Saturday, December 15, 2007

Should Christians celebrate Christmas?

An article written by a SAAB blogger (of all people) recently caught my attention. In the article, the author reveals his disdain for the holiday season. From his perspective, not only is the holiday overly commercialized, but it is also not something necessary for Christians to observe.
To top it all off, my religious tradition does not attach any special significance to Christmas. To us it's simply a secular holiday, and that's fine by me. The Bible says absolutely nothing about celebrating Jesus's birth, and Christmas is really a man-made holiday with traditions built upon Northern European pagan winter solstice rituals, so I think that we are on solid ground here.

EggsnGrits
He's right in many ways. Many of the holiday traditions are based on ancient pagan rituals. But be that as it may, the more important question revolves around the biblical importance of the birth of Christ. Is that event something that Christians should commemorate or not? To answer that question, we first need to consider another. How did believers in the Bible respond to the birth of Jesus Christ? I found three responses as I read through the accounts of Matthew and Luke.
  1. The shepherds responded by spreading the news and praising God for what he had allowed them to see (Luke 2:8-20).
  2. Simeon and Anna, who had been awaiting the coming of the Messiah, praised God for his arrival (Luke 2:25-38).
  3. The wise men, at least a year later, responded by worshiping the young child (Matt. 2:1-12).
In each case, the individuals involved saw the importance of the child's birth. The baby was born to be the King, Savior, and Redeemer of mankind. They looked beyond the immediate to see the greatness of our God in sending just what the world needed most. It was a time of great excitement because of what they knew he would accomplish. The Lord Jesus left the wonders of heaven, to live among sinful people, and to eventually sacrifice himself for the sins of the world so that man could be reconciled with God. That, my friend, is something worth celebrating.

While the Bible doesn't command us to commemorate the birth of the Savior, it certainly seems to be a good idea. Just reading the responses of these three groups (not to mention the response of the angelic host) makes me want to shout out the good news to my neighborhood. But somehow I don't think the neighbors would enjoy it at 11:30 pm. Know what I mean? But as with all celebrations, we each have to make our own decision on the matter (Rom. 14:5). Some celebrate the event; some don't. In either case, let's take the moment to thank God the Father for sending his Son for us. Amen.

5 comments:

dale said...

The birth of the Savior is the beginning of the Gospel. For unto us is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ, the Lord. He could not die if he were not born: for us and our salvation we celebrate his birth. He is the Savior, born of the virgin, born under the law that he might redeem us who are condemned by the it. Merry Christmas, Andy.

Another great post, btw.

EggsnGrits said...

Perhaps I wasn't fully clear in my post -- I do celebrate Christ's birth, I just feel no special significance to celebrate that birth on or around December 25, nor do I feel that the birth is the focal point.

In my view, Christians are to celebrate the death and resurrection every day, and by extension the birth and life of Jesus Christ should be in daily thought.

I do have some special attachment for Easter, because a)it is necessary for Christians to celebrate the resurrection and b)the date is known with precision. However, it isn't an overwhelming occasion, either -- just an extra special reminder of what we are to do daily.

So, that's the deal. Everyday is Easter, everyday is Christmas. The annual occasions are more tradition or secular invention.

If you choose to celebrate Christmas with all of the trappings of the nativity on December 25, do it. In my view, if that attracts a few extra folks to church that would normally pass it by, then it's been worth it. However, I would be VERY careful about any statements that imply that the Christmas celebration is commanded or should be very important to Christians. There simply isn't any Biblical basis.

You've cited a few verses that support your view; I'll counter with:

Focus of the message:
Acts 17:18 "...Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection."
Romans 1:4 "...who through the Spirit[a] of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God[b] by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord."
(etc.)

Commanded to celebrate the death:
Luke 22:19-20 "And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me."
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you."
I Cor 11 -- Paul corrects the Corinthians about their practices around the Lord's Supper, but there is no such admonition on celebrating the birth.

You will find no parallel entries on the birth.

EggsnGrits said...

One more thought: you may remember my/our mantra of speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent.

This is one of those times.

The Bible has little about celebrating the birth in anyway -- only by extrapolating on the reactions of a few do we have any real guidance at all. You've pointed them out very well.

So, from my perspective, who really knows what's right and what's wrong? To do or not to do?

This is where we can really get tripped up.

It is my belief that the Bible is silent here. So, if I say that my tradition is correct, I'm not exactly following the 'silence' of the scripture, correct? Simply because God's Word doesn't talk much about it does NOT imply a command against the tradition of celebrating Christmas. That is, silence doesn't equal condemnation. Vice versa is true -- implying Christmas is necessary isn't really consistent with God's word, either.

So, do what you think is right, and I'm good with that. However, the minute that you say that it's necessary or or that I'm wrong, you're on very, very flimsy ground unless your Bible reads differently than mine. Turnabout is true -- I can't really condemn someone else's participation in Christmas, can I?

EggsnGrits said...

One more thing: If you do celebrate with a nativity, at least do yourself a favor -- position the 'wise men' a few feet away to signify that they were traveling and were likely there weeks or months after the fact. Also, don't buy the accepted notion of three men (three GIFTS, but unknown number of men), and also don't accept the notion that they are of different ethnicities -- they "returned to their country" (one country) according to the Bible.

I may write up a Mythbusters take on Christmas on my blog. I'm in the mood.

Andy Rupert said...

Eggs,

Your post got me thinking. Why do we do what we do? Is it helpful? Is it something we should do? etc. etc. If you were to read through this blog, you would find that I enjoy comparing what people write with what the Bible says. My intention has always been to be biblical in my thinking and actions. So, answering your article was both enjoyable and instructive.

I preached these thoughts at our monthly nursing home service Sunday. The thrust of the message was the purpose of his birth. He wasn't born simply to create a holiday. Instead his birth announced the coming redemption for sinful humanity. As the Bible points out, he accomplished this on the cross and rose again after three days. That's good stuff.