Celebrating Christmas

“One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.”  

(Romans 14:5-6)

As we approach Christmas and we look forward to celebrating the holiday, Christians are confronted by two questions. The 1st is; Should Christians celebrate Christmas due to its pagan origins? The 2nd is; How should Christians properly celebrate Christmas? I have come across articles, videos, and commentaries by Christians indicating that we should not partake in the celebration of Christmas because it is or has become a pagan celebration. One popular Christian talk show host even commented that he was beginning to decorate his home for the holiday, but he stopped when he realized that the tree, the lights, and the meals were all pagan in nature. He felt that he was doing the same thing that every other pagan was doing in celebrating Christmas without Christ. The holiday has become a commercially driven season where people participate in pagan rituals such as tree worship, a tribute to Santa Claus and fairy elves, and in drunken revelry. So, he did not want to participate in this type of heathen festival and felt that Christians should abandon the holiday all together.

I believe that he is wrong, and that type of mentality is why the Church is losing its influence. Christians should not retreat in a spirit of timidity but should instead respond with a spirit of boldness. God has given us a spirit of power and not of cowardice, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline, (2Tim1:7), For after all, we are celebrating the birth of Christ and we should do so without fear of what others think or say. This article will help Christians to possess a biblical foundation for celebrating Christmas. In answering these questions, it is my hope that the reader will feel confident in celebrating Christmas and will have a renewed love for the holiday as the truths of scripture give us the true holiday spirit.

To begin with, we shall examine the reasons that some Christians do not celebrate Christmas and look down on those that do. There have been times in the past when celebrating Christmas was forbidden. The Puritans outlawed Christmas in England and in the colonies of New England. They considered Christmas to be a “worldly festival” and a “heathen holiday.” They also associated it with the Roman Catholic celebration of Saint’s Days and festivals. Another reason they don’t celebrate Christmas is because they believe that the holiday has pagan origins.  They believe that to celebrate Christmas is to participate in a pagan festival. There are several videos in the media that link Christmas traditions to ancient pagan festivals by everyone from the Babylonians to the Ancient Mystery Cults.

For many centuries Christians of many cultures have celebrated the birth of Christ. Some have incorporated their own cultural traditions, such as the Germans, Dutch, Italians, English, etc. Santa Claus is based on the generosity of Bishop Nikolaos of Myra. Charles Dickens introduced the story of Scrooge in “The Christmas Carol.” Christmas carols such as “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” and “Silent Night” are not part of scripture, so should we abandon them and label them pagan? Even if there were pagan origins to some traditions, so many centuries have past since then that most people don’t associate Christmas with those origins. Christmas is a Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ and has nothing to do with past pagan practices.

  “But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.                                                                           “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”      

(Luke 2:10-14)

If you have any doubts about the origins of Christmas and the need to celebrate the holiday, then you only need to read the above passage. Luke tells us that an angel told the shepherds that he was bringing them good news which would bring them great joy. Then after giving them the message, a great number of the heavenly host, angelic beings, broke out in praise and said, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” Here is the reason for the holiday and for celebration. We join the heavenly host in praise and worship. We also put aside all grievances and extend good will to all as a way of providing peace on earth. There is no doubt that the Christian celebration of Christmas has a worldwide effect on peace. There is no other time of the year when all people, believers and non-believers, share in the season of love and peace. God’s common grace extends to all people.

Let us look at what the Apostle Paul said regarding the observance of certain days over others. In Romans 14:5-6, he makes it clear that those who observe one day over another, do so for the Lord. He goes on to say that each person must be fully convinced in his own mind as to the reason that he observes that day. This is what the Christian is doing in observing Christmas as an occasion for celebration because he is fully convinced in his mind that he is celebrating the birth of Christ. Celebrations and feast days such as Passover, Hanukkah, and Yom Kippur are part of Jewish tradition extending back to the Old Testament. I would venture to say that the birth of the Messiah would qualify as a major event worthy of celebration and this is another reason that Christians should celebrate Christmas.

Now, let us consider the question of how we should celebrate Christmas. We celebrate and enjoy Christmas because it is the birthday of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We must however, go deeper to truly understand what the birth of Christ means for us. To do so we need to understand the term; Incarnation. To understand the Incarnation is to understand the meaning of the birth of Christ; which cannot be separated from His life, His death and His resurrection. It is the crowning point of history. All biblical history from the creation to the final judgment hinges on this event.  The Incarnation is the moment that the Old Testament saints looked forward to and to which we look backward towards. It is the good news that the Savior who will set us free from the bondage of sin has been born. We have eternal life because of His lowering of Himself to the status of a human, and taking the form of a man, to suffer and die for our redemption. This is what we need to contemplate each Christmas season and to remember as we celebrate the holiday.

Each Christmas season the connection between Christ and Christmas becomes less and less apparent. The culture at large continues to distance itself from all things Christian. The greeting of “Merry Christmas” has been replaced by “Happy Holidays.” Santa has replaced Christ as the icon for the holiday. He has taken on the attributes of God. He has become omniscient, knowing who is naughty and nice. He has become omnipotent, able to perform all manner of miracles. Nativity scenes have been banned from the public square. It is offensive to many people to have to endure the sight of an infant in a manger with his parents. Yet, these same people enjoy the lights, the decorations, the hot cocoa and cookies, but Jesus they can do without. This is another reason Christians should celebrate Christmas, so that we can remind them that its all about Christ. There is nothing wrong with all the trimmings of Christmas; the gifts, the trees, the lights, the decorations, because they are part of the celebration but not the reason for it.

  “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house, they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”   

(Matt. 2:10-11)

Matthew tells us that the Magi also rejoiced with great joy upon finding the newborn King and they worshipped Him by falling to the ground in his presence. As was their custom they presented gifts to this King. This is where our tradition of giving gifts on Christmas evolves from, and not from the Santa Claus myth. Just as the Magi gave gifts to the infant King, Christ, we offer each other gifts in recognition of the birth of our King. It is also an expression of our love for one another just as God gave us the gift of His Son.

Let me conclude by encouraging you to celebrate Christmas with great joy and to proclaim the true nature of the holiday, with a spirit of boldness which God has given to us. If anyone should ask why you have such a love for the holiday let them know that it is because you have great news of great joy; “There has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord,” (Luke 2:11).

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