The Sovereignty of God
God is sovereign. That's the easy part. But the truth of the matter is, He orchestrated a plan from the beginning. (Genesis 1) He set a standard "in the beginning" and then again at "the fall". (Genesis 3) God set in place a system of order and a set of rules that He, Himself follows. If He didn't, what kind of God would He represent? What kind of confusion and chaos would there be without a plan? What and how would we learn? What kind of an example would we see? There would be no precedent, no example to follow, if not for order.
Billy Graham's website:
"The trouble with our modern thinking is that we have a conception that God is a haphazard God with no set rules of life and salvation. Ask the astronomer if God is a haphazard God. He will tell you that every star moves with precision in its celestial path. Ask the scientist if God is a haphazard God. He will tell you that His formulas and equations are fixed, and that to ignore the laws of science would be a fool’s folly. If the laws in the material realm are so fixed and exact, is it reasonable that God could afford to be haphazard in the spiritual realm, where eternal destinies of souls are at stake? Just as God has equations and rules in the material realm, God has equations and rules in the spiritual."
God is the God of order. Anything that happens outside of the system He created, is a miracle. He can do that, too. And a miracle is meant to show God's love and His sovereignty. A miracle is a call to take notice. Further, God and science are not at odds, but rather they align in agreement. And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible. Mark 10:27
We need to understand the biggest part of God's sovereignty is the fact that He gives us free will. He did not have to do that. He could have made puppets on a string, pulling this arm, then this leg, even the turn of a head with a string. But what kind of love would that be? What satisfaction would come from that? If every action was a pull of God's strings, if he forced us to love Him, from where would the honor and worship come? There would be none. It would mean nothing for Him, but even more it would mean nothing for us.
We see the first example of free will by Adam and Eve
when they consciously and deliberately chose to disobey God. (Genesis
3:6) They knew what they were doing as they talked each other into
it. They then experienced guilt and fear and hid from God.
I tire of those that point to God's sovereignty as if there is no choice for us. I tire that he gets the blame for the horrific things that happen on earth. Do you think He chose for that little girl to die in the basement of her home? Do you think He wanted the teen-age daughter to be ripped from her home and molested over and over and over by a warped old man in a drug-induced state. Do you think he orchestrates the starvation across the world? Kids suffering and dying in pain? What kind of God would that be? How could one chose to serve a God like that. I suppose there are times we come to Him through fear, (and God works that out too) but Scripture tells us, we are drawn to Him by His great love and kindness. (Romans 2:4)
Our freedom does not negate God's sovereignty. He knows our choice before we do. In fact, He knew it before we were born. Neither His sovereignty or our free will does away with the other. It is simply a matter of God omnisciently knowing our choice.
He created a system and an order to things that even He follows. Pain and suffering and sin are not things of His will. They are things that are man's choice brought about by the fall of man. At some point we have to admit, there is His perfect will and His allowed will. Allowed, because He loves enough to give us freedom and let us chose for ourselves.
And How Should We Celebrate?
King James Version (KJV)
10 Hear ye the word which the Lord speaketh unto you, O house of Israel:
2 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
3 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.
4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.
5 They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.
In recent years, there have been some Christians convicted by these verses, believing them to be in reference to the Christmas tree. Because of that conviction, these Christians have chosen for themselves to avoid the custom of the Christmas tree. If that is their conviction, then they must follow their hearts on the matter, as instructed in Romans 14: 2-5.
However, of late, we have seen a rise in this belief and we see more and more Christians choosing to not celebrate Christmas with a tree.
For me, it was plain that those concerned about this tradition drew their concerns from these verses in Jeremiah. I had also wondered about this Scripture in the past.
But let’s take a look at these verses. In verse one, we see this is definitely a warning from God to Israel. But certainly, it is also a warning to us. We are warned to not act as the heathen act and Jeremiah immediately refers to those that follow the “signs of heaven”. Clearly this is a reference to astronomy and those that might follow astrological signs seeking to know the future; or find prophecy through the stars. But it is also concerned with unusual phenomena like eclipses, meteorites and comets. Looking for signs that occurred in the sky was a common practice. This is in itself idol worship and throughout Scripture we are warned of such idolatrous practices.
From the Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Bible Commentary, we are told the discussion in this chapter is:
"Ver. 1-25. CONTRAST BETWEEN THE IDOLS AND JEHOVAH. THE PROPHET’S LAMENTATION AND PRAYER."
Clearly, this trusted, old commentary is correct in stating these verses are a concern over idol worship, whether it comes from astrological signs or elsewhere. What we are seeing here is that everything connected with idols is a result of human effort and an inappropriate focus. But it also says we are not to be dismayed over it. We are advised that we shouldn’t follow the heathens in their practice, but neither should we be dismayed.
Next we are told “the customs of the people are vain” and we read an example of what could be applied to our Christmas trees. But again we are instructed: “Be not afraid of them for they cannot do evil.”
We have some saying today that “The modern Christmas tree is a perfect example of what the heathen were doing in the time of Jeremiah.” Really, this couldn’t be further from the truth. These verses were a warning of idol worship in Jeremiah’s day that was without a doubt taking place.
It is also clear from these verses, (which some may be ignoring) that this is nothing more than an intent of the heart. If one is worshipping idols in this way, then absolutely we have instruction in Scripture to avoid that. But if our focus is on our Lord and Savior, which Christmas celebrates and honors, it is my firm belief God would place no restrictions.
But I don’t know anyone who worships their tree, or treats it like a god, today. Do you? Rather the tree is treated as a tool of celebration and a means to remember our King’s birth.
In my opinion, those that are often called “tree huggers” today - strict environmentalists that want to prevent proper forest management, because an unsuitable tree might need to be killed in the process fall more in line with one who worships a tree. Their idea of maintaining forests would be to prevent the cutting of trees for any cause. That is an extreme that would fall more in line with the idea that one might be worshipping a tree, than someone who chooses to decorate a Christmas tree in their home.
Personally, I don’t believe these verses are talking about the “Christmas tree”. They were written in the days of the Old Testament, at least 600 years before anyone had any idea about “Christmas” and the Gift we would be given. These verses are most likely in reference to the idol worship of the Chaldeans, known for their worship of astrology; which is also why the verses of astrology are tied in here along with the verses about the trees. It is a warning to the Jewish people to not to fall into a similar trap through their contact with the heathens, or pagan customs of any of the other nations surrounding Israel.
Much later, the decorating of the tree came from a Druid tradition, which was again based on idol worship and mysticism in regard to the worship of the winter solstice. But the winter solstice, even according to those who celebrate it, is in fact the complete antithesis of our Christmas celebration. I would agree! That Druid tradition is the antithesis of Christmas! And that is NOT what we are celebrating. Still there are those that continue to claim our Christmas tree stems from this tradition.
The root of the Druid belief, I believe, could quite possibly have been from the ungodly worship of the Asherah poles in the Old Testament with their focus on mysticism, magic and idol worship of trees. Those two connections seem more closely related than anything we celebrate as Christians. This pagan worship simply has no basis for how Christians choose to celebrate the birth of their Savior; and that is even true for the secular side of the celebration of Christmas! Rather, it has always been about Jesus. Asherah was a pagan goddess, said to be mother of Baal and all she represented should not even be mentioned. (Exodus 34:12-14) I’m not going there in this post. It is simply a much too far stretch to try to make this type of idol worship apply to a Christmas tree. And in my opinion, it is a shame.
It saddens me that Christians choose to take these verses from Jeremiah and make them into something they are not. The Christmas tree is one of the oldest and well-known traditions of the celebration of Christmas. But it is far from an idol! It has only become a symbol of a holiday we find so dear. I find it a shame that in a world that now tries to minimize Christmas in every way, by keeping it our of our schools and the public arena, we also have a new custom beginning among Christians themselves adding to the Christmas demise.
I believe the worse case scenario this new concern among some well-meaning Christians could lead is Christmas becoming only a workday like any other day of the week. That isn’t such a far-fetched idea. I have known some Christians that have stated that is their desire. More importantly it is obviously the desire of atheists and secular progressives. And for me that is a tragedy. Atheists would win in that case, wouldn’t they?
I find it odd that Christians would put themselves under that kind of bondage regarding a Christmas tradition, without also attempting to adhere to the dietary and cleanliness laws; or the laws regarding the Sabbath and all the laws of the Old Testament. Further, as we consider how lax the church has become about drinking, smoking, cursing - even pastors cursing in church and within their written literature – it actually leaves me shaking my head in wonder.
Again, what seems to be taking place over and over these days is a goal to destroy the celebration of our faith. Atheists and secularists hate the celebration of Christmas because it forces conversations about Jesus. Loosing the tradition of the Christmas tree could end in being just another means that simply aids those that hate our holy day.
Honestly, I can use the same argument that those who condemn the Christmas tree use, by saying the tree to me is symbolic of the tree on which Christ died for me - Acts 5:30 and 1 Peter 2:24. To me that is not nearly the stretch that it is to say my Christmas tree is honoring a pagan tradition, or a pagan goddess. That absolutely isn’t what the Christmas tree is to me and the rest of those who choose to celebrate Christmas in this way.
But again for those convicted by it, you don’t need to put up a tree; but at least please consider those with whom you inadvertently join.
For me, I say CELEBRATE! There is nothing that is too good for our Lord. Play Christmas carols in November! Decorate our homes and yards with joyous and bright decorations. Fill the stores with all things Christmas! In the end, it causes us all to talk about one thing and that is Jesus….whether some like it or not.
1 Corinthians 10: 14