It’s that ghastly time of year again - which I have been putting out of my mind for as long as possible, all the while knowing that it was inevitably creeping up on me. A friend wrote me an e-mail recently and mentioned the Christmas tree in the context of the Tree in the Garden of Eden and it got me thinking.
But the Tree of Knowledge was beautiful. It was full of tasty, delectable fruit (a rabbinical tradition says that the tree was a fig tree, from whose leaves Adam and Eve later made themselves aprons) and provided a short cut to wisdom if man would stretch out his hand to take it. What could be more reasonable and sensible than to do so? Wasn’t God being
mean to deprive man of such a wonderful source of provision?
The choice that Adam and Eve had before them was the choice between their reliance on Christ, the Tree of Life, (the God who walked in the garden in the cool of the day; the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world) to provide for their needs, for light, love, food, wisdom, right-standing with God - and the choice for self-reliance, which, instead of resulting in freedom, caused enslavement to the Tempter.
Eating from the Tree of Knowledge was man's deciding what was right for himself – to do good or evil, instead of simply and humbly obeying the word that God had spoken and remaining in peace, and pace, with his Maker.
It was common practice from the earliest days of disobedience to the word of God for pagans to cut down a tree, which to them symbolized the tree of life, (but was actually the opposite) decorate it, set it up and worship it, in rites of abandoned sexual immorality. They called it an Asherah pole and it symbolized male sexuality. Men and women would lie with priestesses and priests of the pagan cults of Canaan in order to ensure the fertility of the land. The result was widespread practice of child sacrifice.
Ever since that time, man has chosen his own way above the clear word of God. For example, God gave a calendar for the year to his people, in which seven feasts prophetically pointed towards the first and second coming of the Anointed One. The tribes of Israel who were cut off from Judah in the days of King Rehoboam ended up under the rule of King Jeroboam, (1 Kings 12:28-32) who …‘said in his heart,
“Now the kingdom will return to the house of David. If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will return to their lord, even to Rehoboam king of Judah; and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.” So the king consulted, and made two golden calves, and he said to them, ‘It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt.” He set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. Now this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan. And he made houses on high places, and made priests from among all the people who were not of the sons of Levi. Jeroboam instituted a feast in the eighth month on the fifteenth day of the month, like the feast which is in Judah, and he went up to the altar; thus he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves which he had made. And he stationed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made. Then he went up to the altar which he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised in his own heart; and he instituted a feast for the sons of Israel and went up to the altar to burn incense. Even the Jews of Judah did not keep the feasts as they should have done. 2 Chronicles 30:26 says of the Passover feast kept in the days of King Hezekiah that … ‘there was nothing like this in Jerusalem since the days of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel.’ So the Passover had not been kept as it should have been since Solomon’s days. In 2 Kings 23:22 it says that such a Passover had not been celebrated from the days of the judges who judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel and of the kings of Judah.’ Even Hezekiah had not kept the Passover as King Josiah did.
As followers of the Way it is clear to us that the Anointed One, the Messiah Yeshua fulfilled the first four spring feasts (Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits and Pentecost) at His first coming and that He will, at His second, fulfil the last three; Trumpets, Atonement and Tabernacles. In Him, we are made righteous, so now, it isn’t the keeping or the not keeping the feasts which is important, but our being ‘in Him’, who perfectly kept and is the fulfilment of the Law.
For the first three hundred years after the church was born, no-one paid any attention to the keeping of birthdays of any kind. They were considered to be pagan and avoided by followers of the Way.
Someone has said that the church first became an institution in Rome. Certainly by AD 336, in an attempt to maintain power over what she considered to be her people, just as Jeroboam had nearly 1000 years before, this increasingly Babylonian travesty of a church had instituted a new feast, the celebration of the birth of Christ. This was to syncretise the pagan cult of Mithras, the Roman sun god, borrowed from Zoroastrianism, into the arms of the Roman church. Mithras, who was worshiped under other names like Tammuz, Osiris, Baal, Apollo and Baldur in other cultures in Asia and Europe, in keeping with the fertility cult, had his birthday at the time of the winter solstice, December 25th. It seemed expedient to the Roman church to bring all pagans under her skirts by amalgamating the sun god’s birth and that of the Son of God. The feast was celebrated with the decorating of palm trees in the Mediterranean and eventually, pine trees in Northern Europe.
By the 16th Century, Germany was celebrating Christmas by the decorating of fir trees and by the 19th, Britain was doing the same, after the Christmas tree was introduced by Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s German husband. Mithras Trees spread all over the world after that, thanks to the British Empire.
Today, Christmas is still kept by the decorating of a fir tree. Presents are laid under it, garlands, lights and goodies hung from its branches; all because we insist on doing things our way. Children are told that it they are good, Santa /satan will bring them good things; if bad, they’ll get the stick - just more indoctrination into the teaching of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Where is the teaching about grace? It’s not about how good we are or how bad; all of that is useless to bring us to God.
The Tree of Life is Yeshua Himself – and if we choose Him, we need no other tree. Will we worship Him who is invisible to everyone but those who have faith, rather than taking our eyes off Him and gazing at the perishable tree which is good for physical, temporal food, a delight to the eyes and desirable to make wise? It’s only kept for two weeks, after all. After all the materialistic self-indulgence is over, it’s thrown away. Why do we set such store by rubbish? And for those who buy an artificial tree and put it away for the following year, the same principle applies; it’s still not the Tree of Life.