Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?

December 13, 2016


I had several hours to kill in a coffee shop last week. What follows is the fruit of that time. I apologize for its length. It wasn’t my intent to be this long. Because this is so lengthy I feel that I’m the pastor recently cited in the Babylon Bee where only four people read his post.

Do you ever wonder if we should celebrate Christmas? There are those extreme groups that are either outside the pale of orthodoxy or on the edge of heterodoxy who tell us that it is wrong to “deck the halls.” Then there are the solitary Scrooges and cranky curmudgeons who can’t “bah humbug” enough. Do these surly folks have a point? After all, there is no admonition in the Word of God to celebrate Christmas. Then there is the secular component to our Christmas. Most of us decorate our homes, buy presents, and hum along to the tune of White Christmas. This to say, the religious element of our celebration is at lest sullied, if not almost completely buried. Finally, there is the historical background of Christmas. It certainly wasn’t celebrated until the fourth century. The early church celebrated deaths not births. Then many would argue that Jesus wasn’t born on the 25th of December. Again, should we celebrate Christmas?

Even with the cultural baggage associated with Christmas, I would argue that the celebration is worth it. Granted, it takes work to get to the truth, but how great is the truth! What theology does Christmas remind us of? The list is too long. Christmas highlights God’s love, power, humility, salvation, and justice. As the old carol says, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” Many, if not all, of God’s attributes are highlighted in Christmas. God is our Savior, and Christmas underlines this glorious truth. This is why preachers have no problem spending the month of December preaching about Christmas. Our Christmas is like eating lobster or crab. It is work, but it is certainly worth reveling in the glorious truth of the season.

What about the date? Why the 25th of December? I would say that the date doesn’t really matter. I think there is value celebrating “God with us” regardless of whether we get the date right or not. In fact, we almost certainly have the date wrong. Only God really knows when Jesus was born, and he isn’t telling us. While the date might be wrong, I think the general season is correct. There are reliable commentators who believe that the the 25th makes sense. It is a complex issue, but again, I don’t think the actual date matters. Some argue that the date was fixed on the 25th of December to coincide with the pagan festivals already in place. Rename a solstice party and you have an engaged crowd. However, the 21st isn’t the same as the 25th. It’s in the neighborhood, but I don’t think that the solstice has ever occurred on the 25th. Interestingly, as early as 200 there were those that believed that Jesus was conceived on March 25 (Feast of the Annunciation). Do the math; nine months from March 25 is December 25. But again, I don’t think the date is significant, and the church almost universally has celebrated Christmas on the 25th for well over 1,500 years.

I think we have freedom when it comes to Christmas. Paul writes in Rom. 14:3 “Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.” Christmas is a gray area. Celebrating Christmas isn’t addressed in scripture. The wiggle room that applies to eating and drinking certain foods and drink applies to Christmas. Romans 14:5-6 says, “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.” The issue with celebrations like Christmas and Easter, celebrations that aren’t instituted by the Word, is whether or not one can celebrate with a clear conscience. We have freedom that we shouldn’t let others take from us. While there is no commandment in scripture to celebrate Christmas, I would suggest that there isn’t anything that prohibits it. And, more to the point, scripture is clear that as long as we do it to honor the Lord, we have freedom. If you don’t have freedom to deck the halls, I completely understand. On balance, if you appreciate the glorious message of the season, sing away!

I think there is a wonderful upside to Christmas. Because there is a secular/cultural component to our Christmas, we have a ready opportunity to move conversation to the real meaning of the season. In fact, the many symbols of the season from the tree, to presents, to great food, to family all provide handy access to the Christmas story and the heart of the Christian message. Also, people who never ever go to church will gather with family at a Christmas service. Even completely secular people have no qualms attending a Christmas service where the Christmas story is told. This (preaching) is God’s preferred way of communicating the gospel (Romans 10:14). By God’s extravagant grace, God might save your dear loved ones through the preaching of a Christmas message. Christmas is the gift that keeps on giving!

I would argue that the truth of Christmas is too good not to celebrate. But, on balance, I would adjust some things. I think the gift giving this time of year is inappropriate. The pace of the season is exhausting. That said, the truth of Christmas is too good not to celebrate.


2 Responses to “Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?”

  1. phfs9 Says:

    Maybe the issue of “Santa Claus” should be in question as well. Santa Claus’ history has not been only about gifts over the years. See From its very first origins to present day there is sharp difference. There was originally some Christian use for Santa Claus…..long since gone and forgotten I might add.

    In my personal opinion – I don’t see anything wrong with celebrating Christmas as Jesus’ birthday as long as it is not offensive to God our Father. You mentioned there is no place in the Bible that forbids it and pretty much as per the Bible as you stated “to each his own”….don’t defame someone who does not celebrate it and don’t defame someone who does celebrate it.

    It has indeed become too commercialized and there is too much energy and value spent on teaching children that it is a way to get what they want materialistically. But, that mis-moral is also the sign of our times and not originally a part of Christmas.

    Christmas can be difficult for those alone, without family or friends, over seas fighting wars who can’t be home with family, etc. But, it can also be a time to call for people to spend time together in love and fellowship. It is also a reminder to (FOR ANY REASON) pay some homage to our God, His son Jesus and to fellowship with each other. Any excuse for good to be done is a good thing.

    That leaves us back at the beginning……to or not to celebrate it. And, again, I agree with you – to each his own. I don’t want to be a thief who takes it away and I don’t want to be the sinner who celebrates it for all the wrong reasons.

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