What about Christmas?

Christmas is just a few short weeks away.  Some of you may already be dealing with chill weather and snow although for us here in Florida, not so much.  Christmas, for better or worse, is one of the most widely known holidays, being well known even in locales that don’t celebrate it.  The vast majority of people that know of it probably picture evergreen trees, presents, family and food, and probably Santa Claus and reindeer.  In light of Matthew 7, it’s a pretty good guess that a lot of people who celebrate Christmas do not do so to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  Every year it seems that the media pushes “merry x-mas” or the ubiquitous “happy holidays” which is to be expected from an increasingly secular populace.

More disconcerting is that there are also those who claim to follow Christ but belittle or even outright attack fellow believers because of how (or that) they observe Christmas.  It is definitely possible to sin, or “fall short of the glory of God,” in celebration of Christmas.  There is no denying that people can easily let the festivities, gifts, family, or any number of other things take precedence in our lives and disrupt our relationship with our Heavenly Father.  Galatians 6:1 instructs that those who “are spiritual” seek to restore a believer who has gone astray in meekness, or humility.  However, what we’re referring to is people attacking believers simply for celebrating Christmas, putting up trees, or exchanging gifts.

One of the more common reasons given for this is a passage in Jeremiah, chapter 10, verses three and four, “For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.  They deck it with silver and gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.”  Initially, this does sound very much like some Christmas trees but only if the passage is taken out of the context of the rest of the chapter.  This passage is specifically written to the people of Israel to warn them against the idolatry that they encountered from captivity in Babylon or those who were left behind witnessed in other nations nearby.  It is similar to Isaiah 44 and is clearly not referring to a Christmas tree when you take into account verse five, “They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not; they must needs be borne, because they cannot go.  Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.”  That the passage is referring to idols is further confirmed in verses 9, 11, 14,  and 15.  You should not worship your Christmas tree but having one as a decoration is not prohibited in any scripture we could find.  Let us also be clear that there is no mandate to celebrate Christmas, it is entirely optional.  This brings us to our final point.

One of the last commandments that Jesus gave before His death is found in John 13:34 & 35, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”  This is Jesus speaking to believers about loving other believers.  This is right after Jesus has washed the disciples’ feet and right before Jesus tells Peter that Peter will deny Him three times.  Jesus is telling them that the world will know that they are His followers based off how they treat other followers of Christ.  Are these attacks on fellow believers loving one another as Jesus has loved us?  Jesus’ scathing criticisms weren’t for the woman taken in adultery, the adulteress at the well, the short thieving tax collector, or even for the fellow thieves that were crucified with Him.  They were always for the legalistic religious leaders who faulted Jesus and His followers for not washing their hands before they ate, for healing on the Sabbath, sitting to eat with sinners, or other similar issues.  We should strive to call sinners to repentance but just as Jesus condemned the religious leaders for “preaching for doctrine the traditions of men,” nowadays it feels as if most people are preaching for doctrine the opinions of men.  There are people who feel that you shouldn’t celebrate non-religious holidays, or that you shouldn’t celebrate any holidays, that you shouldn’t eat any meat, that you shouldn’t eat pork, that you should wear blue tassels on your clothing, or any number of rules not related to morality.  There is no sin in choosing to follow these strictures for yourself, the issue arises when people try to hold other believers to these standards.

We celebrate Christmas to honor the day of our Savior’s birth.  Much about the birth of Jesus fulfilled prophecies that were to be used to determine who the Messiah was.  Jesus’ birth was every bit as important to our salvation as His death, burial, and resurrection.  Angels heralded his birth saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”  There is no commandment or requirement to celebrate the birth of our Lord but we, like so many other believers, choose to do so.

If you have any questions regarding this we will leave you with this passage from Paul written to believers in Rome, and as we do I hope that you can join with us in giving glory to God in the highest and on earth peace and good will toward men.   Romans 14:1-13:

1 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.

2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.

3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.

4 Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.

5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.

6 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.

7 For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.

8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.

9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.

10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.

12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.