Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Christmas Controversy

This is an excerb from a book called "Conduct for the Crayon Crowd." Its written by Edna Gerstner for children and most of the stories she is talking to her daughter Rachel who is six. I thought maybe it would help me add a little to the discussion that's been going around on blogs.

The Christmas Tree
"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image." Exodus 20:4

Mrs. Gerstner especially loved the Christmas tree. When she was a little girl, she explained, she had to to give up having a tree. One year they had gone into the forest in the jungles of India to cut down a tree for their living room. There were no fir trees, but they had found a small tree with lots of leaves. They had such fun stringing popcorn for garlands. But the Indians did not understand what they were doing. They had said to her father, "What sort of holy tree do you worship?" They did have a sacred tree, the "people tree." They would put food out for the gods under its branches. They had thought that the Christmas tree was an idol, and that Grandmother's delicious fudge was for the gods.
Mother told Rachel about this time in her girlhood as they shelved their potato peeling fo the day to make Christmas cookies.
"How said," said Rachel.
"Yes. But in a way it was good for us children. We learned not to do anything that would cause another child of God to stumble. It was good for our souls to have to give up the Christmas tree. It was especially necessary for us because as well as having neightobrs who were Hindus who worshiped idols, we had neighbors who were Muslims. Muslims did not worship idols. They believed in the Ten Commandments also. Their prophet, Mohammed, took much of his teaching from the Old Testament, and they were especially careful to keep this commandment, the second of th ten. 'Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.' They would not even allow themselves to be photographed because this would be a graven image. We did not photograph them. We respected their customs. But do you think this is what God meant in this commandment, Rachel?"

"I hope not," said Rachel, who had asked for a camera for Christmas.
"The rest of the verse explains what God meant. Let me read it to you while we set the timer for the cookies. In Exodus 20:5 God explains the commandment: 'Thou shalt now bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.' We are not bowing down to our Christmas tree nor to our snapshot albu, so we are allowed to have both of these and not sin. We did not wave our own photographs around to offend our neighbors, so we did not need to give up our cameras in India. But it is very hard to hide a lighted Christmas tree, so we did not practice this custom in order not to harm what the Bible calls the weaker brother."

As for the idol, a craftsman casts it
a goldsmith fashions chains of silver.
He who is too impoverished for such an
offering selects a tree that does not rot;
He seeks out for himself a skillful
craftsman to prepare an idol that will
not totter.

This only touches on the subject of a Christmas tree, but I thought the way it was written was good and it made me think. I do celebrate Christmas and we usually do have a Christmas tree, though this year, because we'll be gone we're not having one. I realize that Christmas is not a celebration of Christ's birth anymore, but I think that at Christmas people are more open to hearing the truth and we need to be willing to share it. Please tell me what you think.


Abby said...

I don't celebrate Christmas, but I think you're right about people being more open to the gospel this time of year. It's kinda hard becuz non-Christians can't understand why I don't celebrate Christmas; not even all my Christian friends understand!

I guess that I should already be so involved in witnessing and sharing the gospel enough so that, I will grab the opportunities whenever they come up.

Nathaniel said...

The first thing I think of when reading the passage at the end of the post is a passage somewhere else, I think in Jeremiah. In that passage, there's a remark about how a pagan takes some wood and cuts it in half. One half he carves and bows down to and says, "Save me; you are my god." The other half he uses to cook his bread.

And no, I don't like snow.