About this time of year, every year, I get impassioned emails from people wanting me to address Christmas on my blog. I’ve done so before and a simple search will show you where to find my take. I doubt that anything here will be exceptionally new to anyone but, in interest of the season, let me say a few words.
The writers are almost entirely of one mind: they want me to stress that Christmas is pagan in origin, Catholic in design, and that it has nothing to do with the birth of Jesus. They want me to tell you that the songs and stories are all wrong and that, in the words of one recent writer “Christmas is not real!”
But it IS real. I see it. And I participate in it.
Sure – Jesus is the reason for this season… and for every other one.
Yes, there were probably quite a few people traveling with the wise men and there is no reason to think there were only three who were “wise.” Their names come to us from the imagination of early believers, not history. And they didn’t come to the manger but to the house where Jesus was staying – perhaps as long as two years after his birth.
And the angels said… they may not have sang… at his birth. (When I was a boy, we had to correct our songs like “Tell Me The Story of Jesus” to say so, too! A tad legalistic, perhaps)
And Jesus was likely born in the spring or autumn for that is when shepherds usually stayed in the field with their flocks at night… but we aren’t certain what habits this particular group of shepherds had so who knows?
And Santa Claus is modeled – very loosely – on a Catholic priest and martyr in the early centuries of the church.
And the tree, wreath, lights, and gifts DO come from the traditions of Northern Europeans while other Christmas traditions come from Eastern and Southern Europe. And since those people worshiped gods of the imagination and nature, we can call them pagan but I’m not sure that’s enough to brand everything they did pagan.
And it is true that Protestants resisted and fought the celebration of Christmas, calling it a holdover of Rome and its church. It is even true that many in my religious tribe still believe it is wrong to even mention the birth of Jesus in worship at this time of year (as they refuse to mention the resurrection near Easter) for fear someone will think they have been seduced by papists.
So… why do I celebrate – enthusiastically – Christmas? Why do I sing of the Advent and set aside the month of December to speak of it from my pulpit?
Because God said I could.
In Romans 14, we are expressly told in no uncertain terms that if a person chooses to hold a particular day hold unto the Lord, the Lord will accept that gift from them. And if a person chooses NOT to hold that day holy because they believe THAT is an act of faith, God will accept them not holding the day as an act of faith. And Paul goes further and warns us not to judge those who do or don’t and not to look down on them, either. It could not be more plainly spoken.
But he isn’t done with the subject. All of Romans 14:1-15:7 is a polemic against judging others for doing what you will not do or for worshiping in a way that you can’t or thinking something you disagree with. And then…
In Colossians 2, we are told not to let anyone judge us if we keep the Sabbath or a holy day or a New Moon. We are free to do so and we are free not to do so.
I celebrate the birth of Jesus as I celebrate his teachings, his life, his death, and his resurrection. And, sure, I celebrate it every day but if the Sabbath laws teach us anything they teach us the value of choosing a special time to remember, rest, and reflect. God built it into us. No wonder we take to it so well.
I don’t have to like commercials with a Lexus tied up with a bow in the driveway or “Santa Baby” on the radio to like Christmas.
I like the lights. I like the green that reminds me of eternal life. I like the family gathering and I LOVE giving presents and food to people. Sure, I give all year, but I set aside special times to give more and this is one of them.
But are the roots of all of this pagan? Sure – but what isn’t? Our wedding rings, throwing rice or wearing white at a wedding, tombstones, names of the days of the week or the months of the year, and a thousand other things are also from people who worshiped false gods. So should I refuse to say “Thursday” since I don’t want to be connected to those who worship Thor? No! You can put everyone who worships Thor in a small church building and have room left over for last year’s VBS material. Why? Because Christ triumphed over Thor. His name is no longer the name of a god but just the name of a day of the week. It was pagan. It isn’t anymore. We took it. We redeemed it.
Pagans might have worshiped an evergreen tree at one time but we took that tree and gave it to Jesus. We gave him the lights, the songs, the time of the year that once was dedicated to false gods.
I think that’s a good thing. I intend to keep taking land and people and things from Satan and false gods and giving them to Jesus.
And Christmas is a good place to start.