Should We Celebrate Christmas??
What comes to the world’s mind when it thinks of Christmas? The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has expressed its concern that America, “has a big problem at Christmastime.” They feel Christ is no more important than any other religious figure and are launching a “December Dilemma” campaign designed to educate the American public that the “bias” in favor of Christianity is unconstitutional and a civil rights violation.
Like it or not, there are reasons different people cite for actually hating the celebration of Christmas. Others disagree, though. Today, I want to take a brief look at both sides—because the choices about the observance of Christmas are up to you. Still, it’s good for us to consider these issues around this time of year.
Reasons some are opposed to celebrating Christmas...
The celebration of the Christmas holiday as we know it today came from paganism.
Some trace it back to Constantine’s efforts in 313 A.D. to make Christianity palatable to the heathen by adopting pagan practices into “Christianity”.
Some feel that pagan rituals took on Christian names as follows:
Christ was presented as the Sun of Righteousness, replacing the sun god, Sol Invictus.
Pagan holidays like this one became Christian Holy Days or holidays.
December 25, the day of the “Victory of the Sun God Festival” and a celebration of the Festival of Saturn or winter solstice became the day of Christmas celebration.
There are many Christians who agree that the origin of Christmas is pagan to the core.
Because early American settlers saw the Christmas celebration as a “popish” holiday, they refused to observe it. This reached to the extent that they outlawed its observance and treated December 25 as a regular business day.
This is the way others feel: “The custom of exchanging of gifts has absolutely nothing to do with the birthday of Christ.”
Some Bible scholars cite sound scriptural reasons for not celebrating Christmas.
God’s Word speaks of the idolatry of Christmas celebrations. Jeremiah 10:1-3
We are not to love the world and Christmas is of the world. 1 John 2:15
While God’s Word tells us to remember the death of Christ, no command exists to remember his birth. Matthew 26:22-29 Mark 14:22-25 Luke 22:14-20
Only two birthday celebrations are mentioned in the Bible.
Pharaoh in Genesis 40:20
Herod in Matthew 14:6
Christmas was not celebrated in any way by the apostles, nor was it celebrated by the apostolic church. Observing the birth of Christ is therefore not scriptural at any time.
Paul said he gloried only in the cross of Christ—not his birth. Galatians 6:14
The observation of Christmas by Christians my cause a weaker brother to stumble into the snare of paganism. Consider Romans 14:1-5.
Do Christians merely offer weak excuses for celebrating?
Christmas provides a festive time to share the gospel--but we don’t.
Christmas is merely the honoring of Christ’s birth—but it isn’t.
All I’m doing is putting Christ back into Christmas. Really?
I’m using Christmas to witness for Christ just as the apostles did.
It doesn’t mean anything to me.
There are hundreds of other items in daily life that have a pagan origin.
So, are you convinced yet? Is it true that the church at Jerusalem started celebrating Christmas by following the lead of Roman Catholicism? Was “Christmas neglected for at least 300 years of church history? Now, as Paul Harvey says, “The rest of the story.”
Reasons some support celebrating Christmas.
Some historians have proven that the Christmas celebration was not intended to replace the feast of the Sol Invictus or Saturnalia.
There seems no small amount of confusion about the starting date of the Christmas celebration. This information is contrary to some things people accept.
In 389 A.D., a list of legal holidays included only Sundays and Easter—and no change appeared in the “code” until 534 A.D.
Regulations forbidding performances in theaters and circuses on Sunday was in 400 A.D. extended to the 15 days of Easter, Christmas and Epiphany.
The celebration of the nativity was not moved to December 25 until 353-354 A.D. by Pope Liberius.
The observance of December 25 was welcomed by the Orthodox as a means of emphasizing the fact that Jesus was born the Son of God, and of excluding the Adoptianist heresy.
Some trace Christmas as far back as 304 A.D., the third century or up to 100 years before the Catholics did it.
The point of all this confusion is this: the fact that the historical record is clouded does not mean that early Christians or churches made no observance of the birth of Christ.
We should consider some little known historical facts!
Was the observance of Christ’s birth on December 25 universally preceded by the observance of a Feast of the Nativity on January 6?
While some say the Feast of the Nativity was not introduced until after 311 A.D., others say there was no evidence of this feast before the 4th century--except among the Basilidians. They observed the feast on January 6—the day they also celebrated the baptism of Jesus by John. The founder of this group lived from 117-138 A.D. and claimed to receive his doctrine from Peter and Matthias. Much controversy exists about this group but their observance of the Feast of the Nativity is a quite interesting fact of history!
The Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics defines Christmas as, “the Feast of the Nativity of Christ.”
This feast was first held everywhere on January 6 and observed before the Catholics observed the December 25 celebration.
The fact is that this feast may have been celebrated in some churches at an earlier period before the Catholic church even came into existence.
Note: Regardless of the presence or absence of historical evidence, God’s Word itself is a better foundation for this issue. Now, let’s take a look at His story book!
Strong scriptural evidence exists of the celebration of Christmas—though not in the way the world celebrates it.
We dare not leave Christ out of Christmas! Though no command of scripture tells us to remember the birth of Christ, consider the following:
God chose to preserve the record of the event in His Word for us—so we could remember it.
Though the shepherds in the field that night were probably familiar with Isaiah 7:14, God sent angels to remind them and tell them about the birth. Do you think they ever forgot that event?
If the event was so meaningless, why were the wise men “sent” to King Herod?Consider the fact that Matthew, Luke and John were reminded of this event because none of them was there when it happened.
What about the exchange of gifts?The wise men brought gifts about two years after the birth of Christ, though we don’t know if it was actually on Christ’s birthday.We have no way of knowing about whether or not the shepherd brought some sort of little gift for the family.
If God didn’t want to remind us of the birth of Christ, why is the record preserved for us in Scripture? The dates are not revealed, but that does not mean the birth is not to be remembered.
We know that in some cases, when God’s Word is silent, we deal with the inner life of the church and the Christian. I cannot tell you what to do with Christmas and would not presume to do so. But whatever we do, let’s keep Christ in it. The testimony of history was here before the constitution or the church. If God’s Word violates civil rights (and it doesn’t), no apology is necessary. What do you think? Not only do I celebrate Christmas on December 25, but I also celebrate the birth of Christ throughout the rest of the year! Whatever the date of his arrival on earth, I'm just glad He came. Aren't you?
Regardless of what the world wants us to think about Christmas, it remains the time we observe the birth of Christ into a world of darkness that needed our Lord as the light of the world. Some people get offended at the name of Christ or the mention of Christmas.
Places that once proudly displayed manger scenes have removed them. On the other hand, businesses that once had a Christmas tree in the lobby have removed the tree and put it back again. More than a few retailers instruct their employees to not say, "Merry Christmas." Customers may be offended by such a greeting. If it weren't for the money, some businesses would gladly do away with the Christmas holiday altogether.
At least a few polls indicate that Christians have lost the battle to keep Christ in Christmas. Whether or not you agree with that, Christ was still born two thousand years ago.
As you read this, I want to wish you a merry Christmas. This doesn't include any apologies for the season or the use of terms. At the same time, I also wish you a happy holiday season. That's a general wish that covers all the holidays at this time of year, just in case you don't celebrate Christmas. Lastly, I encourage you to come to the Christ of Christmas!