I enjoy Christmas. I enjoy preaching on the birth of Christ, and there is a special pleasure in singing the old carols which celebrate the coming of Hope to our hopeless world. I love getting together with loved ones, and the giving of gifts. Yet there are many genuine believers who consider celebrating Christmas to be un-Christian. The English Puritans, who controlled the English parliament from 1642-1660, passed laws making Christmas festivities illegal, and in the context of their times, they had a point. The Roman church had invented a number of feast days, including Christmas, Michaelmas, St. John’s Day, Annunciation, etc., and treated these days as something ordained by God and the celebrations a matter of obligation. The Puritans were simply trying to liberate the people from these superstitions, and it is important for us also to know that in the end, Christmas is simply a man-made festival.
This year, December 25th falls on a Sunday, which helps put the matter in perspective, for the Lord did not command us to keep Christmas Day holy, but He did give us the fourth commandment. Therefore, we will have our two worship services on that day as usual. If that day also involves gifts and other blessings, we will thank God for those things also, but let our first concern be to obey Him. Only then are we free to enjoy all the other things which are a matter of Christian liberty: “He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.” (Rom.14:5-6). Let us address some of the objections:
- “December 25 Is Not Really Christ’s Birthday”
This is probably true, because scripture does not give us the date when He was born. But this is no objection. My wife had an aunt who was born on February 29th in a leap year. Did this make it wrong to celebrate her birthday on February 28th when there was no leap-year? No, because the important thing was not the date, but the fact that God had given her another year of life and blessing.
So it is with Christmas: We want everyone to know about His birth. We want to teach our children about God’s Son in a manger, and the wonderful events that surrounded it. December 25 is as good a day for that as any other day.
- “Christmas Means ‘Christ’s Mass’— It Is A Catholic Ritual”
The fact is that we use hundreds of words that have non-Christian roots, and do so without a thought. Are we really honouring the Norse goddess Frigga every time we say “Friday”? Even our English word, “God” was passed down to us from our pagan ancestors, but in the Christian mind, the word refers only to the God of the Bible. Likewise, to every sensible person, Christmas simply means a day to remember Christ’s birth, not involvement in a Catholic mass.
- “Christmas Was A Pagan Festival”
This is true. Christmas replaced a lewd and lawless Roman festival called Saturnalia; a week surrounding the shortest day of the year to celebrate the re-birth of the sun. Possibly it was to counteract this pagan influence that Christian leaders encouraged new converts to celebrate the birth of the Son instead. In any case, Christmas is obviously not a continuation of Sun-worship.
Whatever we use to honour Christ, be it a day or anything else, somebody else has used that same thing for bad purposes. Let us therefore rejoice that all things belong to Christ, and were made for His glory (Col.1:16)
- “Christmas Trees Have Pagan Significance”
Again, it is true that pagans have worshipped trees, but they have also worshipped fire, birds, stones, cows, rivers – almost anything you care to name. Why should such foolishness of men deprive us of the pleasure of a beautifully scented fir tree to decorate our homes in December? True, it is a custom which has nothing to do with Christ, but then it has little to do with anything else either! – It is simply a very pleasant custom that signals that time of year.
- “Christmas Is Just An Excuse For Excess”
It is true that many do not honour Christ at Christmas. Some drink to excess, and most of us over-eat. Many business people think of Christmas only as a time to make money. None of these things are good, but to repeat our previous point, the fact that sinners misuse a thing does not make the thing itself wicked. If the world abuses Christmas as a time of revelry, let us make it a day of love and a time of honoring Christ. Let us make much of the Christmas story and of the loving fellowship of that time.
In conclusion then, is it wrong to have a day of rejoicing? When Nehemiah and the remnant of Israel went back to the Promised Land, the Law was read and the people wept. However, it was not a time for weeping, but for rejoicing, because the wall had been rebuilt, the city had been restored, and the worship of Jehovah rang out in Jerusalem once more. See then what Nehemiah said to his people: “And Nehemiah . . . . said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the LORD your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law. Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength. So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, Hold your peace, for the day is holy; neither be ye grieved. And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them.” (Neh.8:9-12)
If the Israelites could legitimately have a day of joy and feasting and of giving gifts because the wall was rebuilt and the worship was established, then surely we are free to take a day to rejoice over the birth of the Saviour, giving gifts and making merry because of Him. Only let us be careful that we do not allow the celebration of Christmas, which is purely a matter of choice, to become more important than those things which God has commanded. I hope you have a happy Christmas. I also hope to see you at the evening service on Sunday, December 25th.