By Don Boys, Ph.D. Guest Columnist
Christian Action League
December 16, 2020
Historian Will Durant declared, “The greatest question of our time is not communism versus individualism; not Europe versus America; not even the East versus West. It is whether men can live without God.”
That’s why we celebrate Christmas.
Each nation is made up of all kinds of people: atheists, humanists, secularists, do-gooders, good-doers, traditionalists, religious people of hundreds of religions, church members, nominal Christians, and dedicated Christians. Most of these people celebrate Christmas, at least a secular Christmas. But then, a secular Christmas, while completely legal, is not celebrating Christmas.
Some people have an affinity toward snowmen, Rudolph, a jolly old man, gifts, wild parties, elves, and reindeer. If that’s your thing, go with it. But it isn’t Christmas.
Some dedicated Christians refuse to celebrate Christmas for various reasons. They are correct in their belief that the Bible gives no command to do so, but then there is no biblical command to observe Easter. We are not even sure when Christ was born. Evidently, we don’t need to know that fact. The fact of His birth is sufficient. The day doesn’t matter.
Upper-class Romans believed that Mithra, born from a rock as a youth on December 25, was an infant god, the god of the unconquerable sun. That date was the most sacred day of the year. It is said that Christians, as they rose to some influence, usurped that day for the birth of Christ.
With the reign of Constantine (died A.D. 337), Christianity quickly became more powerful and the dominant religion around the Mediterranean area, the Levant (Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, part of Turkey), and Central Europe. By the Middle Ages, nominal Christianity had replaced paganism. Roman Catholics slowly dominated all religions throughout Europe, building enormous cathedrals in larger cities and parish churches in smaller towns. The independent Bible Churches continued to operate in their shadow. The Catholics went to church on Christmas Day, jumped through the religious hoops, then left church to celebrate in a raucous, drunken, carnival-like atmosphere somewhat like today’s Mardi Gras.
The Christians in colonial America wanted nothing to do with the drunken partying of European church members, so Christmas was not observed in the 1600s in Puritan colonies. It was even illegal to observe the day in Boston, but Christmas was slowly accepted until it was declared a national holiday in 1870. Jamestown was an exception since it was more secular than the other colonies, and Captain John Smith reported that Christmas was universally observed in Jamestown.
Principled Christians who refuse to observe Christmas are not without ostensible biblical and historical support. Jeremiah 10:2-4 commands, “Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. 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 with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.”
So, nonobservant Christians claim scriptural support, but it is a perversion of Scripture to give that support. We must never twist Scripture to support what we choose to believe. We frame our beliefs with the proper interpretation of Scripture.
Christmas critics hone in on “deck it with silver and with gold.” However, this is a warning to Jews not to commit idolatry by doing as the heathen in worshiping the heavens, cutting down trees and carving, polishing, and painting wooden idols and worshipping them.
Isaiah 44:14-15 says, “He heweth him down cedars, …Then shall it be for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it, and baketh bread; yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto.” Here, too, is a warning against idolatry in “maketh a god and worshippeth it.”
Even if they are sincere, it is a twisting of Scripture to use those verses to support the refusal to celebrate Christmas.
There is no doubt that many Christmas traditions have roots back into paganism, but that does not require us to reject the holiday. After all, the days of the week are pagan-based, but when we think of Sunday, we don’t think of pagans who worshiped the sun god. Same with the other weekdays.
A big criticism of Christmas is that it is so commercial, and the message of a baby being born (incarnate God) who would bear the sins of mankind is lost in all the buying and selling, drinking and carousing, giving and getting. However, that does not negate the true meaning of Christmas; after all, man has corrupted everything from sex, the family, the church, etc. What’s wrong with families making an untainted Christ-honoring season to observe?
It is alleged that observing Christmas gives credibility to paganism and revives and recognizes the wild, wicked, and wayward practices of the Middle Ages. After all, the Apostle Paul warned in I Thessalonians 5:22 to “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” But that means to have nothing to do with any genuine form of evil as revealed in the Word of God, not man’s ever-changing conjecture of right and wrong.
Paul reminds us that some people see evil in everything, and that, too, is wrong. Titus 1:15 tells us, “Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.” There are some who teach that all sex is wrong or it must be for the purpose of procreation; however, that is a distortion of what the Bible teaches.
The critics remind us that since the Bible does not tell us to observe Christmas, it is a presumptive sin to do so; however, that is fallacious logic. We don’t have biblical support for youth pastors, 401-k plans, Lincoln Town Cars, church vans, church dinners, Christian schools, hymnbooks, church pews, Wednesday evening services, sabbaticals, and mission boards. The old discredited argument from silence only works on the non-thinkers and the simpleminded.
Colossians 2:16 declares, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days.” It is each person’s decision as to what he or she will celebrate. But it must be sincere and not contrary to Scripture.
It must be remembered that there are precedents for making much of His birth. After all, the shepherds caused a big stir about it. The angels made a big deal out of His birthday. “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, good will toward men.” The wise men from the East came hundreds of miles with hundreds in their entourage to celebrate His birth. The early churches met each Sunday to commemorate His death and resurrection. And there is no scriptural command to go to church on Sunday. Fact is, the early Christians met every day and later changed it to Sunday. As circumstances changed, they adjusted as long as no Scripture was violated.
The criticism that we spend large sums of money is a legitimate criticism. Children are often overwhelmed with gifts and are not reminded about the gifts of the wise men to celebrate the birth of Christ. Or the fact that Christ gave Himself as the sin offering for the world. Moreover, excessive spending is a bad example for children who learn not to appreciate their gifts.
The ultimate reason for the season is to recognize, repent, and receive the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ as the gift of personal salvation—the most important, inspiring, and illustrious events in history. Moreover, it would seem to be unusual if those events were not recognized as such by His followers.
Become convinced in your own mind what to do about celebrating Christmas, then don’t judge others who disagree with you. Romans 14:5 warns, “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.”
Whatever you do about Christmas, what will you do about the Santa thing? What will you tell your children? A big mistake is made if you confuse Santa and the Savior. It is already being done because “Santa knows when you’ve been sleeping; he knows when you’re awake; he knows if you’ve been bad or good.” Sounds like an omniscient God to me.
Furthermore, if you support the receiving of gifts because you’ve been good, you are promoting the heretical idea that one must earn his or her salvation. Another horrific result is the children who don’t believe their parents when they tell them about Christ after deceiving them about Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy.
Christmas should be a time of fun for children; however, parents must not instill a lifetime heresy in them. My wife and I never spoke about Santa or discussed it with the children since they were bright enough to know a big fat man could not ride around the world in a sleigh pulled by reindeer and get it done in one night. Furthermore, they knew he could not get down the chimney and eat cookies and milk in every home. Besides, we didn’t have a chimney.
God instructed the Jews in Deuteronomy 6:6, 7 to give a proper answer when the children asked about their traditions, such as the Passover. “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” Special days were to be teaching experiences.
It would be a rejection of their heritage not to tell them about Jewish captivity in Egypt and God’s deliverance. When children ask about Christmas, they must get the right story, not some silly myth. Go on, if you must, with the Santa stuff but be sure they know it is a myth. You might suggest that they not discuss Santa with their friends. My four-year-old daughter was told by her older sister that Santa was a myth, and she told her pre-kindergarten class, causing a sobbing brouhaha with fellow students. The teacher, who was my friend whom I had hired, had to calm her whole class. I suggest you require your children not share with believers (in Santa) that he is a myth. It is the job of parents.
My wife, Ellen’s three-year-old Jennifer, asked her, “Is there a real live Santa Claus man in this whole world of ours?” Her mother told her the true meaning of Christmas and that people made up Santa for fun. When asked by her pastor’s grown son, what Santa brought her, she replied, “Philip, you know there is no real live Santa Clause man in this whole world of ours.”
In the early churches, the question of eating meat that had been offered to idols was hotly contested. Some said it was endorsing paganism while others suggested idols are simply pieces of wood; therefore, there is no harm in eating such meat. I Corinthians 8:9 reminds us, “But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.” We need to apply this biblical principle to this issue.
Now, go out and get your Christmas tree.