What should we celebrate this Christmas? With the arrival of the Advent season every year, Christians all around the world acknowledge that the celebration of Christmas has strayed so far from what it used to be. The humble remembrance of the prodigious gift of Jesus has become a month of hectic consumerism, based on a highly judgemental fictitious character. But has it strayed?
Where did Christmas come from? How did the early Church celebrate it? – As we unpack every aspect of the festivities, we will discover why Christmas is not so much of a Christian festival as we thought and what we should be proclaiming instead.
The Bible, the source of wisdom and truth for Christians of the world today, bears no mention of the festival. The book of Acts, written by the apostle Luke, records the actions of the early church for over 30 years after Jesus’ ascension and contains no record of any Christmas celebration. So what does the Bible say in relation to the convivialities?
Christmas trees- Around 30 million real Christmas trees are sold in the US alone every year. Surely an unpretentious tree, whose roots are found in the garden of Eden is acceptable during the time of advent.
“This is what the Lord says: Do not learn the ways of the nations…
For the practices of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter.” – Jeremiah 10:2-4
In this chapter, God is telling the people of Israel not to worship idols. Is God saying here that erecting a Christmas tree is wrong? I believe not. Throughout the Bible, the practice of worshipping other gods is condemned, but in this case, I believe it may be the actual crafting of an idol which is wrong, not necessarily the decorating of a tree itself.
Christmas day- is celebrated annually on the 25th of December. However, evidence straight from the Bible such as the registration called by Caesar and that shepherds were “living out in the fields and keeping watches in the night over their flocks”, lead us to believe that the birth of Christ was not in winter. But instead, the early fall (autumn) of 2 B.C.
The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated on the 25th of December was in 336 A.D. It was at the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine, who also happened to be the first Christian Roman Emperor. A few years later, the date was officially declared by Pope Julius.
Despite this, the date could also have been chosen to coincide with the winter solstice and the already popular Pagan festival.
“Full well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your own tradition.” – Mark 7:9. Isn’t Christmas meant to be a celebration of the birth of Christ?
We should ask ourselves, does a jumble of ancient pagan customs invented by men and a festival found nowhere in the Bible honor or worship God’s gracious sacrifice to all?
In the 17th century, Christmas was actually outlawed in England and in some parts of the American colonies, because of its unbiblical and pagan origins. So if not Christmas, what should Christians celebrate?
So perhaps Christians shouldn’t be worried that Christmas has strayed away from what it used to be, considering its origins are pagan and there is no specific Biblical basis for this Festival. What Christians should be worried about, is whether the message and meaning of Christmas are being proclaimed and understood both at this time of year and all year.
A slightly unfamiliar verse about Christmas from the Apostle Paul to the Gentile church can be found in Galatians 4, verses 4 and 5 – “But when the time had fully come, God sent his son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons”.
This Christmas, the greatest thing we can know, and make known, is that we have been set free from the law- that we no longer need to look to our own performance and achievements for the basis of our significance and value in life, and that we can know, that despite all our failures, we are profoundly loved and treasured. Knowing that truly results in peace on earth.