The question posed above may not be a controversial issue at Crosswalk and in most churches like Crosswalk. However, Crosswalkers may have conversations or read blogs from well-meaning Christians who say it is wrong to celebrate Christmas. Of course, if someone doesn’t want to celebrate Christmas, that’s fine with me. Clearly, the celebrating of many holidays and traditions falls under the category of “disputable matters” in Romans 14. This means participation in such celebrations is not right or wrong in and of itself, but a matter of individual conscience. But my concern is when some, in the name of biblical studies, forbid others from celebrating. So I’ve taken the top six reasons why some say it is wrong for Christians to celebrate Christmas, and given my quick replies.
1. Christmas is driven by commercialism.
Of course this is true, and a fine reason not to celebrate Christmas for those who so choose. But honestly, to avoid commercialism at Christmas is fine, but what about the other 355 days in this materialistic society?
Also, the NT indicates that people can see evil in all things and condemn them. There is another way, as Titus 1:15 (NIV) indicates: To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.
Purity is a matter of the mind and heart, not merely external things. Our culture distorts many things, but that does not make the thing evil in itself.
One way to fight commercialism is to use Christmas as a time to be generous to the Lord by supporting churches and Christian missionaries. “God so loved the world that he gave…” To become more like our God we can also become givers.
2. Christmas is nowhere mentioned or sanctioned in the Bible.
Neither are cars or church buildings mentioned in the Bible. Sunday school isn’t mentioned. The celebration of wedding anniversaries are not mentioned or sanctioned. This is one of the sillier examples of biblical hyperliteralism that most evangelical churches have understandably rejected.
The fact is, the celebration of birthdays was not a big deal in ancient Hebrew culture. Yet the birth of Jesus was clearly celebrated:
- The appearance of the angel of the Lord with the glory of the Lord to announce the birth of Christ to the shepherds was immediately followed by a multitude of angels praising God and celebrating! (See Luke 2:10-14)
- The actions of the shepherds who left their flocks to go and see the newborn king was something of a celebration, as well as the arrival of the wise men bearing gifts (Luke 2:15-17; Matthew 2:1-12).
3. Jesus wasn’t born on or near December 25.
This is not known for certain, as the Bible doesn’t give the date. Jesus may or may not have been born on December 25. However, the traditional date for the birth of Christ as December 25th dates back to as early as Hippolytus (A.D. 165-235). Chrysostom (A.D. 345-407) in 386 stated that December 25th is the correct date and hence it became the official date for Christ’s birth, except in the Eastern Church, which celebrates on January 6th.
The argument that Shepherds would not be outside with sheep in the winter has been called into question by modern scholars. It is not at all certain that sheep were always brought into enclosures during the winter months. It is true that during the winter months sheep were brought in from the wilderness, but that is precisely what Luke indicates in his record. The shepherds were near Bethlehem rather than in the wilderness. This actually indicates the likelihood of the nativity during the winter months. Also, for all we know, it may have been a mild winter. The weather channel hadn’t been invented yet.
4. The Christmas holiday is largely a recycled pagan celebration.
Of course this is true. The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible says: Gradually a number of prevailing practices of the nations into which Christianity came were assimilated and were combined with the religious ceremonies surrounding Christmas. The assimilation of such practices generally represented efforts by Christians to transform or absorb otherwise pagan practices.
The fact is that the pagan associations with Christmas were lost a long time ago. The same is true of the names of the days of the week. They all stem from pagan gods and rituals! Sunday and Monday were related to the worship of the sun and the moon. Saturday is from Saturnus, or Saturn, and Friday comes from Fria, the goddess of love. But no one associates these ancient pagan roots with today’s life. If anyone uses Monday to worship the moon or Christmas to worship pagan deities, it would certainly be wrong; but that just doesn’t happen. Instead, Christmas and other holidays represent noble efforts of Christians in the past to bring Christ into their surrounding culture. That’s a good example for us to follow!
5. God condemns using pagan customs to worship Him.
One preacher quoted Jeremiah 10:2-4, which reads: Thus says the LORD, “Do not learn the way of the nations, And do not be terrified by the signs of the heavens Although the nations are terrified by them; For the customs of the peoples are delusion; Because it is wood cut from the forest, The work of the hands of a craftsman with a cutting tool.They decorate it with silver and with gold; They fasten it with nails and with hammers so that it will not totter.”
It seems that the points of reference for this preacher were to “wood cut from the forest,” “they decorate it with silver and gold,” and he somehow applied this to a Christmas tree.
Of course, this use of these and other passages are a far cry from the original reference to idols made from wood which were literally worshipped with accompanying sacrifices. I don’t know of anyone who bows down before their Christmas tree and offers prayers.
6. Christmas obscures God’s plan for mankind.
This criticism points out that Jesus never asked us to remember and celebrate his birth, but did command us to remember his death on the cross, which is the clearest image of God’s plan to forgive our sins and grant us status as his children.
Certainly this is true. We agree with Paul that if we glory in just one thing, it should be the cross of Jesus.
However, the doctrine of the incarnation, which Christians celebrate at Christmas, is a crucial and indispensable part of God’s plan of salvation.
- Genesis 3:15 promises the Savior through the seed of a woman.
- Isaiah 7:14 promises that this Savior will come through the virgin birth.
- A number of passages use the symbol of a tree to point to the promise of life through the Messiah. Genesis 2:9, 3:17, 22; Revelation 2:7; 22:2,14 all tell us about the tree of life, some historic, some prophetic. Isaiah 4:2; 11:1, 60:21; Jeremiah 23:5 and Zechariah 3:8; 6:12 all speak of the branch of the Lord as the work of God. These prophecies form a central part of God’s promise to give life to all the nations through Jesus. The tree of life is now available to believers in Christ.
John 1:14 (NIV) – The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. This is worth celebrating, however you choose to do it!
Lastly, I would point out that followers of Jesus can choose to engage the culture, or retreat from the culture. At different times and for different people, both can be appropriate. In my view, Jesus was one who retreated from the culture for prayer, only for the purpose of engaging the culture with grace and truth. As the Spirit leads, may we do likewise!