There are a growing number of Evangelicals who are concerned about Christmas and whether it should be celebrated by true believers. There are various reasons for this distress, the main one being the pagan origins of the 25 December festival. There is historical evidence that Christmas was not observed by the early church fathers and it was the Roman church which adapted the `Natalis Solis Invicti’ (birth of the sun-god) and `Saturnalia’ festivals. Further, there is no Scriptural injunction to celebrate Christmas. Also, the secularisation and commercialization of Christmas troubles many believers.
Some believers feel that for the above reasons Christmas celebrations should be shunned.
We submit some other points to consider – indeed good reasons why Christians should take full advantage of Christmas:
- Ungodly origins are not always a reason to reject what God has allowed. Two examples:
- a) Jesus is the King. No Christian disputes that. Yet, kings have an ungodly origin. Indeed, this pagan tradition was so prevalent that the early Israelites demanded their own king – much to God’s displeasure.
But, in God’s eternal wisdom He allowed it to happen and Jesus is today proclaimed King of Kings.
- b) Cities have a very shady origin. The first inhabitants of cities, the Bible tells us, were the descendants of Cain. The Bible generally speaks about the evil of cities. Yet, we believers shall dwell in the holy City, the New Jerusalem.
- Christmas is the only remaining Christian event which virtually the whole world acknowledges (even Cuba has recanted on its past banning of Christmas celebrations). It is an opportunity to proclaim Christ and the real meaning of His glorious birth. The giving of presents, festivities and the general (though temporary) feeling of goodwill can be used by Christians around the world to proclaim the Good News of the real Gift, the Christ Child, who was born to die and give us the gift of pardon from sin and eternal life.
- Despite growing ignorance about the reason for Christmas most people still have some vague knowledge that the celebration is connected to the birth of Christ. Believers should take advantage of this and pass on the full message of the meaning of Christ incarnate. At least it is one time during the year when the secular world is more receptive to the Good News. Unconverted church members have some tinge of conscience and are willing to attend a Christmas service. What an opportunity to proclaim the Gospel!
- Jesus and His disciples and the history of the church, have shown that opportunism is not always a bad thing. Indeed, the zealous Christian will use every opportunity, in season and out of season, to proclaim the Gospel. Paul was even willing to address ungodly philosophers in heathen surroundings on Mars Hill.
- There are increasing attempts to `deChrist’ Christmas. Many companies do their best to avoid the word Christmas and will rather refer to Season’s Greetings. All the more reason to emphasize the Lordship of Christ in Christmas and all of God’s creation.
As the Editor of Evangelical Times (December 1997 No.12) puts it: Of course, opportunism is not adaptation. Jesus and the apostles did not adapt their message to the culture of their time. They did not modify the Gospel to suit their hearers. To do that must be wrong. But we must not let a fear of making mistakes keep us from taking every opportunity to preach the Gospel and using familiar things as vehicles for the unchanging truth.
by K. Olsen