Monday, December 16, 2013

Defending Christmas (Celebrations)

       Christmas, as an average Christian observes, is exclusively the celebration of the birth of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Etymologically, Christmas is “Christ’s Mass.”1

Christ is not a mythical figure. Christ was born of a virgin and born in Bethlehem. It’s true that the Bible does not mention the precise date of Christ’s birth. It may also be true that Christmas day could even coincide with the pagan celebrations of past. But are these adequate reasons for thinkers to plunder an average Christian’s privilege and hold him guilty for celebrating HIS Lord’s birthday on a said date? Is it a sin to adorn homes with star and tree while celebrating Christ’s birth on 25th December?

This short essay will endeavor to defend Christmas and its celebration against few allegations that it is heretic or sinful to celebrate Christmas.

Allegation #1: Christmas Is Not Mentioned In The Bible:           
The Bible does not explicitly state the word “Christmas” or a formula to celebrate Christ’s birth. But the Bible ascribes a great salvific significance to the birth of Christ (Matthew 1: 21-23; Luke 1: 30-35). The Bible is also explicit about the joy and celebration associated with Christ’s birth (Luke 2: 10-14, 20 cf. Luke 1: 46-55).

If Christmas is not to be celebrated for it is not mentioned in the Bible, then by the same logic, should pornography be encouraged for it is specifically or explicitly not mentioned in the Bible as a sin? The essence or heart of the activity is of utmost importance. Sexual immorality is a sin according to the Bible, so pornography should be condemned for it is a form of sexual immorality. Any activity is pure and acceptable to God as long as it does not conflict with God and HIS commands.

When the Bible does not explicitly forbid celebration of Christ’s birth and when Christ’s birth is of salvific significance and an occasion of great joy, it is a reasonable conclusion that celebrating Christ’s birth is neither a sin nor a glitch, although Christmas is not specifically mentioned in the Bible.

Allegation #2: Jesus was not born on December 25th
            So what? Some Christians celebrate Christmas on December 25th and others on January 6th or 7th.1 Now what’s with the date? All days are good. It would not be a concern even if a particular Christian denomination decides to celebrate Christmas on August 4th (a random pick).
Celebrating the birthday of a mythical someone is indeed a heresy and a sin. But Christ is not a myth. HE was born on a particular day, which the Bible does not inform. So celebration of Christ’s birthday on any day is indeed reasonable.

Celebration of Christmas depends on the integrity, motivation and disposition of our heart, and not in our ancestors’ practice. Christmas is all about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ of the Bible – the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. So date is immaterial to Christmas celebrations.

Allegation #3: Christmas Paraphernalia are Heretical & Sinful 
“It is sinful to have a star or a tree adorning our homes during Christmas season,” say some. The Bible most surely narrates the presence of a star associated with Christ’s birth in the second chapter of Matthew. This star could have been the ‘Shekinah Glory’2 or a ‘Recurring Nova.’3 The Bible is not explicit about the star.

But the fact remains that there was a star and we hang the closest imagery of that star outside our homes. If the star outside our homes reminds us of the Matthew 2 narration, it does serve its purpose. Hence, there is no sin or heresy associated with the star that is in our homes.
What about the Christmas tree? Long ago, it was “believed that evergreens would keep away witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and illness.”4 If one holds the same belief today, then he/she is obviously sinning. But if we do not believe in the tree’s association with witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and illness, then the tree does not damage the celebration. The tree simply remains to be harmless Christmas paraphernalia.

Some of us are so attached to Santa that we can’t live without him during Christmas celebrations. The Santa Claus imagery is the cheerful means to distribute gifts (to children). If this is the sole intent of the activity, then Santa can continue distributing gifts. There is no reason why we cannot use the Santa imagery during Christmas, although it is the universal truth that Santa is a myth.

Allegation #4: Christmas is a Recycled Pagan Tradition
There remains a common critique against Christmas that it follows the pagan tradition of ‘Mithraism,’‘Brumalia’ and the likes. But none of these condemnations are legitimate when Christmas is celebrated in gratitude to the living God for the gift of Christ, and thanking HIM in anticipation of Christ’s second coming. 5

If my neighbor practices occult in celebrating Christmas, he certainly sins. Celebration of Christmas, wherein our hearts are not inclined towards any of the pagan traditions but only inclined towards God and HIM alone, is not sinful.

Allegation #5: God Condemns Pagan Customs as a means to Worship HIM
Deuteronomy 12:30-32 (seeking other gods) and 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (fellowship with unbelievers & idols), 7:1 are used to slam Christmas.

Christmas celebration is not seeking other gods, but only seeking the one true living God. Christmas celebration is not idolatry, for it is the celebration of the most important event in human history, the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, during Christmas season unbelievers are often invited so to share the good news of the gospel with them. So Christmas season is more often evangelistic and brings glory to God.  

As already affirmed, if the hearts and minds of those celebrating Christmas today have no connection with the early pagan traditions, then it is indeed legitimate to celebrate Christmas. If our hearts view Christmas as a celebration of the birth of our Lord, then error or heresy or pagan customs cannot invalidate Christmas celebrations.

Allegation #6: Christmas is Worshipping God in Vain
            Mark 7: 6-9 is commonly cited as a case in point. A diligent examination of this section states that the traditions mentioned in this section are in conflict with God and invalidates HIS commands. But later in that chapter, Christ ascribes a greater significance to the heart of a man (Mark 7: 21, cf. Matthew 12: 34; Luke 6: 45).

If the heart of the man celebrating Christmas worships God and HIM alone, then Christmas celebration is legitimate. Celebrating Christmas does not conflict with God or HIS commands. Therefore, celebrating Christmas is not worshipping God in vain, but on the contrary the Christmas celebration is worship of the living God in spirit and in truth.

Celebration of Christmas is an act of worshipful gratitude to God for sending HIS Son, our Lord Jesus Christ to save mankind from sins. Christmas should remind us of Christ’s:
(1) Virgin birth.
(2) Sinless life.
(3) Cross / Suffering.
(4) Death, Resurrection & Ascension.
Christmas reminds us of the GIFT of salvation of God to man i.e. Christmas is all about Salvation.

            In a nutshell, all things are good. But if we deliberately connect an evil connotation to anything, it becomes evil, and needs to be eliminated or corrected. If Christmas celebrations distort Biblical truth, then, by all means, it needs to be discarded or the heretical element needs to be remedied. But if the components of the Christmas celebration do not have heretical or evil connections emanating from the heart of the man celebrating Christmas, then any assessment against them can be rendered invalid.

We are called to worship God in spirit and in truth. If our spirit is aligned with God and if HIS truth remains in us always, then celebrating Christmas, in an act of worship in spirit and in truth, is only for the praise of HIS glory (cf. Ephesians 1: 12).



Jeffrey Johnston.D said...

Superb Pastor, A real eye opener during Christmas

Whatever may be the reason that people want us to stop celebrating the Saviour's birth? It really doesn't matter.
Is our heart true in worshiping the Saviour? That's what matters!!

GOD Bless

Raj Richard said...

Thanks Jeffrey. I have heard a few people talking ill of Christmas celebrations and the blog is a compilation of my thoughts. God bless you. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

Niranjan Kumar said...

A great insight anna... Merry Christmas to you'll anna.

Raj Richard said...

Thank you, Niranjan. A blessed Christmas to you and family as well :)