

    For the record, I’m not saying that putting up Christmas trees does not or cannot have spiritual significance or that people cannot have any number of valid reasons for doing it. My point is simply that “liking” something is reason enough. One needn’t offer a detailed defense of why they like Christmas trees if/when asked. One needn’t intentionally put trees up with the express intent to bring glory to Christ. The very act of trimming the tree may indeed bring Christ glory, but this needn’t be a conscious effort on the part of the tree trimmer (God is no more glorified if we put the tree up or don’t).

    Having said that…

    Jeff: I can’t find anything to disagree with in the Kuyper quotation. I’m not advocating intentionally sealing anything off from anything else, I’m simply pointing out that everything we do is not consciously in an effort to glorify Christ (whether it brings him glory or not), hence the different colored shirt example.

    Kevin: Thanks for the trivia. I didn’t know most of that.

    Drew: Duly noted. I have no problem with people who don’t celebrate certain days. I don’t celebrate all kinds of holidays (although I do celebrate all the Christian ones). Some men honor certain days above others and other men treat every day the same. It’s all good.

    Roy: God would have gotten more glory out of you wearing a gray shirt! ;-) And a very Merry Christmas to you sir!

    Theophrastus: No doubt, plenty is wrapped up in it, and everyone’s reasons are different. That’s not my point though. My point is that if I were asked for a reason, my simply liking it would be enough (but I don’t like it and if asked for a reason my real answer would be ‘I do it out of tradition and because the kids like how it looks’ which is a good enough reason too).

    Kevin:

  19. Nick –

    Now I personally don’t like Christmas trees for pragmatic reasons, i.e., they’re a pain in the butt to put up and take down. If you like real trees as opposed to fake ones (which I’ve always had) then there’s the added problems of dripping sap, falling pine needles, and the possible critter or two that might be hiding somewhere in there.

    Even if they are somewhat difficult to set-up, they are beautiful, smell good, and seem very much a part of spirit of celebrating Christmas. I am no traditionalist, I don’t think. But Christmas trees draw me into Christmas. Try reconsidering. :)

  20. Scott: I don’t particularly like the smell of pine trees and there’s such an abundance of them where I love that I’m numb to their beauty. Plus I’ve always had fake trees. My parents preferred to buy one that they could reuse rather than get a new one every year so there’s no nostalgia for me.

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