I don’t want to be controversial, but I’ve gotta say a little something about Christmas.
I grew up in a church tradition that taught that celebrating Christmas as the birth of Christ was misguided at best and a sin that would send you to hell at worst. Can’t get much worse, I know. Most of my preachers, friends, etc fell somewhere along this continuum.
When I was in high school, my preacher showed up on Christmas Sunday and railed against the giving of gifts—a heathen practice. My six year old cousin cried.
Not everyone is this strict. Most of us just purge the holiday of all spiritual stuff. We sing Rudolph and Frosty but not We Three Kings or Little Drummer Boy.
Countless times I heard (and said) “We celebrate Christ’s birth every day of the year”—Weird, because we only said this at Christmas. And weird, too, because I can’t remember a time we intentionally celebrated Jesus’ birth.
The usual argument I hear about not doing Christmas has something to do with us not knowing the exact date when Jesus was born. When I was in middle school I remember saying to a friend that Jesus couldn’t have been born in the winter because there were shepherds in the fields when He was born and what kind of shepherds would be out in a field in the freezing cold. My knowledge of Israel’s geography and climate were so extensive…
What I’ve realized recently after reading about Christmas and Advent is that Christmas isn’t meant to be a commemoration of the exact day Jesus was born. It’s actually more like an honorary birthday—like Martin Luther King’s or Abraham Lincoln’s. We celebrate it not to remember the day of His birth per se but to honor the life He lived, the fact that He was born. On Christmas, the religious world says, “Jesus, we’re glad You came.”
What’s so bad about that? So long as you don’t legislate it, why not celebrate it? At least take the opportunity to talk about Jesus with people who’d never talk about Him at any other time.
I think it’s a little weird that at Christmas some of the most religious, God-loving people on the block would rather put a twenty foot high Santa globe in their yard than a nativity scene. I think it’s a little weird that I once told my grandmother—who has no interest in God but LOVES Jesus-y Christmas songs—that I don’t really listen to those songs because Jesus wasn’t actually born on Christmas day and we’re not commanded to celebrate His birth. (I was ten. She was kinda freaked out.) I also think it’s a little weird that we can sing Joy to World on any Sunday in the months January through November, but not during December.
I don’t think Christians have to celebrate Christmas as Christ’s birth (I know it wasn’t commanded), but I also think it’s a little silly to stop people from celebrating the moment God wrapped Himself in flesh.
P.S. Another argument against celebrating Christmas, and maybe a stronger one, is that it’s not authorized because the Bible doesn’t directly command it. My only hesitation with that is our regular celebration of lots of other unauthorized holidays—like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and Thanksgiving. Every church I’ve ever attended planned special sermons for those days or sometimes even special services. Clearly, we recognize some room for celebrating Biblically sound principles and institutions—counting blessings, fatherhood. Why not the moment God came to earth?
And if we can celebrate it, why not celebrate it on December 25th?