If pulled from its context, it seems Jeremiah might have prophesied about the Christmas tree. He said,
"...the customs of the peoples are futile, for one cuts a tree from the forest...they decorate it with silver and gold" (Jer. 10.3, 4).
Christians should always follow God's Word. If Jeremiah was speaking of the Christmas tree, we should apply the lesson and not put up a tree.
However, the prophet wove several subtle facts in the text which contradict this good-intentioned notion.
There is no indication Jeremiah prophesied here of a future problem (i.e., the Christmas tree). He told the Jews, using the present tense, to "hear" (Jer. 10.1) and “not be dismayed" (10.2). The text points to a reality in the lives of this approximately 7th-century B.C. audience (cf. 10.3ff).
Only two verses in the entire chapter use the future tense (cf. 10.11, 18). Christmas was not a holiday in Jeremiah's day; therefore, he could not have been speaking specifically of the Christmas tree.
Jeremiah contrasts the tree with the Lord. Unlike God, the tree:
(1) must be carried by men (10.5);
(2) cannot do good (10.5);
(3) is identical to many others (10.7);
(4) is the effect of creation (10.12).
But, after verse five the tree descriptively becomes an idol, or "graven image" (10.14). Many other Scriptures contrast idols and God (cf. Is. 40.18-20; 46.5ff).
There is no reason God would contrast the Christmas tree with Him, for no Christian today makes the tree a god. Everyone knows it is a tree — just a tree.
Not to Be Feared
The prophet urged his audience not to be afraid of these trees (10.5). This cannot be the Christmas tree, for who is afraid of it?
On the other hand, the Jews frequently feared false gods, such as those akin to Egypt (cf. 2 Ki. 17.17).
Isaiah, like Jeremiah, spoke of trees being cut down and crafted into idols (Is. 44.14, 17). As Jeremiah 10.4 says the tree was fastened, Isaiah 46.7 says people set their gods in their places and they could not be moved.
Jeremiah first spoke of the tree, but later spoke of the idol which was formed from the tree. In Hermeneutics, the interpretational principle employed here is called synecdoche, where the whole (the tree) is put for the part (the idol).
The “tree” decorated “with silver and gold” had nothing to do with Christmas. Rather, it alludes to decorated idols.
Therefore, far from warning Christians against erecting a Christmas tree, the passage admonishes the Jews neither to fear nor to accept foreign gods, but to be faithful to Jehovah.