Monday, December 03, 2012

Christmas decorating is biblical (kind of)

If you have been wondering whether or how all the Christmas decorating you have been doing or are planning to do this month aligns with Scripture, just consider this passage, one of the lectionary texts for Sunday:

Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem,
and put on for ever the beauty of the glory from God.
Put on the robe of the righteousness that comes from God;
put on your head the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting;
for God will show your splendour everywhere under heaven.
For God will give you evermore the name,
‘Righteous Peace, Godly Glory’.

The woods and every fragrant tree
have shaded Israel at God’s command.
For God will lead Israel with joy,
in the light of his glory,
with the mercy and righteousness that come from him. 

So when you're hanging those ornaments or weaving your wreath, sing this little song of Baruch. It'll keep the reason in the season while decorating the season for a reason. 


  1. Jeremiah Chapter 10

    1 Heare ye the word which the Lord speaketh vnto you, O house of Israel.

    2 Thus sayeth the Lord, Learne not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signes of heauen, for the heathen are dismayed at them.

    3 For the customes of the people are vaine: for one cutteth a tree out of the forrest (the worke of the handes of the workeman) with the axe.

    4 They decke it with siluer and with golde, they fasten it with nayles, and with hammers that it mooue not.

    5 They are vpright as the palme tree, but speake not: they must needes bee borne, because they cannot goe: be not afraid of them, for they cannot doe euil, neither also is it in them to doe good.

  2. Very good, Mr. (or Ms.?) Kittyaloneandi! This brought a much-needed smile to my face. I even looked up the passage just to make sure it was really there.

    For me, the pinnacle of irony is that we are cutting down trees. What about global warming? If things don't change, our hearts will fail at the roaring of the waves, at least in Miami.

    The symbol of Christmas should be, and I'm sure St Francis would agree, the creche. The Xmas tree, the evergreen, is a pagan symbol of hope for new life during winter.

    1. Kathy,

      Please see my note to Pastor Clint.

      However if you want to talk about symbols, how about the Christmas tree as a symbol for the Tree of Jesse?

      One of the wonderful things about Christianity is its ability to acculturate folk customs and imbue them with a certain grace. Like the Christmas tree the traditions around Krampus and Saint Nicholas can enrichen our seasons. Saint Nicholas as the patron of children and virgins arrives at the time of late autumn revels in time to rescue children from Krampus. God’s grace steps in. Nicholas may come as a stern father, with questions about a child’s behavior, or their progress in memorizing the catechism, but rather than handing over even the worst children to Krampus, Schmutzli, or Père Fouettard (in France) he is inclined to give them a small sack of oranges or apples and nuts, gingerbread and chocolate coins with stern encouragement to do better next year. Krampus will not be dragging you off to hell today, but memorize the Lord’s Prayer by next year or…

      If you want to discuss global warming be prepared to discuss things dealing with facts rather than Truth.

      One of the facts is that farming of trees does more for carbon sequestration than an old growth forest.

      The problem with the Christmas tree is the cöopting of this ever so Lutheran tradition by the godless Capitalist system as a symbol of profit rather then a prophetic symbol.

  3. Kitty, that's a description of how graven images were made in the ancient world. Nobody hung Christmas trees. They carved idols. A better translation of verse 5 reads, "Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field,
    and they cannot speak;
    they have to be carried,
    for they cannot walk.
    Do not be afraid of them,
    for they cannot do evil,
    nor is it in them to do good."

    1. I'm sorry that you couldn't hear the irony in my quoting. I thought your point was obvious in the parenthetical in the third verse.

      As far as translations go I do actually prefer the 1611 version of the KJV, or the Coverdale, or the Jerusalem, but not the New Jerusalem. I just wish my computer had long a long s key.

  4. You're right, I didn't hear the irony. My bad.

  5. Since Advent is a season of preparation with repentance, reflection and self-examination is valuable to me, and becoming moreso as the years roll by. Perhaps more important than the actions of decorating per se are my motivations and thoughts while decorating and the purpose of my decorating. Am I trying to impress others, keep up with the neighbors/competitors or mindlessly doing decorating out of habit or concerned what others will think of me? Is the Old Adam in me coming forth, or Christ the Servant? Might some of my time be better spent in caring for others/praying/meditating on the gift of God in my life? Decorating is not bad, and the visual is meaningful, yet I find it good to be mindful of what is going on in myself as I prepare for the gift of God in my life, reflecting on the best use of the gift of time. In the past I would over schedule and do too much during the Season, in a sense of "ought", often ending up drained, missing much of the joy and blessing in God's grace and gifts. What good was that? Not much that I can see. Doing less decorating and doing that mindfully, thankfully, for me works better. Sometimes I feel my time is better spent enjoying and appreciating the decorating of others and that in our churches and public spaces, concentrating my thoughts on living a life open to service, listening to the needs of those who are hurting, and being thankful for God in my life each day.

  6. I agree with "Mysteriously Blessed," and also try to do what she (he?) says. I believe this is the true spirit of our Faith -- both Lutheran and Catholic.

  7. It probably depends to a degree on your stage in life also. Our household finds great joy in simple decorating activities, and doing them together, and these tangible actions are places where we open up conversation around faith and Christ with our children.

    1. Preparing the home for Christmas was an important part of our family advent tradition. It has changed now that my children have grown and left home. Perhaps with grandchildren a new tradition will grow.

    2. In my home there is little of what one might preparing for Christmas if by that you mean decorating. We have an Advent wreath on the front table, but we do not put out Christmas decorations until Christmas Eve when we put up the tree. (Actually the tree may go up a day or two earlier, but we try to get it as close to Christmas as possible.

      We did put out shoes and started to set up the nativity scene in expectation of Saint Nicholas's arrival this morning, but at this time the manger is bare. The figures will be put in when the tree goes up.

      Come Christmas Eve the Advent wreath will be decorated and hung on the door for the Christmas season, and on January sixth all of our Christmas, Saint Stephen, Holy Innocents, Saint John, and Circumcision decorations will be taken down.

      The only thing that will remain is the creche, minus the shepherds but with the Magi.

      We've found this to be a wonderful way to teach the traditions and observances of the Church.