Is it right for Christians to celebrate Christmas?
Some Christians avoid Christmas at all costs, claiming that its roots are pagan. Should we follow suit or is all that talk a bit bah humbug?
Did you know that it was a criminal offence to celebrate Christmas during the seventeenth-century Puritan era because the festival was considered immoral, wasteful and even pagan? Let’s address these three concerns – which are still upheld by some Christians today – and deal with them one by one.
- Christmas is immoral. Some Christmas celebrations would certainly be considered immoral by many Christians, for example the shenanigans that occur at work Christmas dos or the fisticuffs over Black Friday bargains. Others might consider it immoral to enjoy lavish celebrations while their neighbours are living in fear, poverty, sickness and slavery. Or perhaps the immorality of the season lies in the emphasis on the materialistic aspects – stockings, snowmen and Santa – rather than on the birth of Jesus. When it comes to questions of morality, we must ensure that our conduct conforms to biblical standards. Does the Bible tell us not to celebrate Christmas? No. Does it tell us to live in a way that is pleasing to God and loving to our neighbour? Yes. So if you can mark the occasion without causing your conscience any trouble the immorality clause shouldn’t be a deal-breaker.
- Christmas is wasteful. I think very few people would argue with this statement. Christmas in the Western world can be extremely frivolous. We buy a ridiculous amount of food and either overindulge or throw it away. We buy gifts for people who already have too much. We cause harm to God’s beautiful earth in the way that we dispose of unwanted items, trees, packaging and wrapping paper. But it doesn’t have to be like this. It’s entirely possible to celebrate Christmas in a way that is fun and festive without negatively impacting vulnerable people or the planet. Why not strip away all the unnecessary ‘stuff’ and focus instead on the saviour’s birth? Why not introduce Christmas on a budget and invite people with nothing to enjoy a humble feast with us? Why not think of ways to use waste creatively or to offset it in some way? If waste is the main objection there may be ways around it.
- Christmas is pagan. This point is often raised in Christian circles, and there is evidence to suggest that there were pagan festivals in play at this time of year before Christmas celebrations really took off (for example the Roman festival Sol Invictus). However, every culture and tradition has its own feast days and celebrations, and often they run into each other. Premier Lifeline’s Jonathan Clark says: “In a world with a variety of faiths and festival calendars there are many that coincide or overlap. The exact origins of Christmas and the use of December 25th will never be 100 per cent explained, although the Christian use of the date has as much claim to being individual and original as any other. I believe the key issue is how we celebrate the date: the message we give, the clarity of why we do what we do, being clear about the actual events of the birth of Jesus, its meaning and consequences.” Perhaps on reflection it’s a positive thing that something that was once pagan has been reclaimed for Christ! If you feel that having a decorated tree is too pagan, don’t have one. If presents, mistletoe, Santa or the yule log are stumbling blocks, get rid. But if you want to celebrate Jesus’ birth and encourage those around you to do the same, December 25th is as good a day to do so as any other!
Isaiah 9:6 says: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”