Why We Observe Christmas

BY IMA B. LEVER

IT IS UP TO YOU

Some Christians are touchy, sensitive, and full of objections about Christmas. They don’t like the holiday and often speak fervently against observing it. The New Testament teaches the choice of observing
holidays is a matter of individual conviction. It is neither demanded nor condemned. The Apostle Paul said, “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he cloth not regard it… ” (Romans 14:5-6). In other words, Paul taught that those who observe holidays should do so as unto the Lord. Those who don’t observe them are under no spiritual obligations to do so, but just make sure they go about not observing them in a Christlike way. Unfortunately, those who don’t observe Christmas have often been openly critical of those who do. This criticism is given despite the scripture cited above. Since “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” (2 Timothy 3:16) even critics should give Romans 14:5-6 as much importance as any other passage. In this message I want to answer some of the objections raised by those who oppose the observance of Christmas.

WHAT IF JESUS WASN’T BORN ON DECEMBER 25?

Some people argue that December 25 is not Christ’s birthday. Actually, no one knows the date of Jesus Christ’s birth. The Bible does not tell us. And since we don’t know for sure, the truth is it could
possibly be December 25 (in spite of the arguments to the contrary). How important is it to know the exact day anyway? Can’t we just be glad that Jesus came on one blessed day?

Birthday celebrations are special events. Most Americans celebrate birthdays throughout their lifetimes. Every Leap Year people are born on February 29th. While their exact birthday only happens every four years, most families celebrate their birth every year. They pick a day close to the actual date (usually February 28) and celebrate the child’s birth then. If you had a child born on Leap Year Day how could you tell him he can’t have a birthday celebration of any kind because there is no February 29 this year? How could you tell him it is wrong to celebrate his birthday any day except the exact day (February
29) which only comes every 4 years? Most families would agree that the exact date is not so important. Beyond acknowledging the passage of time, the most important thing is for them to celebrate their joy and happiness in having him as part of their family. Certainly they would feel he deserves to be recognized just like other children. Those that celebrate Christmas as Jesus’ birthday do not necessarily believe this is the actual day he was born. They are simply saying, “We know he was born on some date, and December 25 is as good a day to celebrate His birth as any other in the year.” ”

Some of the same reasoning can be applied to Thanksgiving Day. Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday set on the fourth Thursday in November. It is certainly not the only day we get blessings from God. He blesses us all year long and we should thank Him every day. But even if we do give Him daily thanks, what could possibly be wrong with setting aside one particular day to especially celebrate the Lord’s
blessings? The important thing is not which day we set aside on the calendar, but the reason for setting it aside.

WHAT ABOUT HEATHEN ORIGINS FOR CHRISTMAS?

Some folks contend that it is wrong to celebrate Christmas because it was derived from pagan origins. It is a fact that Egyptian, Babylonian, Greek, Roman and other ancient peoples all had holidays in the midwinter season. They all recognized the shortest day of the year (the winter solstice) usually on December 21 or 22 and celebrated it with moral abandon in honor of their gods. In the Christian era the
midwinter solstice festival gradually became associated with the birth of Jesus. The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge discusses this association in the article on “Christmas.” “How much the date of the [Christmas/ festival depended upon the pagan Brumalia (December 25th) following the Saturnalia (December 17th-24th), and celebrating the shortest day of the year and the ‘new sun’…cannot be accurately determined. The pagan Saturnalia and Brumalia were too deeply entrenched in popular custom to be set aside by Christian influence.

Bible scholars observe that Christmas, Easter, and other religious holidays were blended into the calendar to help prevent new converts from relapsing into pagan worship. The early church leaders
sought to exchange Christian events and entities as a replacement for pagan festivals and celebrations. Since people were accustomed to having time off from work to celebrate the return of the sun – in the
form of worshipping idols – the church leaders felt it was in everyone’s (the church’s and the people’s) best interests to substitute idol worshipping festivities with godly holidays. The decision to celebrate Jesus’ birthday on December 25 by ancient church leaders was similar to what some churches now do in October when they have a “Hallelujah Night” or “Harvest Party” instead of observing Halloween.
It’s also like church “Watchnight Services” held in objection and as a contrast to the world’s drunken parties on New Years Eve. It can also be observed in May or June when some churches sponsor Christian Youth Banquets” as a godly alternative to prom nights.
The truth is, that at one time or another, every day of the year has been associated with some false god, or pagan celebration. There are no free days! True believers should not allow the sacred days of pagans, heathen, Catholics, etc., determine which days we choose to worship the Lord. We are not worshiping or honoring the same ONE. We serve the Lord God who made the earth in six days, rested on the seventh, and called them, and all He had made “very good.”

We need not fear to recognize and worship Jesus Christ on December 25 (or any other day). To celebrate Him then or any other time violates no spiritual principle. There is nothing scripturally wrong with celebrating the Lord’s birth on Christmas day – any more than celebrating his death and resurrection at Eastertime. Common sense comprehends they are just days set apart in the year to especially
honor, and recall important events in Jesus’ life. The days are not inherently sacred – it is simply our observing them that gives them meaning.

These “Christianized” celebrations are an alternative to something evil, and harmful. They are not a continuation of the old ways of worship or living. Christians don’t observe Christmas as a Pagan holiday. Real believers don’t worship the old gods of the ancient world. They speak only of Jesus Christ and worship Him as Lord. Around my house, and in my church, December 25 is under new management. It may have once been a pagan holiday, but now it’s entirely Christian! I’m under new management too. I once was lost, but now I’m found. I was blind, but now I see. I see Jesus as the reason for the season.

IS CHRISTMAS A ROMAN CATHOLIC HOLIDAY?

Some Protestants say we shouldn’t refer to Jesus’ birthday as Christmas. The say it is wrong to even use the word because it is refers to the Roman Catholic mass said on Christmas Eve. They want to avoid anything related to the Roman Catholics. They say it is wrong to use anything associated with pagans or Catholics. It is foolish to make an artificial distinction about using the word Christmas when none exists in the minds of those who observe the holiday. To consistently adhere to that belief would mean eliminating names like Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco from our vocabulary. We shouldn’t even use them because these locations were named by Roman Catholics to honor Catholic religious figures. The same would apply to other places such as Bemidji, Eau Claire, Lacrosse, Fond du Lac, Pewaukee, Milwaukee, and Sheboygan because these are either French Catholic names or Pagan Indian names.

Some of this “anti-Catholic, anti-Christ-Mass” line of reasoning comes from the Seventh Day Adventists. They are critical of other Christians for worshipping on Sundays. They say Sunday was named after
the god of the Sun – Apollo. And they don’t want to have anything to do with worshiping the Sun-god. So, they instead worship on Saturday – which they say is the actual Sabbath. I guess they don’t realize
Saturday is named after Saturn, who in Roman mythology was the god of farmers. Actually, very few people even think of worshipping the Sun on Sunday or any other day. Any more than they worship the moon on Monday. Or the Nordic god Thor on Thursday. Certainly no real Christian comes to church on Sunday to worship the sun unless it is the SON.

WHAT ABOUT THE PAGAN ORIGINS OF CHRISTMAS TREES, DECORATIONS, AND OTHER
CUSTOMS?

Some people insist it is wrong to have a Christmas tree. They denounce them as a form of idolatry and forbidden by God’s word. They often refer to Jeremiah 10:3-4 as a proof text against Christmas trees.
For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it (the silver and gold)
with nails and with hammers, that it move not.

It should be notes that this passage says nothing specifically about Christmas trees or other holiday decorations. It really should not be used as a literal condemnation of Christmas trees. because Jesus
Christ hadn’t even been born when this was written. Jeremiah was speaking of his own idolatrous people and the trees they decorated in honor of false gods. He vehemently points out the foolishness of their
impotent idol in contrast to the power of the Almighty. Jeremiah 10:5-6 They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good. Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O LORD; thou art great, and thy name is great in might.

If Christmas tree critics are honestly going to live by letter of the law regarding this scripture, they should remove ALL decorative plants or trees (live or artificial) from their own homes. It would be
consistent with their interpretation to conclude that all plant decorations could and should be considered idols. If Christmas trees are taboo, then so are wreaths, boughs, and other decorative plant
arrangements commonly found in many homes and churches. They might cause people to bow in worship to them also.

In light of common sense, it is simply ludicrous to think that born-again Christians would worship a tree or the things they put on a tree like the angel at the top. Certainly no one I know worships a tree or that angel. I’ve never even heard of anyone worshiping the decorations. Yet, critics have denounced popcorn and cranberry strings as food for the gods, gold and silver ornaments are denounced as symbols of the god of materialism. Paper chains are symbolic of the chains of the devil. Stringed beads are symbolic of rosaries. And Christmas tree lights are supposedly to guide the gods to the popcorn and cranberry strings. The truth is popcorn and cranberries weren’t even discovered until the 16th century, when the Europeans came to America. And electric tree lights weren’t invented until the 20th century.

CHRISTMAS REVELRY AND DRINKING

Some don’t like the revelry at Christmas. They are offended by the drinking and partying some folks do in association with Christmas parties. Their offense is justified. Scripture specifically condemns drunkenness. But must we eliminate ANY celebration of Christ’s birth just because some people drink on Christmas? I once performed a wedding for a nice young couple. After the wedding, a number of their wedding party went out to drink and dance at a wild party. The bride and groom
didn’t. Later on, when I heard about what happened I felt badly. I thought it was a shame that some of the wedding party celebrated with the wedding with drunkenness. But, just because they did, must I quit performing wedding ceremonies? For that matter, should ALL preachers cease performing them because there of the chance someone may use the event as the basis for a drunken celebration? That doesn’t make sense!

It is a fact that some people drink even on Sunday, the Lord’s Day. They do not regard it as the Lord’s Day – nor do they go to church and worship the Lord on that day. Some lay around the house drinking
beer and watching sports activities on television. They regard Sunday only as a day off work to pursue their own interests. Is it sensible that Christians not attend church on Sunday just because some people
treat it as a time to further their own wicked or selfish desires? Just because some disregard and abuse it, should we count Sunday as the Devil’s day and no longer worship the Lord on that day? No! Their
misbehavior gives me all the more reason to worship God on that day.

Just because some think that baptism isn’t essential to salvation, should we abandon baptism altogether? Just because some baptize differently from us should we quit baptizing? No! We need to
teach the truth and practice the scriptural method of baptism. Likewise, just because some people abuse Christmas, that is no reason for us to abandon celebrating it properly.

GIFT GIVING

Some people say it is improper to give gifts at Christmas because the spending gets extravagant and often puts people in debt. Others say it is improper to give gifts to other people at Christmas – they should only be given to Jesus. They may have a point regarding some folks going overboard with gift-giving. But, perhaps a miserly spirit lurks beneath the surface of their pious abstinence from Christmas giving. They are stingy and don’t want to give – even to Jesus. See how much they lavish on the Lord’s work in contrast to what others give to one another. Does it far exceed the giving of the people they criticize? Probably not. Their spirits may have a lot in common with Simon and Judas Iscariot who criticized the woman who broke the alabaster box of ointment over Jesus feet.

The Bible teaches generosity, hospitality, and compassion for others in need. Extravagant gifts are often noted in the Bible; such as Jacob’s appeasing gifts to Esau when they were reunited. The truth is,
giving to others honors God when it is done properly. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). He taught that when we gave even the most insignificant thing to others in His name it was as if we gave it to Him. The Old Testament describes gift giving as part of Jewish tradition whenever there was something to celebrate. The Jews exchanged gifts and were told to celebrate when the Word of God was renewed in their lives.

Nehemiah 8:9-12: And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the LORD your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law. Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared:
for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength. So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, Hold your peace, for the day is holy; neither be ye grieved. And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them.

The same thing occurred when the Jews were saved by Esther and Mordecai from Haman. They called this celebration the Feast of Purim, and dedicated it to the Lord for delivering them. Esther 9:22 reads:
“… That they should make them days of feasting and joy and of sending portions one to another and gifts to the poor”

CHRISTIANS SHOULD NOT WASTE THE OPPORTUNITIES OF THIS DATE

Christmas is still an accepted time to speak of Christ. Our society hasn’t totally outlawed Jesus Christ – YET! It is still an accepted time to portray pictures depicting the birth of Christ in a manger. It is a time we can speak about and teach the Virgin birth, the baby in the manger, angels singing, shepherds coming to worship, and wise men bearing gifts from afar. We should continue to use Christmas to teach the gospel while we still have an opportunity to do so. Instead of wasting our time and energy picking on one another regarding whether everyone celebrates or does not celebrate Christmas as we do – let’s all agree to make this December a special time to Praise the Lord! END

Editor s note: So what do you think? Celebrating Christmas is often a controversial issue within the Church. How do you celebrate or not celebrate Christmas? How valid are the arguments presented by these opposing writers? What would you add to their points of view? You may respond by writing or e-mailing the editor. Your comments and responses will be included in upcoming issues of the WDN.

THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY THE WISCONSIN DISTRICT NEWS, DECEMBER 2000, PAGES 2, 4, 5. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.

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