In vain they worship Me

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Political correctness is again turning the United States' Christmas scene on its ear this year. Arguments continue to rage over what to call the "real live" national evergreen tree, now firmly planted in the nation's Capitol on the Ellipse.

What is it: a holiday tree or a Christmas tree?

Those who say "holiday tree" point out that it offends Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists and the American Civil Liberties Union if we use "Christmas," claiming Christ must be taken out of the national "holiday" celebration.

Those holding out for "Christmas tree" cite the long traditions of the United States' supposedly "Christian" beginnings, and that the Christmas tree is in honor of Jesus and America's religious values.

All across the nation the battle waxes and wanes along political correctness lines. Municipalities vote to remove crèches from public properties; school districts ban Christmas plays, pageants, decorations and the performance of Christmas carols at concerts; the ACLU files a confusing battery of lawsuits against almost everyone involved. Even the nation's top retailer, Wal-Mart, labels it the "holiday season" in deference to the "diverse beliefs of all of its customers."

The battle is not all in the United States; Canadians are facing a similar problem provoking the mayor and city council of Toronto to issue a proclamation about their Christmas feelings, as opposed to those of city staff workers: "therefore be it resolved that Toronto City Council direct staff to refer to trees adorned with lights, decorations and stars as Christmas Trees from this point forward."

But what would Jesus Christ say about this raging controversy and the use of His name during this "holiday/Christmas" season? Is Christ really in Christmas? Does a garishly decorated evergreen tree in Washington, D.C. really honor Jesus? What does Jesus actually say about such traditions?

In a scathing denunciation of the Pharisees' alteration of the revealed Word of God, Jesus said: "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? … Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men'" (Matthew 15:3–9).

God has revealed to man the manner in which He wants to be worshipped. This same Jesus Christ, the God of the Old Testament (read our article Who Was the God of the Old Testament?), carefully outlined proper worship and His Holy Days, none of which are recognized or kept by professing Christians today.

What He did give to ancient Israel was a pattern of worship that pictures His plan of salvation for mankind—a pattern of worship kept by true Christians today (send for our free booklet The Holy Days—God's Master Plan, or read it on line. Click on the "Booklets" tab).

Nowhere in the New Testament do you find any commands doing away with the Holy Days and the substitution of blatantly pagan practices. To the contrary, God's pattern of worship was faithfully followed by the early Church. These Holy Days are now enhanced by a deeper, more meaningful Christian understanding, revealed through the birth, death, resurrection and the soon return of Jesus Christ.

The scriptural record shows early Christians were keeping the Holy Days—the historical record reveals the true Church began suffering persecution because of its refusal to accept the encroaching paganism adopted by the larger apostate church (send for our free booklet: Satan's Counterfeit Christianity).

The Apostle John gives us warning about paganism adapted to human feelings toward the worship of God: "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever" (1 John 2:16–17).

Gary F. Ehman