Christmas as a Christian
Text: 1 Corinthians 10:31
One of the strongest distinguishing marks in the life of the believer is that they put themselves under God’s Word as the ultimate authority in dictating the direction of their lives and controlling all their practices.
I don’t know about you, but I want what God wants for my life. So when it comes to this time of the year, I regularly ponder what is to be the extent of participation in this period we call ‘the Christmas Season’. I am in the world. God has me here in this time, in this place. He would not have me live as a monk, and hide from what is going on. But how do I interact or involve myself in all that I see? Lights, trees, Yule logs, presents, songs, and a man in a red suit engaged in an impossible overnight mission.
As believers, our first question should be, does the Bible instruct me? My hope isn’t to make anyone’s life difficult this morning. Rather, my hope is that you would “receive of us how ye ought to walk and to please God” (1 Thes 4:1). The last thing we want to be guilty of is the scathing condemnation of the Lord Jesus against the Pharisees, of who he said they made void the word of God because of their traditions.
Some of my most cherished childhood memories surround Christmas, and if those memories surround traditions, should I elevate the traditions over the word of God? Surely not.
By now I’m quite sure some of you are preparing yourself for a message you don’t want to hear. Perhaps you shall be surprised. The Lord has left us in the world to be salt and light, to bear His image and lead people to a knowledge of the Saviour. Such a responsibility cannot be taken lightly, and if this time of the year allows me to present Christ, am I not bound to seize upon that opportunity?
I. THE OBSERVANCE OF CHRISTMAS
There is no biblical warrant to assign a day to celebrate the incarnation. This entire season revolves around the date of December 25. Traditionally it has been a religious affair, but for many now it is merely social. But in the Word of God, which is our authority for faith and practice, we cannot find anything which obligates or suggests to us that we observe a day in relation to the incarnation.
There is only one holy day. There is only one day we can see clearly observed by the Apostles after the resurrection, and that is the day we know as the Lord’s Day. That being the case, no Christian should ever feel that God requires them to observe Christmas Day or any other day as a day God has set aside for them as a holy day. It is not a day God demands we observe.
That is why I do not believe any church should decorate according to the season, or set up nativity scenes to be seen by the Lord’s people on the Lord’s Day, for it imposes upon its people scenes of the season that may violate their own conscience as they come to worship their living Saviour.
In light of 1 Cor 9, I believe we are at liberty to have a Christmas Eve service that is distinct from the Lord’s Day and is an optional service whereby we may use it as an opportunity to reach the lost.
Indeed I might argue we have a gospel duty to embrace the themes going through the minds of the populace in order to direct them to God’s holy truth, but it is not something I would force upon God’s people when they are commanded to worship on the appointed first day of the week.
II. THE ORIGINS OF CHRISTMAS
The origin of Christmas seems to lie in the pagan festival of Saturnalia which in turn goes back to the supposed birth date of the sun-god. Saturnalia was abhorrent to Christians but in the 4th century, Constantine endeavoured to change the pagan festival into a Christian one to mark the birth of Christ.
The question is, was it the devil or the Lord who moved Constantine to turn a pagan holiday into a Christian one to remember the incarnation of the Son of God? Is it the devil or God who moves the minds of multitudes to consider the single greatest miracle that the universe ever witnessed? Would it be the devil or God that would move the heart of the Christian to take advantage of this opportunity to share the truth of this event with sinners? Would it be the devil or God’s common grace that would cause thousands to sing and enjoy hearing sung, “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail the incarnate deity. Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus our Immanuel.”
Is it the devil or God’s common grace that makes people more patient to hear the gospel at this time of year?
Are we to reject all the good that is done that doesn’t directly contradict scripture? “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” (Gal 6:10). Is this not an opportunity to take advantage of? To do them good? To take advantage of their softened hearts and invite them to hear the gospel?
Some people have an issue with the very term Christmas, because of its connotations with the celebration of the Roman Catholic Mass for the birth of Christ. I’m not the kind of person who wishes to give any credence to the Church of Rome, but if we are to be consistent in such thinking we ought to abandon the use of the names for the days of the week, since they all have their roots in paganism.
If people these days actually thought of a RCC Mass when you use the term Christmas, I could understand why we would avoid it. But since they no more think of a Mass when you say Christmas than they think of the moon when you say Monday, I don’t see an issue.
IV. THE OBJECTIVE OF CHRISTMAS
Regardless of your view, the objective at this time of year should be the same as any other time of the year, how best can I glorify God in this?
1. Fulfilling the objective of glorifying God by participating in Christmas
If you choose to exercise your liberty of conscience and observe Christmas in some form, I would urge you believer to do it with biblical balance.
Avoid the excesses common in society, avoid the pressure to tell a lie to your children, and avoid observing it if it falls on the Lord’s Day. If no day is ever a day for you to just do your own thing. You’ve been bought with a price, and your days are to glorify God. 2. Fulfilling the objective of glorifying God by evading Christmas
On the other hand, if you choose to ignore the day altogether, avoid bringing shame to the name of Christ by your counter-cultural perspective. Don’t frown on everyone and everything like an obnoxious Pharisee, and don’t so distance yourself from the day that you refuse to take advantage of gospel opportunities that the season may impart to you.
Rom 14:13-15 – If I am insensitive in the exercising of my liberty, I do not walk according to love, and if I don’t walk in love, am I a Christian? If I put the consumption of alcohol as more important than the conscience and weakness of a brother, I am in bondage to my so-called liberty, and I have not love.
If a family decides in all good conscience, that according to the Word of God there’s no prohibition to prevent them engaging in certain aspects of the season. If they are not spending money they don’t have, and not lying to their children, and not engaging in frivolities that would bring shame to the name of Christ, but they decide to put up a Christmas tree, decorate the home, sing wholesome hymns about the incarnation, and exchange suitable gifts with family members, your judgement of its wrong doing is without biblical warrant.
If that family lives in submission to all the clear commands of Christ, and there is nothing in their conscience to prohibit them engaging in these practices, do not think less of them or criticize them.
Similarly however, if that family decides to invite someone over to their home when they have all these decorations and gifts around, and they know that person has an issue with it, when they extend the invite they should be gracious enough to say, “Look, I know you don’t observe Christmas, so while we would love to have you over, if it will make it uncomfortable for you, we can have do it some other time.”
This is not designed to spoil your holiday time. It is merely my heart that we be what God wants us to be. The Bereans were noble because they searched the scriptures and wanted to know the mind of God. Let us be a noble church, doing what God has called us to do.