The “Christmas Season” is a great way to liven up an otherwise dreary time of the year. Since so much time will be spent indoors, it serves as a good time to gather together friends and family for feasts and merriment. Since it comes at the end of the year, it’s a good time to reflect on the year in much the same way as we in the U.S. do for Thanksgiving. Not everyone has the means for festivities and merriment, especially during this harsh time of the year, so Charity is often promoted heavily during this time of year with food drives and gift-giving. All of these things are “good” things. I enjoy Thanksgiving-style festivals. As Christians, we know that for Thanksgiving, all praise and glory and honor and thanks go to God the Father. Unbelievers talk about “being thankful” but to whom and for what remains undefined… because they lack faith. They are lost and have rejected God by suppressing the Truth in their unrighteousness, knowing God but refusing to worship Him as God (Romans 1)… but they still observe the feast of Thanksgiving without acknowledging the Creator. Essentially, we observe the same festival in two distinctly different ways… Christians thank God the Father for all He has done, while unbelievers focus on mankind and “being thankful” in a general sense.
Christmas and Thanksgiving are Man-made Feasts
In fact, when we look at these two modern-day holidays as feasts or festivals, we see that they are not all that different from feasts and festivals around the world. Sure the trappings and the details change, but all of the “good things” in these festivals are the food, family, and fellowship. These are man-made feasts. Neither of these feasts is intrinsically Holy, for neither of them were instituted by God in Scripture. That doesn’t make them evil, it only means they are man-made customs. That they are both nationally recognized means that they are extremely popular, but that doesn’t mean everyone is celebrating the same thing. Just as we discussed the difference between how unbelievers and believers honor Thanksgiving, there are major differences in what the world celebrates and what Christians celebrate for Christmas. At least, there should be. The problem is that we’ve allowed the world to set up some rather perilous pitfalls with the season.
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
In truth, it isn’t. This time of year is hard, difficult, cold, and depressive. The world turns to a lot of legends, folklore, romance, and alcohol to pass the time and look out for each other to make the most of this time of year. Jack Frost, Old Man Winter, Santa Clause, elves, fairies, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, ghosts of Christmas past/present/future,… these are all folklore and pagan legends. None of them are Christ-affirming, and that is to be expected from a world that Hates Jesus.
John 15:18-25 (ESV) | The Hatred of the World
18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did,they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’
So then, the first pitfall I want to make clear is that the world that Hates Jesus, is NOT celebrating Him. When the world gathers together for Thanksgiving, it isn’t to thank God… they find their own things to thank: themselves, humanity, or nature in general. They tend to celebrate the food, the Football, the Parade, the time away from work… anything but God. Similarly, when the world celebrates Christmas, they celebrate Santa, Gifts, Romance, Time off from work, the food. If there is a spiritual element to their celebration, it’s usually a spirit of humanism, or some sort of pantheism. The world has constructed a malleable idol of “the christmas spirit” which compels them to do good works in hopes of a reward from Santa. If you listen to the songs that play in the stores and on the radio, you’ll quickly recognize that they are honoring the feast, the parties, the traditions of the season, not the birth of the Savior. That’s what the world celebrates. And as the world celebrates their thing, they demonstrate their benevolence toward Christians by allowing us our nativity scenes. The world isn’t intimidated by “Baby Jesus”, or “Christmas Jesus” as was demonstrated so horribly in the Thanksgiving Dinner scene of Talladega Nights (ref scene here). The world doesn’t bow the knee to a Lord and Savior Jesus Christ… yet. When Christ returns, every knee will bow… and tongue confess… but for many it will be too late to escape judgement.
When the Church Conforms to the World’s Version
A common refrain within the visible church is, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”. If that is the case, why are so many Christians offended by those who reject the Santa lie? Why do we bring Santa into churches? Why do Christians take part in “Elf on the Shelf” nonsense? Probably for the same reason that so many popular pastors have deemed it appropriate to preach sermons based on blockbuster movies rather than the Word of God. They’ll preach their own experiences or a recent Christian self-help book from a best-selling author (who may have bought that title) rather than the Word of God. Here is the second pitfall I’d like to point out, that simply including some mention of Jesus or insisting on “keeping the ‘Christ’ in Christmas”, doesn’t somehow make everything associated with Christmas sacred. If the Christmas tree in the foyer is just a decoration, fine… it’s a decoration no more/less holy than a welcome mat. Just don’t fall into the trap that somehow it needs to be there or the holiday is ruined.
Few Christmas songs actually point to Christ. Of those, not many convey the full Gospel. Of those, few are played on the airwaves and in the stores. What does get played a lot are the songs glorifying “the Christmas season” or various cultural traditions “at this time of year”. We actually have songs singing to the Christmas Tree, to Santa Clause, and songs about other fantasy creatures such as Rudolph or Frosty. My blood flash-boils whenever I hear one of these songs sung in a Church during Praise and Worship. Who are these songs praising and worshiping? Let that sink in a moment…
There are a lot of entertaining movies that are released at this time of year, but none of them convey the Gospel message. And that leads me to the next pitfall, there is no way of ‘Saving Christmas’ so that it becomes an institutional Gospel message. Do not expect the world, to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that is the Great Commission for Believers. Don’t expect the world to keep this holiday sacred, that’s patently absurd.
So is Christmas okay or wrong?
Neither. There is nothing intrinsically Holy about Christmas. The Gospel isn’t Christmas, it’s Jesus Christ. I pray you understand the distinction I’m making. The Christmas Holiday is a great festival, but completely disposable… the Biblical account of the Virgin Birth is indispensable and is part of our faith and Gospel year-round. Avoid the pitfalls of making more of the wrong things than we ought. Don’t lie to your kids about Santa… he’s no more necessary for their upbringing than my-little-pony and he’s potentially far more dangerous for their faith. This culture pushes kids to believe in what they KNOW to be a lie, harder than they push for them to know their Savior Jesus Christ. God forgive us. But more importantly, don’t conflate what is essentially a Thanksgiving festival with the Gospel Message of the virgin birth of the Messiah, Son of the Living God. In all things, even in this rebuke/warning, we are to walk in love and in thanksgiving to God. For our final pitfall, let us open our Bibles to Romans 14.
Do Not Pass Judgment on One Another
14 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 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. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
5 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. 6 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. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written,
“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall confess to God.”
12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.
Do Not Cause Another to Stumble
13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual up building.
20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats.21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. 22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God.Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
The biggest pitfall of this season, is in casting judgment upon our brother/sister over how they choose to celebrate (or abstain) this man-made festival. We will continue studying God’s Word and what is Written our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and how the Word became flesh and walked among us. It is always a good thing to everything you do to the honor and Glory of God, and Christmas can be such an occasion, just like Thanksgiving, New Years, Easter, the 4th of July… that’s why we are called to walk in Him. We walk everywhere we go, thus wherever and whenever we are walking we are to do so in Him. Now there is one holy occasion in Scripture that we are told to observe in Christ’s honor. In fact, He instituted it Himself. Let’s look at that before we close.
Luke 22:14-20 (ESV)
14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him.15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying,“This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
The Apostle Paul also received these instructions and relayed them to the Corinthians who were making a mockery of Communion (some were getting drunk and eating for their fill).
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (ESV)
23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
May the Lord Bless you and keep you until the Great Day of His Return.
In Christ Jesus,