I didn’t know that there was a debate about this. I should have known better. Never underestimate the ability of some rigidly legalistic thinking people to find reasons everyone else is wrong.
Should Christians Celebrate Christmas? An article distributed to participants in one of our men’s groups suggested that there are plenty of reasons the answer should be “No!”. (Unfortunately I don’t have the name of the author of the article.)
- The word Christmas doesn’t appear in the Bible.
- The celebration was not instituted by an inspired apostle.
- The date of Christ’s birth is disputed, and most certainly is not December 25th.
- December 25th was chosen in 440 AD to replace pagan worship of the sun gods.
- Pagan symbolism has been embraced in many Christian Christmas celebrations.
- Many Christian traditions pre-date Christianity.
The author of the article concludes with the following paragraph:
Well, you must answer this question for yourself: Should Christians observe Christmas? For me, I am not going to add holidays or observances of any type originating from men and pagan sun worshipping to the worship of the church. This includes the observance of Christmas as well as other holidays such as Halloween. Apart from the church, I personally observe Christmas as any other national holiday – no different from Halloween, Thanksgiving, Labor Day, or St. Patrick’s Day. In this rests my liberty: I may personally observe anything good and moral unto the Lord (Rom. 14). But the minute I make my liberty part of the work and worship of the Lord’s church thereby transgressing the doctrine of Christ (I Cor. 4:6; II Jn. 9), I worship the Lord in vain – “teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:9).
<Insert slow head shaking here>
There were two powerful and compelling arguments for the celebration of Christmas by Christians discussed at our men’s group that I think trump this unknown author’s reasoning.
First, why should we worry about Christianity “baptizing” and adopting for itself pagan practices, when each of us are “baptized” and adopted into the body of Christ “while we were yet sinners”? Baptism and the work of the Holy Spirit makes the profane holy (called santification). I am taken as a sinful and unclean person and made holy. We can do likewise with symbols and signs that are relevant. Jesus Christ is the light of the world, the light no darkness can overcome. What more powerful time in the Northern Hemisphere is there than late December for the realization of this truth?
Second, the institution of the celebration of Christmas in the 5th century corresponds (if the unknown author’s dating is accurate) to a real tension in the church related to the doctrine of Christ’s “substance”. There is no better way I know to affirm the incarnation of God in human flesh than to celebrate a birth. Mary is the god-bearer. The celebration of the birth of Jesus reminds us of his human nature, and at the same time, the miracle of it all reminds us of the divine nature. Christmas (literally meaning the mass celebrating the birth of Christ) then is a holiday helping us keep the paradox of Christ being fully human and fully divine intact.
Oh, by the way unknown author … “Easter” doesn’t appear in the Bible either.