Howe about: Celebrating Christmas
I love Christmas time! From sleigh bells ringing to chestnuts roasting over an open fire to hearing reindeer on the rooftops, I just love the celebration of Christmas. Actually, I’ve never seen chestnuts roasting over an open fire nor have I heard reindeer prancing on a rooftop, but I still l love Christmas. I have, however, heard sleigh bells ring. One time in December on a mountain in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Dorothy and I rode in a two-horse-drawn-open sleigh. What a memorable experience that was!
As a child, my family developed a few traditions for Christmas that I really enjoyed. From trudging through waist-deep snow to find the perfect tree to listening to the Oakridge Boys’ Christmas record (yes an actual record on a record player) while decorating the tree to helping my mom make and frost cookies, Christmas time brought great times and even better memories.
When I got to be a little older, theology grew more important to me. I was presented with some ideas that made me wonder whether I, as a follower of Christ, ought to celebrate Christmas or not. I became aware that Jesus was likely not born in the winter/December time frame; I learned that the Christmas winter holiday basically developed out of a different pagan holiday. I had a pastor point out a passage of Scripture about not cutting down a tree, bringing it into your house, and decorating it with silver and gold. These things, among others began to cause me to question whether I ought to celebrate and enjoy Christmas and its traditions or not.
For a period of time, I found myself in a deep moral quagmire. I wanted to enjoy Christmas and have a great time with a family of my own, but as a Christ-follower, I did not want to disobey or dishonor God. For a while, it meant that we did not celebrate Christmas much at all. I ended up acting more like Mr. Scrooge from “A Christmas Carol.” Just ask Dorothy. On second thought, you probably don’t want to open that can of worms.
Do you enjoy Christmas and the Christmas season? Are you like me at all, do you like Christmas, but feel inwardly guilty that you enjoy this “pagan” or commercialized holiday? If yes, please tell me so I don’t feel alone. In all seriousness, if you have wondered about this, then I want to encourage you to consider this:
Can a true Christ-follower enjoy Christmas and remain pleasing to God? I believe so. Here’s why: I am drawn to my LORD through celebrating Christmas. Not celebrating Christmas was more of trying to prove to others that I was “extra” righteous in the eyes of God, but all the while I was missing out on enjoying God. What I see in Scripture encourages us to enjoy this life and its joys while giving thanks to the God who gives life. “Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thess. 5:18).” “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory (1 Cor. 10:31).”
Have you ever considered the great number of festivals that the Jews were commanded to observe. Imagine that! Being commanded to party! The purpose of so many of those festivals was for the people to remember and enjoy their God, the God above all gods who chose to make them His special possession. Now, the apostles in the New Testament made it clear that God was not requiring Gentile believers to become Jews in order to follow Jesus. Likewise, we are not required to follow the festivals as though they are laws for us. We can however learn from their example.
Christmas is a holiday of our cultural context. We have the opportunity to enjoy this holiday as one who trusts in the Savior of the World. Do you invite the LORD with you in what you do? It would be a shame for us to secretly celebrate all or some of Christmas, but try to hide our enjoyment from God because we fear He doesn’t approve. It would be a greater shame if we were to not celebrate Christmas all the while longing inwardly to as we grow resentful towards God for taking all the fun out of life. If the pleasure of a feast, time with family and friends, giving gifts to others and similar things can bring us a little taste of the glory of the relationship with our Father in heaven, then let’s celebrate to the fullest … while giving glory and thanks to God!
I do not intend to give license to do anything we desire. In all things, including celebrations, we ought to act with Christ-like character. I would certainly caution against the trap of consumerism especially since it can steal one’s contentment. I don’t think we ought to be celebrating Christmas by going to a Christmas party and being the first to get drunk (not the second or third either). A good rule of thumb is this: if you wouldn’t do it with Jesus present, you probably shouldn’t do it. If you can enjoy it with a clear conscience, then enjoy and give thanks and glory to God. I pray that we all will draw closer to our Almighty, Amazing Creator this Christmas season.
Merry Christmas from the Howe’s!
PS. I’d be happy to discuss any specific concerns you might have about celebrating Christmas. Since I already went one paragraph too long, I had to stop writing. It was not the purpose of this article to address potential concerns. Rather, I hoped to encourage people to enjoy what is good about Christmas in order to give glory and thanks to God.
Justin began serving as the pastor at Faith in February of 2013. He is passionate about people having the opportunity to hear the good news about eternal life through Jesus Christ.