At this time of year stores start playing Christmas songs, lights go up on houses, trees are set up with lots of decorations and people start planning their holiday schedule and meals. Many churches hold special services, choir concerts and some put nativity scenes out front.
It’s also the time of year when many Christians criticize those who celebrate the Lord’s birth. Some will even accuse them of being pagan worshipers. Many who do not celebrate Christmas look down on those who do as being swept away by worldliness and commercialism.
In some ways they have a point. Christmas can become an idol if we are not careful. We can overspend on both decorations and gifts to the point that we are no longer being good stewards of our finances. And to this we should evaluate our situation and ask the Lord (and others we trust) for help if we tend to go overboard.
Is celebrating Christmas wrong?
This is the big question of course. If it’s wrong, sinful or ungodly to celebrate Christmas, then none of us should be doing it. If it’s a matter of personal conviction then that takes on a whole different meaning. Let’s take a look at the idea of celebrating Christmas from a biblical viewpoint.
His birth was indeed celebrated
There’s no denying that angels, shepherds and eventually Magi celebrated the Lord’s birth. After all, 400 years had gone by since God had revealed himself to the nation (at least in what we have recorded for us). Four hundred years is a long time but now God speaks again. Not just with a message from Heaven but with an announcement of Immanuel, God with us! That is definitely something to celebrate.
Luke 2:13-14 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
The fact that we also celebrate the Lord’s death and sacrifice at the Lord’s Supper does not take away from the wonder and rejoicing that He came as a baby in human flesh. The Epistles mention this many times as an important feature of believing in Christ.
Galatians 4:4-5 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
1 John 4:3 And every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.
There is no commandment to celebrate Christmas but to say that is is wrong doesn’t have any validity from Scripture either.
What about Christmas trees and gifts?
Some will say that certain rituals such as putting up trees in our homes and decorating them is an act of pagan worship and that giving gifts is a form of greed and commercialism. They might use a verse out of the Old Testament such as Jeremiah 10:3-4
For the practices of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter.
However a simple study of the passage will show that it was an idol formed from the tree that was being explained not a full tree adorned with silver and gold. The roots of paganism are very difficult to confirm as there is so much we don’t know about pagan traditions. Much speculation exists. It’s very possible that some pagan traditions did involve elements of what is now celebrated at Christmas, but to say that Christians who do celebrate are engaging in pagan activity is a big stretch.
At the very heart of this matter is personal conviction. Since there is no clear teaching from the New Testament on celebrating the Lord’s birth, we need to respect other believer’s convictions. We should not condemn others who don’t celebrate Christmas and we should not condemn others that do. We are each accountable to the Lord for what we do for Him. But let’s be very clear that judging others is sin and must not be a part of our relationship with other Christians.
Colossians 2:16-17 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
Romans 14:10 You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.
An opportunity for evangelism
Regardless of your view of Christmas there is a very real fact that at this time of year, possibly more than any other, opportunities abound in evangelism. People are more open to consider the origin of Christmas from a Christian perspective. At the very least the focus on Jesus is at a high and people read, listen to and watch more about Him.
If your friends or your assembly have a Christmas outreach, consider the words of Paul regarding the gospel and support it in prayer (if not in participation). Even though Paul knew their intentions were against him, he still rejoiced that the gospel was being preached. You may not agree with a specific outreach at Christmas but most likely those involved have pure motives and only want to see people saved.
Philippians 1:18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice…
If you celebrate Christmas then do so unto the Lord and for His glory! If you don’t celebrate Christmas, then have that conviction as unto the Lord and for His glory! Let’s put aside criticism and judging and instead love and respect one another. Value the work of God in others even when we don’t agree with their convictions.
Let’s pray that the Lord will speak to the hearts of men and women through the story of his birth, life, death and resurrection and that they will turn to him for salvation and eternal life.