As I said in my last post, this is the first time in 35 years I’ll be acknowledging Christmas. After hours of discussion during our pre-dawn breakfast brawls, I told my husband that my feelings about Christmas had changed.
Gino and I playfully name our early morning discussions as “breakfast brawls” because we fuss and intellectually joust on a variety of subjects. This year the topic was Christmas. Both of us spent years loyally supporting the teachings of our church.
NO CHRISTMAS– its paganism–and we had ex’d Christmas out of our family life.
This year, we decided to give Christmas a second look. I upheld my church’s teaching and custom in my home faithfully: no lights, no trees, no presents, no Christmas cards (well maybe one to my wealthy Aunt in Brooklyn)–No, NO and NO to everything Christmas!
To our fundamentalist religion, the very idea was too Roman Catholic (since they seemed to be the first ones to combine December 25 with the baby Jesus) and, need I repeat it, the practices were too pagan. In our eyes, Christ’s-Mass represented the combining of the winter solstice with the birth of Christ, and we refused to participate. Those bad Roman Catholics did this to us all. We had been enlightened, We were above all that, and we were serious about it.
To read about pagan practices associated with Christmas click here.
Many of the pagan practices associated with Christmas are easy to spot. Mistletoe, Yule, drunkenness and yes, caroling. Yet, I couldn’t ignore the fact that worldwide it had become part of Christian custom and tradition to celebrate the birth of Christ. It has become a time of year people try to show love to one another, meditate on the birth of Christ and his purpose for coming into the world, peace on earth and good will toward all men–you know– the Christmas spirit. In short, it is a universal Christian custom to honor the birth of the King of Kings.
Customs are simply practices created by communities of people. Those customs may endure regardless of the original source. Biblically, we have the freedom to acknowledge or not acknowledge a particular day.
Colossians 2:16-17 Let no man judge you in respect of a holy day.
Paul encouraged the Roman Christians not to change their love or view of one another based on differences of beliefs that had little to do with the true kingdom of God.
Paul stated in Romans 14:5
One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
Yes, Christmas (and Easter) are man-created celebrations of sacred things. Some wish to observe and celebrate; others do not.
In our increasingly godless society, I find value in having opportunities to worship and tell what Christ means to me and how he changed my life.
It was funny to me how folks in my church were cautious not to honor Christmas but when Easter came, all the new hats and clothes would come out on Easter Sunday morning. Where is that in the bible? Were we told to celebrate his resurrection?
In my years since becoming a Christian, this issue of holidays has been a delicate dance. There are Christians who feel you are deceived and nigh backsliding if you join in Christmas celebrations and others don’t care and have their ugly Christmas sweaters and crazy shopping days ready to roll.
Our church was particularly joyless and confusing this time of year.
Let me tell you an interesting story about what happened in our church.
My husband belonged to our church as a child in the 1960s. Now, up to this point, Christmas was not an issue. In fact, every year a beautifully decorated Christmas tree was placed by the stage in the basement of the church and from what I understand, the Pastor gave away presents to the children.
One year, as lore has it, an evangelist came through and like the Grinch, stole Christmas away in his little bible satchel and ran off.
He preached against Christmas and decorating trees (Jeremiah 10) and from then on, he convinced the Pastor that it was not good for Christians to celebrate this pagan-infested banquet of evil. The Pastor started teaching against it. After a while, the tree in the basement came down, and the NO CHRISTMAS rule was in effect. It spread and spread throughout the years until, by the time I came to the church, you had to say “happy holidays” and not “Merry Christmas”. Saying Merry Christmas was not right. And you were literally reported to the ministers if you had a Christmas tree in your house.
Where is that evangelist anyway?
Some weakly try to keep this no Christmas tradition going, but many of the people in my church now acknowledge Christmas. Recently a Pastor stated during a church service that “saints (the Bible term for Christians) don’t celebrate Christmas”.
The people in front of me looked around confused and shocked by the statement. This was the first time they heard this. Apparently, this was not a “thing” in their church, which was interesting to us because we grew up in an opposite atmosphere where such a statement would have been met with a hearty “amen”. See what I mean by confusing.
In all honesty, it really should have been left up to the individual.
While in our church, people were practically “turned in” for celebrating Christmas, many other branches of our church celebrated with vigor. For example, my husband and I were friends with a pastor in Oklahoma, and his kids would send us Christmas cards almost every year. But we felt odd sending them cards because–WE don’t do that. We were enlightened to the truth of Christmas. Well, should we send one back? We wondered. Was that joining in with the wrong “spirit”? We weren’t sure.
We were being rude for Christ’s sake, I guess. Everyone was left to fend for themselves in these situations.
Gino and I created a Family Appreciation Day around this time where we would give our children presents and tell them how much we loved and appreciated them. We’d stay up all night and have games and videos and special, once-a-year foods. We basically created our own celebration in the midst of our joyless anti-Christmas atmosphere. Our children knew what the deal was. They knew about the pagan roots and why we didn’t practice some things but looked forward to this fun time and the presents every year. We didn’t want them to go back to school from Christmas break with a lump of coal.
Here are some arguments that we used while under this spell and our thoughts on it now.
1) We don’t even know the day Christ was born.
Well, a lot of people of less significance to the history of the world, don’t know their birth date, but they know they were born. So they pick a day and celebrate. American slaves did that all the time. So there’s nothing wrong with a day to call attention to the birth of Christ. Besides, for some, this is the only time they may even think about Him at all. Any time I get an opportunity to talk about the King of all Kings or the plan of salvation is a beautiful time.
2) All the paganism and fantasy mixed in is just lying. Christians promote truth, and Santa, elves, reindeer, flying sleighs, and Ole St.Nick knowing whether you’re naughty or nice is all part of the Christmas scene. It’s just not truthful.
This is true! Those things are false. But who says those things have to be a part of your celebration. Why throw out the baby Jesus with the bath water? The birth of Christ is a true event. Stay away from the false. The original reason for the season is celebrating the birth of the savior to the world. This doesn’t mean one has to live on fantasy island. As Christians, we don’t have to indulge secularism. We can take it back and make it sacred. Make this time of year your own. Create holy family traditions. Eliminate the milk and cookies for Santa and bring out manger scenes and little drummer boy songs that tell about Christ. You have to stay focused on what is important to you and your family. Any time I can bring up what God has done for my life, it’s worth celebrating.
What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice (Philippians 1:15-18)
3)Where do you see Christ telling anyone to celebrate his birthday in the bible? Ha! I would get my relatives with this one because of course, they couldn’t find any scripture like this. But we thought about this again. Where do we see Christ telling anyone to make a celebration about his resurrection either? But we gladly do this every year at Easter. It’s customary among almost the entirety of Christendom. Easter is a late development of Christian tradition and was never celebrated in the New Testament. Acts 12:4 ( only in the KJV) is the only place the word Easter is mentioned. Some Pastors because of this fact have taken to calling Easter Resurrection Sunday. But we won’t fuss about words.
4)We don’t celebrate Christmas. It’s Paganism!
Now, as much as my husband and I hollered these words, and said we were free from the Spirit of Christmas. Several conflicting issues would come up.
1 ) Our church gave out fruit and nut baskets to church members (BECAUSE IT’S THE HOLIDAYS!)
2) We sang all the Christmas songs in the hymnal around December 25, but not in July…only in December. Hark the Herald Angels Sing just did not fit near the 4th of July.
3) We had special Christmas morning church services, even though it’s “just a day” and Christ wasn’t born on the 25th. The justification was “it’s customary, and people are looking for church services during Christmas time. We’re catering to people’s understanding.” Or rather their CUSTOM. Helllooo?
4) Our church still went caroling on the street to reach people for Christ. No complaints about this. It was appropriate and beautifully done. But this does come from pagan practices and you don’t find that in the bible either.
5) We were instructed that if someone gives you a Christmas gift……TAKE IT and don’t be offensive, AND THANK THE PERSON AND JESUS….BUT we didn’t give OUT Christmas gifts to our families because that would be participating in the spirit of Christmas.
6) We did visit our families during this time, ate their figgy puddings, visited each other’s homes, and played board games and then enjoyed the AFTER Christmas sales. We still had a good time, but we did NOT decorate our houses.
So this year, we decided to do wreaths, poinsettias, candles, and cards and we’re working on gifts. We’re so out of practice. My husband couldn’t bring himself to do the lights and trees yet. Baby steps.
This year we will celebrate the fact that Christ was born, that he came to this world as part of God’s great plan of salvation and grew up to be the perfect example of holiness and the perfect sacrifice for our sins. And because of all this, we can lay our sins at the foot of the cross. Hallelujah!
No cookies will be left out for Santa though.
So Happy Hanukkah