Searching for the Truth

Pagan Symbolism

My brother began to point out to me things that concerned him about the Catholic Church. He spoke to me at length about how Catholic teaching and the Holy Scripture appeared to disagree in places. It was the beginning of the new year, and he asked me if during December my parish had Christmas trees in the church and on the altar. Naturally, we did. We had a number of trees, all decked out in shiny ornaments as well as cute decorations that the kids in the catechism classes had made. I confirmed this for him, and he in turn asked me to pick up my Bible and research Jeremiah 10.

“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.”

– Jeremiah 10:2-4

So what is this? It appeared, at least on the surface, that Jeremiah was warning us that we should not behave like the “heathen” and cut down a tree, fix it to the floor, and adorn it in silver and gold decorations. That certainly sounded like the description of a Christmas tree to me, and Jeremiah was clearly warning us not to behave like the pagans and engage in “tree worship”. Historians will tell you that often pagans of the time would cut down a tree, carve it into a statue, fasten it to a place in their home, then adorn the statue with items made of precious metals. There is a fair consensus among historians that the modern Christmas tree is pagan in origin.

It seems as though my church was skirting the Holy Scripture and possibly displaying pagan symbolism on the altar that the Catholic Church supposedly dedicated to Christ. Still, I had my doubts.

Convinced that I was doing nothing wrong, and certainly nothing against the Holy Scripture in putting up a Christmas tree in my home for the holiday, I told my brother that when I put up a tree in my house that December, I wasn’t worshipping a tree, I was simply decorating my house in the tradition of the season. It meant absolultey nothing. Then my brother led me to a question that I found difficult to answer:

“If Jeremiah were to visit your house, what do you think he would have to say about your tree?”

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