Don’t you love when you need to begin something with a disclaimer…not me. But more and more often, it seems a disclaimer is becoming required so that there is some basic framework. So in any case, here is a disclaimer and the intentions of this post.
First of all, my intention in writing this post is to simply raise the question of whether or not there is a Biblical commandment for believers to celebrate Christmas. Just simply raising the question. And hopefully I will try my best to give some verses and some basic thoughts on the arguments on both sides. This won’t be an exhaustive writing, but merely to begin or add to the thoughts and questions people are seemingly raising more and more.
Secondly, this isn’t a post meant to be a history lesson of the why, when, and how Christmas started being celebrated by Christians on December 25th each year. More importantly than just the history though, I believe the reasons for celebrating or not celebrating Christmas must be first and primarily understood according to Scripture. Then based upon those findings, we can more clearly come to a conclusion upon if there is a commandment to celebrate Christmas or if there is something else.
That being said, let me begin by sharing some initial thoughts being tossed around from conversations I have had and also observed.
Most conversations tend to begin with a defense either for or against celebrating Christmas. Not bad, just people’s thoughts and opinions they have been taught, grown up with, or bents they may have. The danger, though, is that rather than basing a defense upon thoughts or feelings, it must be grounded solely upon God’s Word. This should go for everything we believe or do; it must be found specifically in Scripture and not simply following what others believe, has been done, or is being done today. We must be good Bereans for that matter. (Acts 17:11)
When it comes to talking about Christmas or even any other holidays Christians tend to celebrate, even ones reverting back to Jewish festivals or Catholic traditions, like many Protestants seem to be doing more and more these days, it is critical not only to question the Biblical validity of these things as followers of the Lord, but also the purpose for doing these things. The real and growing danger today is that so much of what we see is based upon tradition and seeking after some deeper spiritual pursuit rather than simply growing in our faith based upon the simple study and application of God’s Word. Many want the feelings, memories, and experiences they may have had as kids or thinking by following some tradition made up centuries ago that it leads them to greater knowledge and a deeper spiritual life. But what we must simply ask is, “Are any of these things really found in Scripture??” And if not, are we adding to or changing things in Scripture because it makes me feel more spiritual or simply for tradition’s sake??
From what I gather, there are good arguments on both sides for making the case for or against Christmas. When people truly desire to keep their focus on Jesus and celebrating our Savior coming to this earth, then how can we really argue with those proclaiming the Gospel in this light?? Don’t the books of Matthew and Luke, specifically, spend the first part of their gospels focusing on the genealogy of Jesus, Jesus’ birth, and the events surrounding Jesus fulfilling the prophecies about Him being the only true Messiah and the Savior for our sins?? If so, then celebrating the “why” of Jesus’ birth doesn’t seem so far fetched.
From what I also gather is that there is controversy around “when” the actual date that Jesus birth occurred and when we celebrate Christmas; whether sometime in September, December 25th, or possibly another time. Nevertheless, if we are approaching this from a directive from the Bible, nothing that I have ever found gives a specific date. So we can conclude from this, that if Christmas is celebrated, then it most likely doesn’t make a difference “when” the day or time.
As for the “how” we might celebrate Christmas, a lot can be made over the different traditions and ways that people have celebrated Christmas. Some have said that Christmas was instituted to combat other pagan festivals. Again, it seems to make no difference since it appears Scripture mentions nothing of Christmas Eve Services, Christmas trees, decorations, Advent, the giving of gifts to one another, or any other specific instructions about how we are to celebrate, if we choose to do so.
From these simple claims, it appears that from a Biblical standpoint, there seems to be nothing commanding Christians to celebrate Christmas, but it also doesn’t seem to forbid it either. I find that a really helpful passage is Romans 14 that deals with accepting other believers by not passing judgment based upon their opinions. Specifically in Romans 14:5-9 it says, “One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God. For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both or the dead and of the living.”
So what does all this mean?? Many have often hijacked Romans 14 to justify all different kinds beliefs, practices, traditions, etc. that we may disagree over. That has given rise to many strange and varied things being tolerated and accepted within churches today. And many of these things are heretical and have no basis for belief or practice from Scripture. But from what it seems Paul was saying in Romans 14 was very specific in naming days and foods as matters not to quarrel about and that each of us live our lives growing in our faith and obedience to the Lord. When it comes to holidays like Christmas, it would seem Paul would say that as long as we are celebrating based upon who the Lord is and what He has done, according to the truth of Scripture, then who are we to continue to argue with one another. But if we begin blending such worldly things and are celebrating with unbiblical traditions, contemplative mysticism, what has been or is being done by others, or any other things outside of the Bible and focusing on the Lord Himself, then we must question and challenge these things.
In any case, asking about Christmas and any other thing in which we have been taught, believe, and do is a good reminder to be questioning everything being thrown at us today. With so many embracing such random and unbiblical things anymore, it is easy to be swayed into false teaching and end up falling into beliefs and practices that have no basis in Scripture. We must be on guard against all these “holidays”, “traditions”, and other things that have become such commonplace, but really have no idea why we believe or do what we do. Much of which, it seems, has crept into churches unnoticed and unquestioned because people either go along with what is being presented as “truth” or are afraid to confront what has been done for so long.
So in returning to the question of if Christians are commanded to celebrate Christmas, it seems that there is nowhere in Scripture we are commanded or given instructions on Christmas. Christmas can be a great time of celebrating our Savior’s birth or it can simply be just another day among all the others of rejoicing in Lord and living for Him. So whether you choose to celebrate or not celebrate Christmas is up to you. The only thing that I believe is critical is that we be ever mindful of what we choose to believe and do; that Christmas isn’t just one of the few days we think about the Lord and then go back to business as usual. The most important thing is that we have a lifestyle of growing in faithfulness and obedience to God throughout our whole lives. If we do choose to celebrate Christmas, then may it be a wonderful celebration focused on Jesus coming to earth to testify to the truth (John 18:37) and be the sacrifice for our sins, rising again that we might have eternal life with Him.
There is so much more than outlined here, but may this be the beginning or the continuation of each of us being further grounded in walking in the Truth of God’s Word…