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I Won't Be Decorating My Tree with Popcorn Strings This Year

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Memories and tradition

Oh, the excitement of decorating the Christmas tree!

If your family is like mine, we had our own little customs that we would perform each year for the decoration. For us as kids, it was popping bowl after bowl of popcorn, then stringing it on thread. The kernels would still be warm as I took a needle in my little hands, and add another piece to my string. Not all of the popcorn ended up wrapped around the tree of course, because a decent share would find a home in my pint-sized belly. When we finished, my six-year-old self was so proud of my accomplishment. The tree was never done until it was adorned with our popcorn strings.

I also remember how exciting it was to learn about a man in a red suit who lived at the North Pole with tireless elves making toys for all the boys and girls throughout the world. He even had flying reindeer and could squeeze down everyone's chimney to leave toys under their trees—trees just like my family's.

It was a fun story. It captured my imagination, just like it has for millions of other young boys and girls. But it was also a fictional story. When we became old enough, we found out it wasn’t real. We were told there was an allegory to it: the man in the red suit is supposed to represent an idea of giving and care.

How and Why We Do What We Do

Everybody’s got “their” subject. The subject they know everything about. When you know the in’s and out’s of a particular subject, you get to know the relationship between how things work and why things work in that field. A guy might know everything there is to know about football, so he understands every rule, why it’s there and when the rule comes into play.

Consider again this story of Christmas above. Christmas is about celebrating Jesus’ birth. And it’s about giving. So we celebrate those things by…decorating a tree? In the spring, the tradition of Easter egg hunts comes to mind. As I had with Santa, I came to realize one day that it had nothing to do with Jesus’ resurrection. Did somebody really once say, “Christ rose from the grave this morning… So let's dye eggs, hide them, tell the kids a bunny did it and then make a game out of finding the colored eggs!” It seems a little odd.

But it's tradition, right? There’s nothing wrong with visiting with family, giving gifts to those you care about, or having traditions that really make no sense. But what about when we mix religion into it? These days, Christmas is no longer a religious holiday to a lot of people; it's a time of good will toward men. If that’s your mindset, you can stop reading now. However, for those who do see Christmas (and Easter) as being a part of worship that Christians take part in, the question is: “Does the how and why of our worship really matter to God?”

What does a bearded man in a red suit, brightly decorated trees, mistletoe, holly and candles have to do with the birth of Jesus Christ? For that matter, where did the date December 25 come from? Because the Bible does not record the date when Jesus was born (and it actually gives strong indication that He could not have been born at that time of year )?

Does it matter that there is little correlation between the how and why we celebrate these holidays? These are crucial questions if we really care about what God thinks.

True worship of God

Worshipping God is the most honorable endeavor any human being can undertake. Some 3,000 years ago, King David of Israel wrote a psalm of praise and instruction for his people. His words included: “Give to the LORD the glory due His name; bring an offering, and come before Him. Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness!” (1 Chronicles 16:29 1 Chronicles 16:29Give to the LORD the glory due to his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
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David gave this instruction because God alone embodies perfect holiness (Psalms 99:5 Psalms 99:5Exalt you the LORD our God, and worship at his footstool; for he is holy.
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, 9; Revelation 15:4 Revelation 15:4Who shall not fear you, O Lord, and glorify your name? for you only are holy: for all nations shall come and worship before you; for your judgments are made manifest.
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). Part of the reason for our existence is to worship Him forever (Psalms 22:27 Psalms 22:27All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before you.
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; 86:9). The Bible reveals no future for people who refuse to honor their Creator. Indeed He says that eventually “all flesh shall come to worship before Me” (Isaiah 66:23 Isaiah 66:23And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, said the LORD.
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Imagine yourself as a patriotic citizen from a particular country. You just went to your closest flag store and bought your country's flag. You want to show the utmost honor to it, but rather than hoist it to the top of your flagpole, you take a lighter to it and burn it. This obviously doesn’t make sense. We know that there are certain ways that we are to respect and honor a flag. Burning a country's flag is only done when somebody wants to dishonor the country whose flag it is (or at the end of the flag's long life in a somber ceremony). There is definitely a how and why a patriotic citizen of a country honors and respects their flag. Burning a flag (the how ) has no correlation to honoring it (the why ). The same is true for how and why we worship God.

Jesus Christ Himself had a comment about this. He says that “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth ” (John 4:23-24 John 4:23-24 23 But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
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, emphasis added). He warns that some will worship God in vain, because their practices are rooted in mankind's traditions and edicts rather than biblical truth (Matthew 15:7-9 Matthew 15:7-9 7 You hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, 8 This people draws near to me with their mouth, and honors me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. 9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
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). He labels such worship unacceptable and hypocritical, saying such people “draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me” (Mark 7:6-9 Mark 7:6-9 6 He answered and said to them, Well has Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. 7 However, in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. 8 For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things you do. 9 And he said to them, Full well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your own tradition.
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What does God think?

What does God say about the customs of Christmas (and Easter)? Does He want us to worship Him however we, or our parents, or our grandparents see fit? Or does the Bible tell us? Does God’s word explain whether God expects His people to worship Him on specific days and at specific times? What can we learn from the example of Jesus Christ, in whose footsteps God expects us to follow? (1 John 2:6 1 John 2:6He that said he stays in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.
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; 1 Corinthians 11:1 1 Corinthians 11:1Be you followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
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In contrast to the popularly celebrated holidays, the Bible informs us of specific days of worship—God's annual “feasts” (Leviticus 23:1-2 Leviticus 23:1-2 1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts.
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)—which are unknown to most people. These holy days are not just traditions of the old nation of Israel, done away by Christ. They are the road map God gave His people that explains how He will save the entire world.

So this year, I won’t be decorating my Christmas tree with popcorn strings. In fact, I won’t even have a Christmas tree at all. Because I know that the how and why matter to my God.

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