Table of Contents
TO CHRISTMAS OR NOT TO CHRISTMAS?
The controversy over Christmas has grown over the last few years. How or even if Christians should celebrate Christmas is being re-examination in the light of casting off other timeless traditions. The sweet songs and hope filled stories of that silent night and the twinkling lights of houses and homes decorated with Christmas Trees has seemed have fallen into ill-repute, even among Christians themselves.
Their arguments vary. Stringing Christmas light in front yards to testify to the beliefs of those who dwell therein has decreased as has the popularity of believing in Jesus. Many prefer their beliefs remain anonymous lest they become the target of disapproval in their communities. Decorating front yards with lights for Christmas has become more like putting a controversial bumper-sticker on your car. It is only for radicals.
For those with a rigid, more legalistic approach to scripture, the traditions of celebrating Christmas and especially putting up Christmas Trees seems to take the opposite position of those who decorate for the season. Their desire is to keep everything “sacred” and uncontaminated with “worldly” influence. This clouds the testimony of Christmas as an opportunity to witness to God’s divine intervention in human affairs. Instead, the Enemy has moved it to the place of becoming, for some, an offense and a Stumbling Block. (ICor.8:9)
Is December really a time when Christians should be celebrating the birth of Jesus, or is Christmas just another pagan holiday dressed up to look like something good that we should avoid participating in? Was Jesus really born in December? Are Christmas trees part of pagan traditions? Are Christmas cookies legal? Would it be better for believers to just avoid the celebrations altogether to keep themselves pure and unspotted by the world?
Many believe Jesus was not born in December. They are probably right since now we can use computer generated technology to go back and look for the Star of Bethlehem in the night sky to determine the time and season of His birth. Is it really that important to our Christian faith to have the exact date? If God were so set on the importance of us knowing that fact, would He not have made it more clear and indisputable in His Word?
He does document the Birth as taking place in the time Caesar Augustus took a census to register the people when Quirinius was “governing Syria”. (Lu. 2:1-2) That should be enough said about the date. The historical records verify the more subtle details of Joseph and Mary, being of the house and lineage of David, traveling approximately 100 miles on donkey and on foot to get from Nazareth, located in Galilee to Bethlehem of Judea. Bethlehem was the city of David, the town of their origin. They got there just in time for Mary to deliver her first born Son and lay Him in a manger wrapped in swaddling cloths. Was it December 24, the Holy Night the Angels sang? Does it matter? The fact is, He came!
A more astute question would be, why would God make such a big deal about what the Baby was wearing? Some say the shepherds would recognize this “sign” (Lu.2:12). They would know exactly where to find Him, in the Tower of the Flocks.* They knew about the Tower and swaddling the lambs to prepare them for sacrifice. They would also recognize the practice of laying them in mangers, (feeding troughs to keep the lamb from become bruised or injured before it could be sacrificed. And in all this angelic revelation, they would begin to understand the divine mystery surrounding this Child’s future.
*(Bethlehem, located just a few short miles from the temple in Jerusalem, was where the temple flocks were pastured and prepared for slaughter in a place called “the tower of the flocks.”)
SHOULD CHRISTIANS HAVE CHRISTMAS TREES?
Should Christians put up Christmas trees and decorate for the holidays? Should we stop greeting people with “Merry Christmas” and singing Christmas Carols? And what about inviting family and friends over to share our tables and homes at the holidays?
Would it be better to just ignore and avoid all the wonderful opportunities to use this season of hope and good will to share the Good Will of God? Should we remain silent regarding the reason for the season and not reflect on the things that happened on that sacred, most Holy Night?
I am sure the Enemy would greatly encourage our silence regarding the arrival of the Incarnate Son of God. He would erase the historical event completely from the minds of those of us who are still humans and in need of saving if he could. No doubt, It is his delight to disconnect us from everything that connects us with each other and our Heavenly Father.
Satan is the real Scrooge and the Grinch that stole Christmas. He hates the Christmas message and does not want anyone to know or understand God’s plan to intervene in the affairs of earth, to bring hope to the hopeless and keep His promise to come and help us.
WHAT IS CHRISTMAS? – A TIME TO REMEMBER
So what is Christmas? Why do we celebrate it? Who benefits from the traditions of observing it? How does reflecting on and rejoicing in the coming of the Baby Jesus benefit the Kingdom of God? How do our actions bring glory to God and good news to others? (These questions bring us to the bottom line on deciding why we celebrate and what we should do with Christmas.)
In the Christmas story we get to see God at one of His most awesome and emotionally personal moments. We see the choirs of heavenly hosts bursting with good news, lighting up the night sky with singing, as they announce the arrival of His Son. “Joy to the World, the Lord Has Come, Let Earth Receive Her King!”
It had been 4000 years since the promise had first been made to Adam and Eve – the promise of the Head Crusher coming to undo the terrible things sin had set in motion in the Earth. Jesus had finally come! The Savior, Emmanuel, God with us was here! What is there not to want to sing and rejoice about, unless you do not believe it or want it to be true?
God had seen human suffering even as we had felt the loss of fellowship with Him. We had been overtaken with fear and death. Our lives and hopes had been crushed under centuries of waiting and life times of hardship and loss living under Satan’s dictatorship. Sin and sorrow has turned to hope. God has come to deal with His Enemy.
Pain and suffering have always been there. Christmas brings us a moment of peace, a time to hope in miracles and receive healings again. Despair and the diabolical tyranny of the Evil One had been rampant on the earth and there was on one to fix it. Until now!
No wonder the arrival of the birth of His Son was so exciting for The Only True God! A chance to tell us Himself, how much He loved us and wanted us to know there was hope. He had not forgotten about us. His provision for the reconciliation between us and Him was about to be completed!
At last, the time had come for Jesus to descend into this hostile world to become one of us; descending even to the place where He knew He would be misunderstood, lied about, betrayed and crucified. But He came anyway. We had been captured and were being systematically killed by His Enemy. He did not come to “check in on us and see how we were doing”. He knew! He came to save us!
THE ANNOUNCEMENT – “PEACE, GOOD WILL TOWARD MEN!”
God Himself carefully instructed angel of the Lord who announced the birth of Jesus on what to say; “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!” “Good Will toward men!” He was not mad at us! He was extending His hand to rescue and redeem whosoever was willing to receive His help and salvation.
Notice how the devil has not only tried to remove the true meaning of Christmas from us by bringing confusion on the celebration of it, but has also tampered with God’s message to us regarding it. His profound yet simple statement, “good will toward men” has been re-rendered by many religions as “peace to men of good will.”
To some this may only be semantics but to others, this changes everything. The meaning is switched from one of God’s unconditional love to one of conditional peace given only to good men. Jesus Himself said “There is none good but One, that is, God.”(Mk. 10:18) So how could God extend His “good will” only to good men, if no one was good or found worthy of His love in the first place?
How would offering peace and reconciliation only to “men of good will” not make God’s love conditional, based upon the behavior of men? That is why God told the angel to say, “And on earth peace, good will toward men.” He offered peace, not just to good men, but to all men, to whosoever would accept His salvation. Accepting the death of His Son was the only condition He required because it was the only way to remove us from death row and bring us peace by making us sons of righteousness.
In other words, God’s love in not a conditional love based on the “good will of men,” but is conditional based only on our willingness to accept the good will of God. His “good will” has been demonstrated in the gift of His Son, the Lamb of the Atonement. The Father’s love for us unconditional, freely given to whosoever will receive it.
FORGETTING THE PAST – THE FAMILY ALBUM
And now, after centuries of celebrating this incredible “God Moment” of our reconciliation with our Father, the devil has found a way to spoil even this. Why do we take pictures and create family traditions, especially around special events, like Christmas, if not to make memories and remember them?
And why are memories so important? Because things get lost and forgotten! The precious moments and their meaning can get lost and forgotten without pictures and stories. The Memory of the Nativity, the first coming of our Savior, must never be lost or forgotten. Christmas helps us keep them in our Family album. Every Christmas we can take out that album and look at the pictures of God’s gift of love given to us as His Son.
The Enemy, however, wants to stuff that album in the closet of controversy to shut the door on truth. He never stops trying to create stumbling blocks, problems and points of division and contention where there was no problem. Then, he gets everyone distracted and scurrying around in meaningless religious dialogue and theological debates to figure out how to fix the problem he created.
He is always raising doubt about God goodness, His will and His Commandments, just like he did with Eve, when he tried to confuse and convince her to exchange what she already had for something she didn’t need. He does the same thing with us. He tries to confuse our natural minds with his suggestions and offers solutions to the problems he created in lives to get us to act out of fear. Our souls are very susceptible to fear, even though we already know what is true in our spirits. This is a typical ploy of the Devil.
Another tactic of his is to catch souls on the hooks of desire and lack. He uses our needs and vulnerabilities and even our love for Jesus and our desire to do the will of God to hook us into yet another debate about doing the will of God. This time he is taking issue with how we should celebrate or not celebrate Christmas.
Some have been caught up in the discussion and have come against the celebration of Christmas because of its pagan roots. They find it offensive because it is celebrated at the same time as the pagan’s festival of the Winter Solstice. They find fault because of what Constantine did back in 324 A.D. merging Christianity with secularism or because of Jeremiah’s warnings about decorating logs with gold and silver to make idols for themselves. (Jeremiah 10:1-4).
Christmas is just another one of a million things the devil has tried to find reason to add to his “thou shall-not-do-lists” to make it “wrong” for Christians to celebrate the birth of their Savior. But wait, aren’t there many things unbelievers do that we do also, and think nothing of it, like drive cars and go to school and shop at the market and get married and celebrate special events? And aren’t there many unbelievers who acknowledge Christmas even as we do? Would it be fitting for them to honor the Christ Child more that we do?
WHO IS MAKING THE RULES?
What the Enemy does is make up a “rule” and ascribe that rule to God to get everyone to “fall in line” and live by the rule. Many of those “rules” and regulations “have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.” (Col. 2:23) In other words, they are worthless practices that do nothing to make us holy and promote God’s righteousness in us.
Romans 14:14 says, “I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.” If the devil can get us believing that something is unclean, and is a “sin”, then all he has to do to get us to break that rule by doing that thing and he can accuse us of sinning. How clever is that!! “For he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.” (Rom. 14:23)
Trespassing against the rule which the Enemy has convinced us are the same as a “rule” made by God allows him to punish us for “sinning.” Agreeing with him that we are “sinning,” gives him the opportunity to justify “punishing” us because we agree that we are guilty. When we agree we are guilty, we are also agreeing that we are bad and deserve to be punished. We accept the charges the Accuser has pressed against us based on our acceptance of guilt for believing we did something wrong even if what we did has nothing to do with what God declares to be wrong.
Psalm 94:20 alludes to this exact question: “Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with You – they who frame and hide their unrighteous doings under the sacred name of law?” (Amp. Bible) Who sits on the throne of iniquity? Could those who “hide their unrighteous doings” be those who profess to follow God who are actually following the fallen ones?
The Enemy of God understands how vulnerable we are to sin and uses our hatred of sin to get us to error on the side of legalism and law. He brings in confusion and doublemindedness and disguises his unrighteous doings under the guise of God’s Law to set up “worthless doctrines” and doubt in us.
How many of us are in the debtor’s prison doing “time” for a crime that is not a crime? How many of the redeemed sons and daughters of God are being down trodden and detained on false accusations of sin, accused of things they believe to be sin that are not sins against God? Is not Satan the accuser of us all? And what did we do to deserve this malicious treatment, but simply to be born human?
The more insecure a dictator is, the more tightly the people are monitored and censured. Satan’s dictatorship is total control because he is total fear. There is nothing you can do to please him or get him “off your back.” There is no way to bring us back into his good graces because he has no good graces. He is jealous of us and hates us. Period!!
God is not insecure. He knows Who He is and where He comes from and what He is capable of. He made us. He wants us to flourish, like any good parent would. He does not set up things in our lives to make us fail or feel bad. He knows who we are and He wants for us to know who we are and who He is. How He must grieve to see the torment we are in for listening to the lies devil tells us about Him?
Now, even more than ever the Enemy seeks to make a rule change – to rewrite Christmas. He intends to steal the opportunity for those who seek their refuge in the promises of that silent night by covering up the freedom we have in Christ to quietly obscure the arrival God’s greatest gift.
And why this changing of the rules about Christmas? Why do we celebrate Christmas in the first place or even, at all? As believers we need to know why we do the things we do. For us, the “end does not justifies the means.” At all points along the way, “love” must be our motive and the unbiased referee in everything we do.
Jesus tells us we will be able to discern the true matter of something, not by its appearance, or even its outcome, but by its fruit. Let us apply those principles to celebrating Christmas. That makes the bottom line clearer.
All our reasons for doing anything can be reduced down to either “faith” (love) or “fear.” Check out your reasons for “doing Christmas”. If the fruit of your celebrating the birth of Christ is stressful and exhausting, maybe you are missing the point of His coming. If you are doing too much or being swept up in the unimportant things you think are Christmas, you may be missing the peace and good news of the true meaning of Christmas.
Just because you are tired and overwhelmed with the hassle of Christmas, however, does not mean Christmas is bad. The truth remains, the point is love. If your reason for celebrating it, or even not celebrating it is fear of doing something wrong or tired of trying to do everything right, your motive in not faith. In that case, no matter how lovely it may look, or how many Christmas trees you put up or how many cookies you bake, Christmas will not turn out well.
DECORATING CHRISTMAS TREES
Some holidays are innately sinful, wicked and dedicated to evil, like Halloween. Participating in them opens us up to making agreements with the devil. What might we have inadvertently agreed to in celebrating this unholy holiday, in greeting each other with Happy Halloween? Is Christmas one of them?
Gift giving is also a strong tradition rooted in the story of Christmas. God gave us the gift of His Son to be the Lamb of God given for the sins of the world. The Wise Men brought Gifts to the Child. We give gifts to one another and share our bounty with the less fortunate. All of these traditions have come out of and become part of the things we do to celebrate Christmas. What is evil about doing good out of a pure heart?
Was Jeremiah’s warning in Jeremiah 10:1-5 & 9 meant to be applied to decorating Christmas Trees? “Do not learn the ways of the Gentiles; for the customs of the peoples are futile; for one cuts down a tree from the forest,. They decorate it with silver and gold.” Jeremiah knew they were decorating the tree with silver and gold for the purpose of making it into an idol. “A wooden idol is a worthless doctrine.” (8)
An idol is anything that comes before or between us and the God of Heaven and Earth. Is your Christmas tree your idol? If it has become” a worthless doctrine,” it may not be safe or wise for you to even be in the presence of one! The bottom line is, would Jesus sit with you under the lights of your twinkling Christmas tree or would He get offended and leave the room?
IN THE FULLNESS OF TIME
For some even the Law, which God had given His people to protect them and preserve them until the fullness of time when the Savior would come, had become an idol. Some of the most intent upon keeping the Law, had pushed it to the point of it being a sin to even do good on the Sabbath. (See Mt. 12:9-12) What an irony that the most vocal advocates of the Law become the biggest violators of it!
Does our commemorating the birth of the baby Jesus by retelling His story to our children, and singing Silent Night and Angels We Have Heard on High and O Come Let Us Adore Him have anything to do with works of darkness or worshiping demons?
In Scripture, there are some things that CANNOT be compromised or mixed, like Law and Grace. In everyday matters, however, our motive to love one another becomes the determining factor of what is acceptable in the sight of God than what was done or how it turned out. We do not live in a sterile, sinless world where everything sorts out neatly into black and white, naughty and nice.
THE WILL OF GOD – THE BOTTOM LINE
And though most of us would agree with this statement, the Enemy would raise the question, “What is the will of God?” He wants us to be divided on and question anything he can get us to consider, including the celebration of Christmas.
So once we are saved, what is our life but the extension of His? But, if there is no way for us to live a perfect life in the pursuit of holiness of God in the middle of a mud puddle, we must once again come face to face with our need for the mercy and grace of God. We are in daily need of His forgiveness. There is no line that defines the limits of His love.
In the coming of the Christ Child God “disarmed principalities and powers” and made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. “Therefore let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths,” (Col. 2:15-16)
There is no place of perfect behavior that can save us. There is no set of rules we can keep or works we can perform that can insure our righteousness. Keeping or not keeping of Christmas is of no merit, beyond our desiring to do the will of God. Our desire to do His will gives God the option to lead us and protect us through His Holy Spirit. This enables us to walk in His grace, to follow Him faithfully and serve Him well.
We know the Enemy is looking for ANYTHING he can use to divide us and cause conflict. He even uses our desire for righteousness and justice to provoke us to move back under the dictates of legalism and religion. He uses our desire for holiness to argue points of discord and set up to question the goodness of God and set up schisms in the Body of Christ.
So, before you chuck the Christmas tree and stop singing Christmas carols for fear of offending a weaker brother, family member, or child, it might be good to count the cost. We would do well to remember Paul’s ultimate admonition in the Law of Love. (Gal.5:14) If me not celebrating Christmas causes my brother to sin, I will celebrate it. I will take every opportunity to share the true meaning of the message of peace and good will behind it. So if the bottom line for celebrating Christmas is love for others, out of a pure heart, then go for it. And let there be “on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14)