This week, after sending out our weekly Wednesday Wisdom email, someone replied asking the question “does God really want us christians perpetuating an old tradition that is full of pagan influences?” The implication was that I should not have encouraged Christians to celebrate Christmas.
It’s a good question and it deserves a full, Biblical and considered answer. No one knows precisely when Jesus was born, although all scholars are agreed it certainly wasn’t in the middle of December. Some information regarding when Zechariah was serving as a priest seems to lead to the us conclusion Jesus was born in early September (ironically leading to a conception date of er… about the end of December!). However, what date you celebrate something is not an issue, as the Queen knows full well! The issue is whether Christians should celebrate Christmas at all.
I would have three answers for this question.
The first answer is that the first Christmas was celebrated. I mean it was really wildly celebrated. Wise men came from overseas to celebrate and worship the Word that had become flesh. Shepherds came to worship and celebrate. Angels in their scores turned up and praised and celebrated. The first Christmas was a time of celebrating the fact that the Word became flesh.
Secondly, the Bible is very clear. You must never let anyone judge you according to the days you keep (Col. 2.15). You might think I am a stinky pagan for keeping Christmas but Biblically speaking I don’t care. It has to be that way because the Bible says so. If you want a tree, don’t let anyone judge you. If you don’t want a tree, don’t let anyone judge you. If you want a holly wreath, don’t let anyone judge you.
Someone might tell you that pagans had trees in their house or pagans had holly wreaths to protect you from demons. Well, if you think holly protects you from demons you need help. But putting leaves up in a house to make it look pretty is not a sin, is not pagan and is not a problem. Man looks on outward things but the Lord looks on the heart. If you judge someone for having a tree or having a wreath up, you are the carnal one, not the one who has the tree! If you judge someone for taking their children to the shopping centre to see Santa and get a gift, then you are the worldly one.
Worldliness is not about what you do on the inside it is about the heart. Fear is worldly. Shame is worldly. Sickness and poverty is worldly. Worldly minded Christians would rather sit in the dark and in the silence rather than sing a few upbeat carols and enjoy the season! Why? Fear. Shame. Darkness. Thinking like the world!
We need to be living as lights in the world. Use Christmas as an opportunity to share the gospel of the Word that has become flesh. Now if you don’t want to celebrate Christmas, I won’t judge you, but just make sure your motives are pure that you are doing it out of love rather than fear. Make sure you are not doing it out of a sense of pride to make you feel like a better Christian than someone else.
Thirdly, Christmas is a great time of year to reach out to the community. I personally believe that Christmas has been designed as a time to be spiritual and full of faith and to impact the community. It’s the only time of the year you can talk about angels and not have people think you are loopy. It’s a great time to talk about Jesus because it is in the backs of people’s minds.
Now, of course the devil wants people to be materialistic. The devil wants people to be carnal. But he doesn’t care if you are carnal because you drink too much or you are carnal because you drink nothing and hate in your heart anyone who has a glass of wine. He doesn’t care if you are carnal because you max out two credit cards on Christmas or because you spend nothing on your children and judge and condemn people who buy their children presents.
Just as a personal aside, I buy my children presents all year round. Just a few weeks ago, I bought my eldest an electric guitar. I love my children and love giving good gifts to them. This Christmas it has been quite pleasant: they don’t really know what to ask for, they already have so much! Saves us a bit of money! I don’t recommend going into debt for Christmas one bit.
Now as a pastor who has spent a lot of time door knocking and handing out tracts and invites in the street, inviting people to church gets a certain response. Inviting people to a carol service gets a MUCH BETTER response. Christmas opens people’s hearts to the church. Which means you have more opportunities to get the gospel to them. Which I like!
So, I say: enjoy Christmas. Have a great time. And as I said in my email on Christmas:
When you celebrate Christmas remember Jesus has already saved you from your sins. It is not a future event anymore – it is a done deal. Jesus Christ paid the full price for every sin you have ever committed and for every sin you will ever commit.
You are forgiven, redeemed, righteous and pure. You are holy and clean and blessed and filled. You have the spirit of Christ inside you. God Himself lives inside you. You have peace with God. You have been declared righteous. You have been made righteous. You have been saved from your sins.
Every time you hear the name Jesus this week translate it: “The One Who Has Completed Rescued Me From my sins.”
You are free from the penalty of every single sin you have ever committed and ever will commit. You are eternally redeemed.
Sin has been completed and totally dealt with. You don’t need to be afraid of God. He is not angry with you, He is not at war with you. He is not upset with you. He loves you and He likes you. He is your Father and is rejoicing over you with singing and dancing.
It doesn’t matter if you went and wasted your life in sin, He simply wants you to fellowship with Him and give you a robe and a ring.
It doesn’t matter if you publically denied Jesus in front of everyone. In weeks you could be preaching at the next revival. That’s how Jesus restored Peter. Why? Because on the cross Jesus totally dealt with every sin Peter every committed and every would commit.
And Jesus has totally dealt with your sin. This Christmas enjoy His love and goodness.