This life thing … it’s complicated, ya know? It’s hard to balance the right with the *almost right* while pushing back from the *almost wrong* when the lines tend to blur together.
It shouldn’t be so complicated with something like Christmas, should it? I mean, sure, the materialism and greed and obvious sins of overindulgence and idolatry … those are easy to identify and avoid. Aren’t they?
I was raised to understand that Christmas, while having origins in the world of Christendom, was not something that has the true “blessing” of God as a corporate celebration; that while personal participation in seasonal festivities is not sinful, claiming it as a true, biblical, and important religious holiday is dipping one’s foot in the mud puddles of false doctrine. I knew that we all decorated for Christmas, everyone exchanged gifts and had family gatherings, and yes, Christmas was a big deal for everyone except our Jewish neighbors … but we don’t talk about it at church, we don’t sing “those” songs even if they are in the song book, and we certainly don’t celebrate Jesus’ birthday, because that’s just not biblical!
As I entered adulthood, I realized quickly that this was something I was never challenged to give much thought to, we just accepted it because it’s truth. The Bible doesn’t say anything about Christmas, so neither do we. At about my 19th year of life, I encountered an attitude that shook my fledgeling faith to its core–not an entirely bad thing, considering it needed to happen for me to grow in my own personal faith. A gentleman we worshipped with, who was the type of person who was just as sweet as southern iced tea and full of loving admonishment eleven months out of the year turned into someone I didn’t recognize in December. He became obsessed with correcting any and every one of the brethren among our tiny little congregation who dared to have anything to do with Christmas, because (in his estimation) we were forgoing the truth of Scripture and joining ourselves to the pagan world of idolatry. He was anything but loving in his approach, and while it truly disgusted me then, as I look back, I can view it as something I really needed to see. It was an extreme that made me examine things I’d never considered before.
I’ll say this much about the truth of Christmas–it’s man-made. Let’s be honest and real. It did have its origins in response to pagan worship, and while it’s not scripturally based, it does point to the Bible account of the birth of the Messiah. Yes, there are a lot of ridiculous untruths involved that are obvious to those of us who have bothered to do the research. In fact, birthday celebrations are not something that devout Jews in the first century would have even been part of. I get it. Truly I do. I know ALL of the arguments against it, and yes, I know that every one is historically and scripturally accurate. I’m the type who can’t do anything but research and dig until I can form a conclusion based on fact and not tradition and emotion. I still firmly believe that there is no scriptural reason for the Body of Christ to change our worship at all, unless it is inconsistent with what the inspired Word commands and authorizes.
But. And yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, this is a BIG “but” … are we shooting ourselves in the foot and possibly hiding our light under a bushel when we refuse to rejoice in the one day (okay, two, counting Easter) that the entire world is actually focused on celebrating our Savior?? Sure, we’ll decorate. We will dress up and wrap presents and buy candy canes, but we stop there, because it’s not something the Bible speaks of? Forgive my harshness here, but do we take such a hardline stance against prayer in schools or at football games or even in Congress? Do we shun the religious nature of Thanksgiving with equal vigor?
Meaning no disrespect to the truly wise, well-meaning, and well-respected folks who believe in such a manner, but when the world celebrates Jesus, even if it’s because of a relatively new holiday (and in the scope of two thousand years, a couple of centuries is definitely new) that has not been authorized by Scripture, then why on earth would we do anything but be thankful for the temporary focus and the opportunity to lovingly join in pointing the world to Christ for the remainder of the year?
Personally, I wholeheartedly enjoy being able to sing along to all of the beautiful songs of praise for our Messiah that would raise eyebrows the rest of the year. Try belting out “Mary, Did You Know?” in Walmart in July and see what happens! I love it! And why shouldn’t we love it? There are worshipful songs on the radio and people speaking of Jesus on television!! On secular stations! This is our Savior we’re singing and speaking of, regardless of the time of year He was actually born or whether there were more than three wise men that visited, or even how old Jesus was when they got there!
The world is listening. They’re watching us. Might I gently remind you that Philip, when he stepped aboard that chariot with the Ethiopian eunuch, began teaching where the eunuch’s understanding ended. He didn’t expect him to know everything. He began where the eunuch was and preached Jesus from there. Brothers and sisters, we preach that Jesus is the reason for EVERY season. Let’s not forget that it includes December as well. Our love for Christ should radiate from us every day of the year; we have no need, no reason, no excuse for becoming suddenly mute for one day or acting as though Christmas doesn’t “begin with Christ”.
One final thought–look a few chapters beyond the story of Jesus’ birth in Luke and you’ll see in chapter 9 that right after Jesus speaks to His disciples about who would be the greatest in the kingdom, this happens:
“Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in Your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not accompany us.”
“Do not stop him,” Jesus replied, “for whoever is not against you is for you.”
Did you catch that?