Let Us Gather ‘Round the Asherah Pole to Celebrate Christ

Damn that Satan Claus. Such is the memory of my childhood.

Yes, I’m aware that was a terribly fundamentalist upbringing, being told that Santa is an anagram of Satan. And Easter eggs symbolize the devil’s seed.

The list of things fundamentalists hate regarding the bastardized, secularly-commandeered holy days is long. I’ve heard them all:

Christmas trees go back to the decorated Asherah Poles and sacred groves that served as the cathedral for Ba’al. Yule logs are a Nordic celebration of a pagan sun deity. Christmas itself is a rendition of the Greco-Roman solstice celebrations. And jolly old Saint Nick was a Roman Catholic. Furthermore, Protestants shouldn’t celebrate something called the Christ-Mass. Also, Spurgeon hated Christmas, and he’s the Thirteenth Apostle so it’s as good as Gospel.

That summary is a paraphrase of the fundamentalist talking points. And by and large, those notions are factually accurate (except Nicolaus was no more Catholic than Athanasius or Augustine). Nonetheless, the bulk of these claims are valid.

The question for Christians in 2020 America must be one to be weighed out in a debate between the Regulative and Normative Principles of worship. And if so, we have to acknowledge that there’s little room for most Christmas traditions without leaning toward the latter. Ultimately, the issue is settled on the grounds of how far Christians can go in “redeeming” aspects of pagan worship and their appropriation for worship of the One True God.

I would, as any good fundamentalist, suggest at the very least that we have all gone too far in redeeming things that God would rather have cut down and destroyed.

That said, I am a reluctant hypocrite and have a Christmas tree in my home with a star atop it (because we don’t own images of angels in keeping with the Second Commandment). The irony is rich: we do not feel liberated by adiaphora to compromise on iconoclasm…when it comes to how we decorate our baptized and converted Asherah Pole.

Clearly, there’s a line somewhere and we must decide where or when to cross it or not. But suffice it to say that no matter where the line is in parsing between paganized Christian traditions (or is it Christianized pagan traditions?) we know that all of us must resist the notion to commercialize a religious remembrance that ought to be sacred rather than secular.

For my family, the line has been put in bold. As a tradition, we don’t get the children more than three gifts. For a family closer to a dozen members than one, the pile of presents beneath the tree looks sparse for Americans in the Amazon retail age. And the reason for such few gifts, we tell our children, is because Jesus is the God of the World and only got three presents and they’re not better than Christ.

Likewise, whatever tradition we may use – like stocking stuffers (which is one of the purer and cleaner traditions of Christmas without pagan roots) – are dialed far down in significance to us than the actual Christmas story itself. If my family errs on this point, at least these aspects of tradition are muted and de-emphasized compared to the story of the Incarnation itself.

We pray, as should your family, that your children be able to clearly articulate the importance and significance of the Incarnation and Immanuel (God with us) over and against Ginger Bread Men.

For us Christians, it’s not really about the innocence of an 8lb 3oz Baby Christ. It’s about the innocence of a Man-Christ who “like a lamb who before its shearers is silent” was nailed to a cross and crucified. It’s about a God who became flesh and strapped upon himself the flesh of humanity so that he would one day have blood to spill.

And if any Christmas tradition makes little room for a crucified Savior, I would suggest it’s not that interested in the real Reason for the Season and should be discarded as mere paganism.

And for the record, I’d rather watch a Benny Hinn telethon than tell my kids about Santa.



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