Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 22, 1951
NUMBER 41, PAGE 2,15b

Christian Christmas Trees

Vaughn D. Shofner, Lubbock, Texas

The stalwart soldiers of past Christianity gave up the pleasures of a pagan world and held fast the simplicity of the Bible's teaching. Because of this fight against spiritual wickedness in high places, the Lord's church exists today and we have the exalted privilege of being members of it. Honesty and justice revolt at the idea of exchanging this golden heritage for a morsel of material pottage. A more solemn warning is in the fact that the sword of the Lord is unsheathed and ready to smite the nations which in this way overthrow his government. Yet it is a fact, friend, that the heirs of these privileges are turning the world in, carnality is being crowned king, and ere long the pagans will have us.

The gay lights and towering branches of a tree in the Gymnastic-Fellowship-Hall of the meeting house of Christians in Lubbock at Broadway at Avenue T, attracted our attention the other night when by chance we passed that way. More than that, the class rooms of the younger generation in that congregation bristle with trees also. Christ plus "Mass" trees! Ten, fifteen years from now, what do you suppose will be taught in this house of the Lord? Heaven help our blinded hearts to see!

We sent a professional photographer to this building to get a picture of this tree. Maybe we didn't have any need for the picture, but Christian Christmas Trees aren't found in just any building of the Lord's church. And too, we had specific reasons for desiring this picture. It was a failure, friends. The photographer was told that we must obtain permission before taking the picture. We wonder what personal right we mocked when we looked at the thing through the tall, wide windows facing the streets, and through which its gala rays shone! It seemed very public to me. Our wonder was not so great. Only a few days ago we were asked if we had an appointment when we wanted to see one of the preachers there. We're learning that maybe there are some barriers in the Lord's church; and that maybe Paul's words, "ye are all one in Christ Jesus," and our idea that any church is just a part of the entire body of the Lord are wrong.

Is it right to stand for the truth on this subject? Here are some facts about the Christ "Mass" we're adopting. "Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the church, and before the 5th century there was no general consensus of opinion as to when it should come in the calendar, whether on January 6, March 25 or December 25... A passage, almost certainly interpolated, in Hippolytus' commentary on Daniel 4:23, says that Jesus was born on Wednesday, December 25, in the 42nd year of Augustus, but he mentions no feast, and such a feast, indeed would conflict with the then orthodox ideas... Clement of Alexandria mentions several speculations on the date of Christ's birth, and condemns them as superstitious. Christmas customs are an evolution from times that long antedated the Christian period—a descent from seasonal, pagan, religious and national practices, hedged about with legend and tradition...The exact date and year of Christ's birth have never been satisfactorily settled, but when the fathers of the church in A. D. 340 decided upon a date to celebrate the event, they wisely chose the day of winter solstice which was firmly fixed in the minds of the people and which was their most important festival (that is, the worshipping of sun gods with elaborate ceremonies at the season of the winter solstice—V.D.S.)...The transition from paganism to Christianity was gradual... It is generally believed that the first Christmas tree was of German origin dating from Boniface, who replaced the sacrifices to Odin's sacred oak by a fir tree adorned in tribute to the Christ child." (Ency. Brit., Vol. 5, pp. 641, 642, 642A)

But the Bible teaching offers no help to church Christmas trees. The word "mass" is not found in the Bible, nor does the Bible give the exact date of Christ's birth. It was announced by an angel that he should be born of the virgin Mary, and that his name should be Jesus because he should save his people from their sins; and it also tells us that he was born in a manger borrowed from the beasts in the city of Bethlehem. It seems to us that if the Lord had intended that his people should hold December 25th above other days religiously, he would have revealed it to us. Now we can't follow this practice, nor even appear that we are following it, and at the same time believe and preach, "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ." (Col. 2:8) We can't observe such a practice and believe and preach, "Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain," (Gal. 4:10, 11) and "In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." (Matt. 15:9)

Many times we try to consolidate the social and the physical with the spiritual by use of the word "Fellowship." There are times when people should and do fellowship when these times are not to be attached to Christianity as such. But to say that "Fellowship" in the Christian sense is so broad as to take in a Christmas tree in the church's meeting house is the product of faulty reasoning. "Fellowship" means "to be made a partner, to be a partaker in sympathy, suffering and labor;" "joint participation." Therefore we are guilty of wresting the meaning of the term when we adopt something that violates the holy scriptures, name it "Christian Fellowship," and accept it on that basis. Yes, Christians may become partners in any worthwhile work in the social realm without violating the law of the Lord, but when we attach the word "Christian" and make Christ partners with us in something he never brought into the church's sphere, we then have transgressed heaven's principles.

Then there comes the "argument" that such a procedure as the aforementioned Christmas Tree deal in the "Fellowship Hall" is the same as having one in the home. That is not true, and reason and revelation shudder at such a thought. For example: "Dr. Young cautioned that the chief cornerstone of the church would always be Christ, and that Christ should be made the chief cornerstone of every life... Said the structure was a challenge to church members to strive for greater things." This was in connection with the "laying of the cornerstone, which will bear the inscription, 'Church of Christ, A. D., 1950'." We personally defy the right of such materialism, but be that as is, the thing that we emphasize is the fact that the "Cornerstone-Laying Ceremony planned by Church of Christ" declares the chief cornerstone to be Christ. This ceremony was planned for a building, about a building—a building that has Christ as "the chief cornerstone of the church" whose activities are housed within. Therefore according to that ceremony only, the building shelters only the activities of the Lord's church, and Christ being the chief cornerstone gives authoritative guidance. Yet in that building the pagan rites of "Odin's Oak" are guarded by its mortared might. Can Christ be the chief cornerstone of such? If so "the chief cornerstone of the church" is reaching out into the world of paganism. Since when has Christ entered into "fellowship" with Baal? Is this striving for greater things?

The "Dedicatory Services" of this building spoke only of the outstanding opportunities offered by it in converting the world about us. When we dedicate ourselves to higher, nobler things, will not that eliminate pagan pageantry? Let's keep our actions agreeable with our professed intentions!

The world is looking on this building the only way that it has been taught—as a meeting place for its members of the church of Christ; and it looks on every act that takes place in it as an act of religious practice agreeable with our beliefs. Same as the home! What house that shelters a home has been "dedicated" as this building? What home has had such a "cornerstone" placed in its building? We sometimes doubt the wisdom of such a tree in the home under any circumstances, and unless the idea of religious significance is removed, we know it is wrong. But to place the church building on a par with the home is the result of faulty reasoning. Forbid such folly!

The "pulpiteers" of that building will have a hard time convincing the world that we do not believe in the pagan rites and the general significance the rest of the religious world places on Christmas. Preach till you are "black in the face," convert thousands to our forces, but with paganism behind our pulpits and worldliness in our practices, we'll never convert a soul from the world to Christ. The pulpit attached to such actions is robbed of its power to convert the souls of paganism. Though fluent may be the sermon, exact may be the posture of the preacher, but in spite of these qualities the holy influences preacher, but in spite of these qualities the holy influence is dead—killed by paganism. With this love for paganism within, and with our practices dragging at the chariot wheels of shame, the world wags on and looks askance at such hypocrisy; and from their irreverent lives empty echoes cry, "What you do shouts so loudly we cannot hear what you say!"