Regarding Christmas

I’m so-o-o-o confused! I mean, on the one hand, I’m getting emails warning against merchants who insist on saying “winter holiday” rather than “Christmas.” And then there are the educators who want the kids to celebrate the winter solstice rather than the birth of Jesus. I get lots of emails from Christians upset about that. And I’m sure we’ve all seen the bumper stickers: “He’s the reason for the season!”

So it must be an awful sin to take Jesus out of Christmas.

But on the other hand, I read articles from Christians arguing that it’s wrong to celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday. You can give presents and such, but … don’t … you … dare … put up a manger scene or otherwise associate December 25 with the birth of Jesus. Either ignore it or else treat it as a secular holiday!

So it must be awful to leave Jesus in Christmas.

It’s as though we want Wal-Mart to celebrate Jesus’ birth while we have purely secular celebrations of consumerism at home. Go figure.

Let me suggest a better way.

Was Jesus born on December 25? Should we celebrate Jesus’ birth?

We don’t know when Jesus was born. It’s unlikely that it was December 25. So what? Why do we have to celebrate his birth on the exact date of his birthday?

I know parents who’ve adopted children without birth certificates. They celebrate the child’s birthday on a day they choose, knowing that it’s not necessarily right. It’s really quite okay to celebrate a birthday on the wrong day.

In some of the schools here, kids with birthdays in the summer get a birthday party on the semi-annual anniversary of the day they were born, because otherwise they’d never get a birthday party at school. Cool. It’s more important that the child feel valued and celebrated than that we get the day right, isn’t it?

And we celebrate the birthdays of Presidents Washington and Lincoln on Presidents Day, not their exact birthdays. It’s no disrespect.

Which leads us to: is it okay to celebrate the birth of Jesus? Well, the angels did.

What about the origin of Christmas as Saturnalia? What about being missional in our culture?

In reality, it’s hard to find any evidence that Christmas was imposed by the Catholic Church as a substitute for Saturnalia (mid-December but before December 25) or even Sol Invictus (celebrated December 25 in celebration of the sun). As the Wikepedia explains,

The date for Christmas may also bear a relation to the sun worship. According to the scholiast on the Syriac bishop Jacob Bar-Salibi, writing in the twelfth century:

“It was a custom of the Pagans to celebrate on the same 25 December the birthday of the Sun, at which they kindled lights in token of festivity. In these solemnities and revelries the Christians also took part. Accordingly when the doctors of the Church perceived that the Christians had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnised on that day.” However, this statement directly conflicts with what we know of the early Christians, namely, that they were ridiculed, tortured, and cast apart from operative society precisely because they would not participate in the pagan feasts and celebrations. The early Christians set themselves directly in opposition to the paganism which ruled the day. “Since Christians worshipped an invisible God, pagans often declared them to be atheists.”

In fact, Christians were celebrating the birth of Jesus as early as 200 AD, although on varying dates. The decision to celebrate Jesus’ birth on December 25 appears to have developed along these lines

[T]here’s evidence that as early as the second and third centuries, Christians sought to fix the birth date to help determine the time of Jesus’ death and resurrection for the liturgical calendar — long before Christmas also became a festival.

The New Testament Gospels say the Crucifixion happened at the Jewish Passover season. The “integral age” concept, taught by ancient Judaism though not in the Bible, held that Israel’s great prophets died the same day as their birth or conception.

Quite early on, Tighe said, Christians applied this idea to Jesus and set the Passover period’s March 25 for the Feast of the Annunciation, marking the angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that she would give birth. Add nine months to the conception date and we get Dec. 25.

Last year, Inside the Vatican magazine also supported Dec. 25, citing a report from St. John Chrysostom (patriarch of Constantinople who died in A.D. 407) that Christians had marked Dec. 25 from the early days of the church.

There’s no evidence that some Catholic pope, in an effort to end Saturnalia, replaced it with Christmas.

Moreover, Saturnalia wasn’t a particularly wicked feast, as Roman holidays went. Rather, again quoting the Wikipedia,

The celebrations included a school holiday, the making and giving of small presents (saturnalia et sigillaricia) and a special market (sigillaria). Gambling was allowed for all, even slaves; however, although it was officially condoned only during this period, one should not assume that it was rare or much remarked upon during the rest of the year. It was a time to eat, drink, and be merry. The toga was not worn, but rather the synthesis, i.e. colorful, informal “dinner clothes”; and the pileus (freedman’s hat) was worn by everyone. Slaves were exempt from punishment, and treated their masters with (a pretense of) disrespect. The slaves celebrated a banquet: before, with, or served by the masters. Yet the reversal of the social order was mostly superficial; the banquet, for example, would often be prepared by the slaves, and they would prepare their masters’ dinner as well. It was license within careful boundaries; it reversed the social order without subverting it.

There are, of course, some similarities with Christmas as we celebrate it today, but it was really quite a different kind of festival. Nonetheless, it’s easy enough to imagine the Roman people continuing to give presents and choosing to use this time for the rich to serve the poor, effectively redeeming the best parts of the old festival.

But none of this matters very much. The pagan origins of a practice hardly make it per se wrong. According to The Phrase Finder,

The tradition of birthday parties started in Europe a long time ago. It was feared that evil spirits were particularly attracted to people on their birthdays. To protect them from harm, friends and family would to come be with the birthday person and bring good thoughts and wishes. Giving gifts brought even more good cheer to ward off the evil spirits. This is how birthday parties began.

At first it was only kings who were recognized as important enough to have a birthday celebration (maybe this is how the tradition of birthday crowns began?). As time went by, children became included in birthday celebrations.

For that matter, it’s easy to show parallels between the way the modern Churches of Christ worship and the practices in the pagan Roman temples. Frank Viola’s Pagan Christianity: The Origins of Our Modern Church Practices makes a remarkably strong case. Our order of worship would be very familiar to a Roman pagan temple worshiper. That doesn’t make it wrong.

Rather, the whole argument about pagan origins of the date, the Christmas tree, giving presents, etc., etc., is a distraction from the proper considerations. We need to start all over.

Does celebrating December 25 as the birth of Jesus further or hinder God’s mission to redeem the world?

Well, it’s far more important that those outside the church think well of Jesus than that they recognize that December 25 just might be the wrong date (or that we aren’t sure how many wise men there were). Indeed, we are upset when major stores and the schools strike “Christmas” from their vocabularies because we see such foolishness as an effort to remove Jesus from public life.

We should therefore realize that when we do the same thing by refusing to mention Christmas at church or to hang a wreath on the church door we are guilty of the very same thing — except much, much worse. After all, we are called to proclaim Jesus to a lost and hurting world.

Ponder why it is that Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is a popular story every year? There must be 50 versions of it on film. Why? Well, because the lesson is that we should stop being so focused on accumulating wealth and instead use the money God gives us to help the poor and the lame. Sounds pretty Christian to me.

Just so, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas is a classic Dr. Seuss story because the grinch finds redemption and community by developing a larger (more generous) heart. There just might be a sermon in there somewhere.

These are lessons so profound that even Hollywood enjoys telling them. You see, even Hollywood has a better grasp of God’s mission on earth than we sometimes do. We can be incredibly wicked in our sense of superiority at times.

If we were missionaries …

If we were missionaries to the United States, we would find in Christmas countless lessons on how God wants us to live. Indeed, Christianity is very much about having the “Christmas spirit” all year long, right?

And so, if we were missionaries to this country, we’d celebrate the fact that even the most worldly recognize the good in Christmas, the good in giving, and the good in joining a community that’s centered on giving to others.

If we were missionaries, Christmas would be a great way to explain the lessons of generosity to the poor, peace, and goodwill toward men. People are ready to hear these lessons at this time of year, because despite all the commercialization, we Americans still value the heart of Christmas.

If we were missionaries, we’d use this to help people see that Christianity is about year-round Christmas — and that we celebrate Christmas because of the birth of a man who came to bring out the very best in us all — by giving himself to us so that we’d do the same for others.

If we were missionaries …

But we’re not. Some of us have decided we’d rather be the Christmas rulekeepers, counting wise men, checking the calendar, and joining the enemies of Christianity by taking Christ out of Christmas.

But we should be missionaries.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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44 Responses to Regarding Christmas

  1. Terry says:

    Merry Christmas to you and your readers, Jay. I hope you enjoy the holidays with your loved ones.

  2. Jerry Starling says:

    Jay,
    A wonderful article. Far better than my feeble effort in a <a>series on The Twelve Days of Christmas over at my blog, committedtotruth.wordpress.com.

  3. Jerry Starling says:

    For some reason, the link does not work. Here is the URL:
    http://committedtotruth.wordpress.com/2009/12/14/

  4. Brad Adcock says:

    Jay,

    Excellent post (as usual). Puts things in perspective for this time of year. Would you be adverse to me sharing this with our Wednesday night class next week as a part of our services (with full credit going to you of course)? I really think this is a helpful and insightful article. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  5. Jerry Starling says:

    After reading this article, I went back and added a link to it in the first three (already posted) items in my "12 Days of Christmas" series (see link above), as well as in my item for tomorrow, which deals with the origin of Christmas. You can see this at http://committedtotruth.wordpress.com/2009/12/17/

  6. James says:

    Amen, amen, and amen!

  7. Chris Allen says:

    Ah, the annual "War on Christmas" meme. Good post though. I read this and then saw an interesting article on Yahoo News about a Christian group that is focusing on the sins of commercialism instead of people not saying "merry Christmas."
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/time/20091215/us_time/085

    The minister is quoted in the article as saying, "It's the shopping, the going into debt, the worrying that if I don't spend enough money, someone will think I don't love them," says Portland pastor Rick McKinley. "Christians get all bent out of shape over the fact that someone didn't say 'Merry Christmas' when I walked into the store. But why are we expecting the store to tell our story? That's just ridiculous."

  8. Guy says:

    Jay,

    Good stuff to chew on. i just want to add a couple things. First, my professors go to great pains to stress to me as a grad student not to stake my research on wikipedia. All of us (professors included) use it to get started, but we're expected to chase everything down because wiki is free market research–i could go to that page right now and alter anything it says to fit my fancy.

    Second, i never noticed this before the other day when someone mentioned it in passing, but couldn't John 10:22ff be construed as evidence that Jesus was okay with Hanukkah? –a festival not having it's origin in the OT scriptures, but in the tradition of later Jews? If so, what does that imply about Christmas tradition and Christians?

    –Guy

  9. K. Rex Butts says:

    I think there has been too much hijacking of Christmas for consumer and political agendas and Christians are not exempt from this guilt.. The real story of Christmas (i.e., Jesus' birth) is that God looked beyond our sin and became one of us to redeem us through self-sacrifical love and service that culminated in dying on the cross. If we want to celebrate Christmas, we would do well to stop using Christmas for our own agendas and start serving the world as God does.

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

  10. Jay Guin says:

    Brad,

    This is an equipping site. Use anything I write to help you in your classes. And giving out the URL is never a problem.

  11. Jay Guin says:

    Guy,

    Were I writing for grad school, I'd certainly stay away from citing the Wikipedia — because I know how to write to please the professors.

    For purposes of my own research, I check multiple sources, including the Wikipedia. I quote from the ones that are most clearly written — which is much more often the Wikipedia than the sites of professors. 🙂

    You may find this article on Wikipedia's accuracy interesting: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reliability_of_Wikip

  12. Lee Langdon says:

    Guy,

    Great post. I've put my thoughts down on this too. I've got a really funny picture on there of a manger scene with Yoda! It's hilarious, well I think so.
    http://leelangdon.com/?p=489

    Peace and good tidings.

    Lee

  13. Andy Roberts says:

    Sad thing is, that by 200 AD there was also infant baptism, "presidents" of the congregation, clergy/laity was in full blown practice and for all practical purposes, the church had fallen a long way away from it's first century glory. Do we really think that the God who essentially hand-wrote Leviticus and gave us details to the -enth degree about sabbaths and the Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles, would, via the apostles, just leave out the details of Christ's birth, but secretly really wants us to celebrate it. The only question here is: What does God desire from and for His people? Is it His good, pleasing and perfect will that we attempt to honor Him this way?

    Galatians 4:8-11
    "Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you."

    Our family quit celebrating all the holidays years ago and we haven't looked back since. And the fruit… Well, with all humility, I can safely say my children are generous and happy and vibrant. We give to them throughout the year without expectation on their part and they do the same for their friends.

    For what it's worth… http://letters.jesuslifetogether.com/On-the-Topic

  14. Jay Guin says:

    Andy,

    The point of noting how early Christians began celebrating the birth of Jesus is not to justify Christmas as doctrine. It's to contradict the notion that some unnamed pope replaced Saturnalia with Christmas. I've found no evidence supporting that claim.

    My complaint is the failure of many within the church to think in missional terms. We are tackling the question from altogether the wrong direction.

  15. Andy Roberts says:

    So in your heart and in your knowledge of the Spirit of Christ, you believe our Lord is honored by celebrating His birth? "As many as are led by the Spirit are sons of God..". Is the Holy Spirit leading us to worship Jesus in this way…? The new covenant is a stepping away from old covenant emphasis on days and times and festivals into the reality which is Christ (Heb). If you'll look harder, I think you'll see that this applies to Sunday as well. There is no focus on Sunday as the new sabbath in the new testament. Our human flesh prefers packaging our religion into nice boxes of time and place rather than living for Jesus 24/7/365. But in Christ's covenant it is… "But exhort one another each day, as long as it is called “Today,” that none of you may become hardened by sin’s deception."

    Personally, I see no connection to being missional and celebrating the birth of Christ. I can (an am) sensitive to the fact that during this season, many unbelievers are conscious of Jesus more than at other times of the year. But I don't need to celebrate it to love and to care and to look for opportunities to serve. If I'm self-righteously dogmatic about the holiday, then I will turn people away just as if I'm dogmatic about abortion or homosexuality. The difference is, you function in a world of church buildings and services and programs and I could see why you'd feel the need to somehow include xmas with all that. But in a christianity of no buildings, no services, no programs, I promise you that xmas feels foreign and is unnecessary to be missional, to serve the community.

    More if you care… 🙂 http://books.jesuslifetogether.com/Meetings-in-Hi
    http://books.jesuslifetogether.com/Meetings-in-Hi

  16. Roy Parker says:

    If some official did replace a pagan observance with one with emphasis on observing the birth of Jesus, it should be viewed as a good thing. It in no way acknowdedges pagan ways; to the contrary, it moves away from the pagan view.

  17. Andy Roberts says:

    Roy, please at least consider that the even just the symbolism alone is a stench to God's nostrils. Evergreen trees, lights, mistletoe, easter bunnies, jack-o-lanterns, trick-or-treat… these are all birthed out of demonic and sensual festivals and traditions… they can't be whitewashed and a Jesus sticker be pasted on them. Imagine a swashtika at a bar-mitzvah. Just because we are hundreds of years away from the origins doesn't mean God likes all that stuff. Honesty would simply say, "I just like holidays even though God may hate them." Rationalization is a very dangerous road to go down. But I'll stop talking now because it's clear that at least on this issue, I'm outnumbered. : ) I'm really not dogmatic about this. I was raised C of C and we didn't celebrate it when I was young. Then as an adult I started celebrating it and then, as I got to know Jesus better (not just rules about Jesus), and over the years built a serious conviction that the holidays (Xmas, Easter, Halloween) really grieved Him. I'll let you all work it out, but I must say again, human whitewashing something with pagan origins will never christianize it no matter how much we'd like for that to be true. 'Nuff said.

  18. Larry Short says:

    Andy, you just condemned most of Paul's preaching. In Athens he said all those idols show you are religious. Then he went on to explain the Living God. If you cannot begin sharing the gospel with Christ's birth…….
    I am glad that Jesus was born, and with all that celebrate it, I rejoice. Now let's talk about His life, death, and resurrection. And did you know that he asks you to remember Him by communion, do you? Etc.

  19. Jay Guin says:

    Larry,

    Exactly.

    Like Paul, we have to start with people where they are. If an unbeliever wants to celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, we should celebrate with him — and take the teaching opportunity to help him understand why Jesus' birth deserves our celebration.

  20. John Grant says:

    Andy, most things we do were done by pagan people. (Don't you hate that term as it usually means folks from all our ancestory). Even baptism was done by people of different cultures and some did it in blood for various reasons.

  21. Andy Roberts says:

    I'm on your side. I really am. But I don't understand the leap from "start with people where they are" to "Hey, let's set up a few of these idols in OUR OWN HOUSE so that an unbeliever will feel like I can relate to him." That is a large leap. Paul didn't join the folks on Mars Hill in burning incense or offering a sacrifice. You can understand where someone is coming from and relate with them there. When I'm reaching out to an unbeliever during this season, I don't say, "By the way, I reject Christmas and you should too." It just doesn't come up. If I see a non-christian at my work wearing a red and green sweater, I might say, "So is Jesus the reason for the season for you or do you just like the egg nog?" I find that many people are very depressed by the season and if I am radiating the love and joy of Christ, I can start there and remind them that Jesus offers a real hope that is year round. But don't ask me to bring idols in my home in order to be missional.

    Ask yourselves this question. Are you willing to not celebrate it? Are you willing to lay down the traditions and the nostalgia? A heart that is soft before Jesus that is truly neutral is the only heart that can hear truth rightly. Skip it every other year and see if you really lose your ability to missional on the off years.

    I saw the title of this blog and it really intrigued me. But the only way we'll be One in Jesus is if we lay down our own lusts. (James 4:1-5) and my guess is that many like Christmas a bit too much to lay it down. I pray that is not the case.

  22. John Grant says:

    It was tough as a little child in school to not bring a gift or receive one when we drew names as we didn't observe christmas. Just sat there while the sinners sinned.

    The hardest part was looking at all your friends during your life that you grew up with and cared for and know they were all going to hell. You did have a chance, but a slim one.

    No Jesus of love, only in the songs we sang, never in preaching, but, a God whose birthday they celebrated that was the boogy man waiting to get them all!

    The funerals of members kin folks were the worse, Especially those I remember that were killed in WW2 or Korea that were not members and how they were deemed hell bound and all us too if we didn't straighten up.

    After a while we all became numb to it all, so many left, others disagreed but grinned and bore it, and so, today, a loving caring God and Trinity being taught and preached is so welcomed.

    We may go overboard the other way for a while as that is usually the reaction of recoiling, but we will get to the center. Please understand the recoil. I am so happy for it for my grandchildren!

  23. Randall says:

    When I was a teenager I explained to my brother's girlfriend that we celebrated Christmas an an American tradition, not as a religious holiday. she told me her priest said that some people celebrated Christmas as a Christian holiday and some celebrated Christmas as a pagan holiday. Could anything good come out of the mouth of an Episcopalian?
    Merry Christmas,
    Randall

  24. nick gill says:

    I saw the title of this blog and it really intrigued me. But the only way we’ll be One in Jesus is if we lay down our own lusts. (James 4:1-5) and my guess is that many like Christmas a bit too much to lay it down

    Why should the kingdom of God surrender territory it has conquered? The winter solstice celebration once honored pagan idols and demons — now we use it as a special time in the midst of our daily Christ-honoring to remember his birth. Likewise Easter. I look forward to the day that missional Christianity sets its sights on conquering the darkness of Halloween with joyful and beautiful costume-wearing and treats and compassion for those who might "deserve" tricks.

  25. nick gill says:

    PS – Paul never suggests that those who honor days and/or eat only vegetables, etc., should ever be required/expected to give up their practices. They "do them unto the Lord" and are not to be judged for it.

  26. Jay Guin says:

    Nick,

    You've got Rom 14 exactly right. He doesn't condemn holy days. He condemns making holy days tests of fellowship.

  27. Brad Adcock says:

    Calling a Christmas tree an idol would be the laugh-out-loud-knee-slapping-funniest-thing-I've-ever-heard; that is, if I didn't know you were being serious.

    REALLY?!? So how many people, Christian or not, have you seen worshipping a Christmas tree? SERIOUSLY?!? Something is an idol only if you worship it (i.e, it becomes your 'god'). Lots of things can become our idols (money, cars, homes, sex, people, and yes, even trees); but even in this whacked out crazy world we live in I have yet to have heard one prayer lifted to the 'Great Tannenbaum.' Or anyone skipping Sunday night service to go home, plug in the tree lights and bow to the tree. To borrow a line from the ESPN Monday Night Football crew…Come oooon, man!

  28. Larry Short says:

    Christmas for my family is Thanksgiving with presents. A large meal, getting together, and Thanks. I don't have a tree, only a bow on the front door, so I guess I left the idol outside!

  29. Andy Roberts says:

    Brad, if you will read the entire series of my posts, I never called the tree an idol. My reference to idols was a reference to Larry and Jay's posts about Paul at the Aereopagus. My point was being missional didn't require having an idol to reach out to the idol worshippers. No one refuted that point yet.

    But I did suggest that it was LUST for nostalgia and tradition that keeps people from considering the xmas situation neutrally. We are not talking about a biblical command here (see Jay's posts about commands). Father hasn't told us to or even hinted that it pleases Him for us to honor Jesus' birthday. And yet you all have a fervor at suggesting my non-practice of it is somehow wrong. I'm not making this issue a condition of fellowship. I merely posted when I came across this site and thought I'd comment with another viewpoint. But I hardly think you can say I'm wrong to not practice it. And I can assure you that my non-practice has in no way affected my testimony or my ability to relate with non-believers. On the contrary, the money I would spend on gifts goes to furthering the gospel. The time I would spend shopping and organizing is spent building His kingdom in very practical ways.

    But I am concerned about ANY believer who isn't at least OPEN to laying it down altogether for one year. Why not? Call it an experiment.

    And I'm also concerned about the notion that being missional requires full blown participation. I don't need to be raped to care for a rape victim. I don't need to have ever been drunk to relate to an alcoholic. I don't need to be gay to love and invest in a homosexual. So why suddenly do I need to celebrate xmas to reach unbelievers during the month of December? It is pure rationalization to say that a good reason to celebrate this holiday (or any holiday) is because of the opportunities it provides to be "missional". Jesus NEVER sinned and yet he could relate with us. So don't make up excuses for why we should do something authored by the world to somehow be missional.

    The most honest guy posting so far is the one who said he likes celebrating the holiday because of his grandchildren. That's honest. I still wouldn't do it for that reason, but at least it is honest.

    (per John Grant's post) As for things like baptism or animal sacrifice or other things that have been practiced by pagans in other cultures, the one difference, and this is HUGE, is that God commanded His people to do those things (sacrifices, baptism).

    And as for Romans 14, Paul also says in Gal. 4:10,11

    "You are observing religious days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you that my work for you may have been in vain."

    Clearly, those who honor days are of the "weaker" faith. So if that is the camp you want to be in, I guess that is your choice. But make sure you're not using your "freedom" to indulge the flesh.

    Romans 14 is ultimately about people who, because of conscience, eat only vegetables or honor certain days. Their faith is weak because they feel guilty if they don't do those things. I doubt any of you are truly feeling guilty or pricked in conscience about NOT celebrating the holiday. You may get pricked by your wife. 🙂

    Again, I think most start with a baseline of: "Christmas is cool. How can we explain (read: justify) why we should celebrate it."

    Instead, as with ANYTHING in life, whether it be a job offer or some thing in our life that a brother has challenged us on or whether to have another child…. The place to start is an open hand, "Lord, what do you want me to do? What is your thought on this? I want Your Will to be done in my life. Even this trivial thing called Christmas… what is your thought? what is your heart on this?"

    I would love to be wrong (before the Holy Spirit, I truly do hope I'm wrong), but my guess is that most who are responding here haven't started there: neutral, open-handed, willing to obey what the Lord thinks on the matter.

    Whether pagans or Hallmark invented Christmas, ALL would admit it is man-made and not God ordained. No biblical or apostolic commands, no examples, no inferences. Man made.

    So I'm not going to celebrate it. Is that ok by everyone?

    And if you choose to celebrate, my only real question is "Why?"

    Because as of yet, I haven't heard anything that sounds like reasoning birthed from the Spirit of Christ.

    I am not trying to defend my position. I don't even really care if you want to celebrate it. But what Jesus deserves from those who wear his name is unbiased and unfiltered love and obedience. THAT is my goal. Not winning the xmas debate… the holiday is a side issue to the matters of the heart.

    And celebrating for the sake of being "missional" just sounds like a rationalization to me. So if someone wants to explain why Paul needed to burn some incense at the Areopagus to one of the idols there in order to be missional, maybe I'll get what you all are saying. I'm being totally serious. I'm not mocking. I really don't understand the reasoning.

    But please read and pray through these words before just reacting.

    Peace.

    -a

  30. John Grant says:

    Andy

    Your position is the one held by all the Churches of Christ of the 50-60-70 and many still today, especially in the deep South.

    Where I attend that will be no mention of Christmas unless its to explain why we shouldn't observe or be a part of it in any way. A lot of your position and reasoning will be used.

    This site doesn't hold to many of the old ways just because they are old ways. Those on here do a lot of reexamining and that's why its so popular on my opinion. Jay lets us.

    Thanks for the compliment on my post, but, think closely on it with me when I stressed backlash or recoil. That's what's happening today in the Church in my opinion and certainly in the conservative churches.

    We, the reexaminers are joyfully encouraged to be moving forward in some new directions and understandings, they are disturbed by the questioning, especially when it causes losing set in stone traditions and members.

  31. Andy Roberts says:

    John, I very much respect and understand your point about the recoiling. I hate talking about issues like Christmas because it feels so old school C of C. The issue itself, as I said, is completely secondary. This is the most I've dialoged about it in over a decade. It IS NOT one of my pet doctrines. But as a former C of C member, I have a love and a longing for "the brethren" and I long to see them move beyond "doctrinal" debates into truly seeing and discerning the issues of the heart. Beyond the letter to the Spirit. And so that is my only real concern here. How do we approach Truth? Cerebrally or from a soft and contrite heart? James, in ch 4 says that the divisions between us (whether black and white, C of C and Baptist, instrumental or non-instrumental) come from lusts that wage in our own hearts. Unity of the faith and of the Spirit will not come from agreement to ideas. It will come when WE OURSELVES are pure in heart… That is a process for sure, a lifelong one, but THAT is the objective. The double-minded man (impure, mixed motives) cannot walk in unity with his fellow believer. He cannot love God or his neighbor. Love and selfish lust (in all it's forms) work against each other. But we can't purify ourselves alone. We must get back to Hebrews 3:13 "But exhort one another each day, as long as it is called “Today,” that none of you may become hardened by sin’s deception." (Talk about a DIRECT COMMAND) Sin is the root of disunity. And we can't help each other in lasting and substantial ways attending a few events together each week. If you're willing, like Alice, to see how deep the rabbit hole can go, check out: http://www.jesuslifetogether.com/

    Again, some of the things shared there may be uncomfortably outside your paradigm, but living it for the past 20 years has made all the difference for my own life and my family.

    May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering, in your life, in my life and in all those who would wear His Name.

    -a

  32. Larry Short says:

    Andy thanks for your thoughts. I'm a holiday minimalist, but would joiin others in any positive activity to talk. If I met Scrooge, I'll agree about the triviality of Christmas, and ask him what's really important. With a Christmas program fan, I'll go and ask about Jesus. All things to all men, learned from Paul. None of this is insincere, I like programs and finding what people do other than celebrate.
    We sang a few carols at my c of C congregation today, and didn't preach or explain pro or con.

  33. Bob Harry says:

    The birth of Jesus must have been a terrible blow to Satan. Now the Messiah is born into this world of sin just as the prophets fortold.
    Man and the religious leaders did not have a clue except Herod who was afraid of the assumed competition. But the angels finally knew what had happened and proclamed it to lowly shepherds. The angels wondered what God had in mind. Now they put it all together.
    I see no problem in celebrating his birth just as we remember his death and joy at his resurection.
    We need to put more of him back into the Christ Mass and less commercialization.

  34. Brad Adcock says:

    Andy, thanks for your reply. I hope my comment didn't come across as rude, as that wasn't my intent. I understand what you're saying about intending the 'idol' comment for the text and not the tree; my incredulity was because I thought you were referencing the christmas tree as an idol.

    For the record, I don't 'celebrate' Christmas as the birth of Christ. I might think about it, yes. I might read the account of His birth, but not because I think He was born on December 25th. Christmas is more to me as Larry described earlier – a time of family, friends and thanks. When I was younger and less informed, I might have been more adamant about celebrating His birth specifically at that time, but I know a little more now than I did then.

    My point is – what is wrong with celebrating the birth of Christ? You point out that God doesn't specifically command us to do so, and I agree. But one of the things that makes Christ unique (besides being the Son of God) is His death and resurrection. This is what sets Him apart humanly speaking, and it is this death and resurrection that we celebrate every time we partake in the Lord's Supper. Keep in mind this is NOT a rationalization by me to make an excuse for celebrating Christmas as His birth; but without His BIRTH, we'd never get to His DEATH and RESURRECTION. So are you saying it's okay and commanded to honor His death and resurrection, but borderline sin to even consider honoring His birth? Because, forgive me, that sounds extremely odd to me.

    Do you really feel that simply observing a day is what Paul is talking about in Rom 14? That seems unlikely to me – I observe February 14th (my birthday) as Valentine's Day every year. But I don't offer a prayer or sacrifice on my behalf to or for Saint Valentine. It's simply a day when my wife and I try to be romantic for one another. I don't make that the only day we're romantic towards one another, or I wouldn't have a relationship with her the next Valentine's Day. But it does give me a little reminder to be romantic towards my wife.

    Seems to me Paul is talking about those who honor a certain day (or eat only vegetables, etc) because they think they are sinning in not doing so. I may be wrong, but I don't think anyone on here feels that way in respect to Christmas. I certainly don't.

    Anyway, I appreciate your viewpoint, Andy, even if I don't espouse it as my own. If you don't want to celebrate Christmas, I see nothing wrong with that, but I for one will be enjoying this time of family, feasting (hopefully not too much), and a nice reminder that I could be a little more giving, a little more outgoing, a little more caring all year round – and that's just a little of what I get out of Christmas. Could I get all that another way? Sure, but (as a guy) I need every reminder I get. 🙂 Peace, my friend.

  35. Andy Roberts says:

    Brad, no harm, no foul, all good.

    I really have no interest in continuing the Xmas discussion. It truly is secondary.

    But just consider at least that the nature of the Old Covenant involved special days and events and festivals.

    But Paul says,

    Colossians 2:16
    Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a SHADOW of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

    This "judging" was being done by Christians who still observed those days. They were judging those who chose to no longer recognize the Old Covenant holidays.

    The New Covenant reality is Christ Himself. He is the Sabbath. The Sabbath rest, which holds such a special place in the heart of God, didn't just go away or get replaced by Sunday. Christ Himself IS that rest.

    I highly recommend a book called, "Right Here, Right Now." You can download it for free here. http://www.heavenreigns.com/read/right_here_right

    It succinctly helps explain what a walk together in Christ can look like WITHOUT events and services and special days BUT WITH a cross. Our achilles as the human race–is that we prefer religion over the life-forfeiting cost of living in relationship with a Current Lord and in the daily crucible of living in sacrificial love and abandonment with other believers. As long as Christianity is something I can attend, versus something I am, 24/7/365, then the church cannot be what Christ fully intended.

    I hope you'll spend the time to read it.

  36. Andy Roberts says:

    To say it another way, New Covenant Christianity isn't about any special days… not the Sabbath, not Sunday, and certainly not about Xmas or Easter.

    Reading the New testament cover to cover, you will not find an emphasis on Sunday or on "gathering" or even on evangelism. What you will find is an emphasis on Jesus, on life and relationships, in the Spirit, lived out in love for the family of God, every day.

    To honor any day is to step backwards into Old Covenant thinking. In the first century, they were in transition and Paul allowed mercy to those whose faith was weak.

    But in Christ's Covenant, the only day that is important is TODAY…

    Hebrews 3:12-15
    See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called TODAY, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. As has just been said: “TODAY, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.”

    Please, with a neutral and soft heart, consider it.

  37. Anonymous says:

    Incredible that there is an argument some want to make about people being joyful about Jesus. There will always be people who will find anything to argue about, that’s what makes so many blogs so popular.

    Andy if you don’t want to celebrate Christ’s birth then don’t. People who want to be joyful about Jesus’ birth can be. I understand the meaning of His birth and I can be joyful about Him. I can celebrate God sending Jesus to us on any day which includes Dec. 25th. Where does the Scriptures say it is wrong to be joyful about Jesus' birth? Again if you don’t see the importance or joy that Jesus was born then don’t be joyful. I do see the importance of His birth and will be just as joyful Dec. 25th as I am today. If one person comes to know the Lord through people being joyous about His birth, “Glory to God in the Highest!” Luke 2:14

    Romans 8:3 “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh.”

  38. Andy Roberts says:

    Hi anonymous,

    Not sure you read all the posts. 🙂 I would love to see more people more joyful about Jesus more of the time. No argument there. No arguing at all as far as I can tell.

    But I do have a hunch that if the God who wrote the Torah, the law, with it's infinite detail, wanted us to regard special holy days in the New Covenant, (whether Sunday or Dec. 25th), then He would of at least mentioned it Himself or through the apostles sometime in the first 70 years of the church. I'm not saying it's wrong in the legal sense. But I am saying He never brought it up.

    You may think, "Well that sounds legalistic." All I can say is, "Oh, on the contrary." It is the law that gave us holy days and it is the New Covenant of the heart that freed us from such days. It is not that God wants to be worshiped less, it is that He wants to be worshiped more. He knows we, as humans, like to categorize our lives: work, family, entertainment, religion. And the religious part of us likes to segment God to special days. Then the other days we can subconsciously consider our own. May it never be. Every day is as holy and full of spiritual potential as every other day, full of Opportunity to express the fullness of joy in the Spirit. Far be it from me brother (or sister, hard to tell when you're anonymous) to be accused of trying to encourage less joy. Just the opposite.

    Let us move away from the shadow and into the reality that is Christ, every day! And please re-read the posts above and you'll see no arguing, just pleading…

    "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."

  39. Jay Guin says:

    Andy,

    I think there's an important lesson in the NT passages on celebrating holy days. Rom 14 says not to judge or condemn over such things, while Col 2:16 says not to allow yourselves to be judged by such things and Gal 4:10 speaks of them as enslaving. The solution, I'm persuaded, is that holy days are not salvation issues at all, until we make them salvation issues. Then we've become dividers of the body and are subject to the curse of Gal 1 by seeking justification other than by faith (5:4). Therefore, we must not judge, condemn, or look down on others regarding whether or not they celebrate such days (Rom 14), should not allow others to bully us into violating our consciences over such things (Col 2:16), and must not allow them to become boundary markers or tests of fellowship (Gal 1, 4, 5).

    If my church wishes to celebrate a seder, not as an obligation but as a celebration of God's work in saving Israel, our spiritual ancestors, we have the freedom to do so — so long as we don't bind it on others. Just so, if we want to start our own tradition of celebrating the anniversary of the congregation's founding, we are free to do so, so long as it doesn't become a barrier to fellowship.

  40. Andy Roberts says:

    Let me paint a small picture. When you read this, don't think about Xmas. Think about the broader issue of viewing ANY day or season as special spiritually, including Sunday… especially Sunday.

    ____________

    Every third Saturday of the month there was a United Way campaign station set up to collect food and clothes for the poor. Helping the poor is good. Sacrificing one's own possessions is commendable. So far, so good.

    But the poor need help more than just once a month. Truth is, they need help year round. And really, what they need are people who are sensitive to their needs real time. Not a program, but a relationship.

    So a couple of families (the Smiths and the Jones) make it their goal to be just that, a vital-connected relationship on a daily basis with one particularly poor family, the Wilsons. The Smiths and Jones may not give an item to the Wilsons every day, but some days, the needs are much more than other days. Some days, the Wilsons need help paying the electric bill. Some days they need milk and bread. Some days they need some handyman work. But because the relationship with the Smiths and Jones is real and vital, the needs are met real time.

    Now the Smiths and Jones noticed another family, the Millers, who donated faithfully to the United Way station. The Smiths and the Jones approached the Millers and said, "You know what we've found… since you're obviously willing to help the poor, a much more effective way is to live in daily relationship with a poor family. That way, you can know exactly what they need, when they need it, rather than guessing each month. And the mutual exchange of actually building a relationship has many additional blessings and benefits for both parties."

    The Millers replied, "Well these monthly times work just fine for us. They fit into our schedule and don't interfere with the other obligations of our lives. If we had a daily relationship with a poor family, they might interrupt us when we're having dinner or call us in the the middle of the night when their heat has shut off."

    "Well," the Smiths and Jones replied, "OK, you're 'free' to do what you want, this is America. But a better way, if what you REALLY want is to HELP rather than just do your duty, if you really want to see the situation for the poor improve, then you'll stop the program and start a relationship."

    "Are you saying YOU don't give to the United Way?" asked the Millers incredulously. "Don't you care about the poor?"

    "Of course we care about the poor. And because of that, we've stopped donating to the program and started a relationship with the Wilsons. We've chosen to help more, not less."

    The Millers retort: "You're judging us. Just because we don't do it your way, doesn't mean we don't care about the poor."

    "We never said that," pleaded the Smiths and Jones. "It is obvious that you care about the poor… to a certain degree. But what we said is, there is a better way that is more effective if what you want is to help the poor with your life."
    _______

    Maybe the parable is a weak one, but try to see that God's intent for the Bride of His Son is DAILY, VITAL, CONNECTED, SACRIFICIAL, INTERWOVEN, SENSITIVE relationships. Small groups combined with Sundays services doesn't hit the mark. That's why there is still rampant sin in the ranks, rampant sin that according to 1 Cor. 5, must be dealt with. NO LEAVEN IN THE BATCH. Impossible you say, to have a church that is 90% committed disciples and 10% who are borderline, and the 90% are lovingly helping the 10% change or leave. Yes, it is impossible in a Sunday/Small group paradigm, just like it is impossible to really effectively help the poor with a bi-monthly donation bin.

    In all of the book of Acts and in all the Epistles, in all that church history, there are 2 or so verses in that even casually mention Sunday. There are dozens that talk about a daily, current, real-time time relationship between believers. We've skipped the direct command ("Exhort one another DAILY" Heb 3:13) and settled for revised synagogue meetings left over from the Babylonian captivity (Synagogue meetings were NOT part of the mosaic law, they were a substitute). And the price? Again, according to GOD HIMSELF, I repeat, according to GOD HIMSELF, if we neglect MUTUAL DAILY EXHORTATION, we will be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. And if you don't think there is a choke hold of sin and worldliness and pornography and idolatry and greed and ad nauseam… then you're looking through rose colored glasses. Read the stats. Do your own survey? The HOLY Spirit is not having a HOLY effect on over half of most congregations. JESUS DESERVES BETTER.

    Are sundays and xmas salvation issues? Well only if teens sleeping together and marriages falling apart and husbands driven by greed while secretly indulging in internet filth are salvation issues. Over 50% of CHURCHED men are slaves to porn. I'd say that is a salvation issue. But I contend that it is the paradigm itself, our human flesh choosing the convenience and religion of weekly meetings rather than the cross-bearing cost of Heb. 3:13 relationship. What is wrong with weekly meetings and small groups you ask? They don't touch the core of what we need… Father built us to NEED EACH OTHER DAILY.

    So drink your egg nog and "go" to church this sunday. Just know that there is a higher way (http://www.jesuslifetogether.com/). It is neither pride nor exaggeration to say I have seen it with my own eyes and have lived it. Not because I or the church I'm part of are special or have the corner on truth, but because we've simply decided to forgo the donation bin and embrace the life of daily relationship. And that has made all the difference for the men I walk with, for their wives , for our children…

    May His Kingdom Come, His Will be done, on earth, as it is in Heaven,

    -a

  41. Anonymous says:

    Andy, you do not know what all others do on a regular bases. The church I attend tries to constantly give and love on other people, that's why I love it there. I have come to know some of the most others centered people there, most of all I've come to have a real relationship with Jesus. It's not an occassional thing, it is an everyday missional thing there. We encourage each other to love God and love people everyday spreading the love of Jesus trying to be less selfish and more others centered. We are grateful everyday that God sent us Jesus. Christmas is a time more people are more open to hear the gospel. I will be joyful about Him today and on Dec. 25th. If Christmas brings people to Him, glory to God in the highest! Will I stop praising Him and reaching out to others after Dec. 25th absolutley not!!

  42. Andy Roberts says:

    Sounds good anonymous, keep going. And I hope the stats are better for your teens and marriages… I really do.

    One old mentality that must go: If one says, "Here is a better way." The other's assumption is, "You're saying I'm wrong and that my salvation is at stake."

    This isn't me vs. you. I'm for you. I'm for Jesus. I'm not recruiting or judging. I want to see JESUS have ALL of HIS inheritance. I want you to have ALL of your inheritance. Look at the verses I mentioned. Read the website I mentioned. This is not an attack. It is a call to higher ground. Does your church or the church I'm part of need improvement still or have we both arrived? No, we press on to the goal:

    Eph. 4:12-16
    to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the WHOLE MEASURE of the FULLNESS of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

  43. Anonymous says:

    We all can do better than what we do, there's so many that need to be reached out to. When I said "we" that included teens. We have teens that other people thought were beyond help that are pouing their hearts out to God. These teens are sharing the zeal they have to other teens. Watching these kids in action it is truly amazing and wonderful what God is doing through them.

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