Sunday, November 27, 2016

Is it wrong for Christians to celebrate Christmas?

I hear this question from time to time and I thought I might address the matter. I hope you find it helpful.

The answer to whether a Christian should or shouldn't celebrate Christmas depends on how they approach it. The reason I say that is because the Bible does not speak of a holiday to celebrate the birth of our Savior. In fact, the observance didn’t make its way into the church until around the 5th century. The origins of Christmas are rooted in pagan traditions before the church era.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it's wrong to observe a national holiday. Truth be known, there are many things that we observe today that have their roots in pagan traditions. Did you know that the names for the days of the week come from pagan beliefs? For example, Saturday comes from the worship of Saturnus. Friday comes from Fria, the goddess of love. Yet, when I observe Friday or Saturday, I’m in no way participating in pagan worship.

We need to be careful and guard against becoming hyper-literalist in the use of scripture. To do so is to miss the spirit and the intent of the letter.

Some will quote Jeremiah 10 which they believe condemns the celebration of Christmas and especially the use of the Christmas tree. But is Jeremiah telling us to avoid the customs of the nations? No, he’s speaking against the making and the worship of idols.

In reality, the celebration of Christmas does not clearly fall into a right or wrong category in the Bible. And the Apostle Paul addresses these 'gray areas' in his letter to the Christians in Rome.

“One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.”                                          Romans 14:5–6

In other words, we have freedom to decide whether we will observe a special day or not, only, don’t look down upon those who see it differently than you. The key is in why you are observing Christmas? Can we get lost in the commercialism and holiday trappings of Christmas? Yes, and we need to guard against it. But observing a national holiday doesn’t mean we ascribe to the worship of an evergreen tree. Christmas for many is just an opportunity to reflect upon, and celebrate ‘God with us’!

In fact, there are some very good reasons to celebrate the birth of our Savior during the Christmas holiday, if you choose to do so.

• It is a wonderful reminder of God incarnate – Immanuel! Didn’t the angels make a big announcement to the shepherds of this all-important event?
• It is an opportunity to clarify our worship of our Savior and reflect upon the gospel. The shepherds are recorded as immediately leaving their flocks to come and worship the Christ-child.
• Also, people tend to be more open to the gospel during the Christmas holidays. We should take advantage of that openness to witness to them of the saving grace of God through Jesus Christ. Christmas is chiefly about the promised Messiah who came to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). The holiday provides us with a wonderful opportunity to share this truth.

We would be wise to remember the words of the Lutheran theologian, Rupertus Meldenius, who said that in the essential matters of our faith, we must be unified! And in the non-essential matters of our faith, we should walk in liberty. But in all things, we should love one another!

Written by: Pastor Greg Sempstrott, Senior Pastor of First Church of God Vero Beach.

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