Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas? - Part 1

This year, I have heard a lot of conflicting ideas about Christmas. Now that the pace has slowed down, I have had some time to reflect on some of them. It seems funny to ask, "Should Christians celebrate Christmas?" but I have read a number of things this year that seem to make the argument that Christmas is not about Christ,one person going so far as to say that Christians should not celebrate the holiday. After all, it really is just a commercial holiday...Christ wasn't even born on December 25th, that was a pagan religious holiday..."True Christians" would only celebrate holidays mandated by God...right?

It seems to me that all of these arguments have something in common with the religious people of Jesus' day - the law. These arguments focus on what we know in our heads - facts and dates. Christmas, for me, is about celebrating what I know about Christ in my heart. I want to celebrate the transforming power Christ brought down to earth and look forward with hope to the day he comes again. As I have considered each of the arguments above, I have made my own conclusions. They are just my thoughts and opinions on each argument, and I know these things may change over time. I thought I would share them, though, in case any of you have wondered about these arguments, as well.

The first argument, "It is just a commercial holiday," certainly looks true in our culture. Just as we have stripped the Bible out of our schools and God out of our wedding ceremonies, our culture has tried to take Jesus out of Christmas. Christians have tried slogans to combat this - everything from "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" to "If you don't believe, you won't receive". I think, though, that this is like fighting a fire with matches - "sales slogans" for a commercial problem. We still tend to treat Christmas as a commercial holiday and just add in our slogans to try to remind people of why this whole tradition started. There are two things that I read this year that are challenging my ideas on how I celebrate Christ's birth. The first is a quote by Keith Green from his article "Christmas Mourning" written in 1979.

"I've seen Christians go in for all the trappings and trimmings. They spend hours, even days, in department stores trying to figure out what to buy for friends and relatives who already have everything they need...And all the while, a world full of starving, deprived people are silently, invisibly looking in through your living room window begging for a scrap of food, a rag to keep them from shivering to death, and an answer to their misery, suffering , and oppression." K. Green
The second challenge, for me, has come from a family that I read about recently. They do not open presents on Christmas morning, but instead spend the advent season choosing presents for Jesus. You can read about it here. It is a challenging thought; and although I don't know if I will ever have a tree with no presents under it, I am definitely planning for some more thought to go into presents for Jesus next year.

So, does this mean that I don't think gift-giving is appropriate and should be stopped altogether? No. I think taking the time to give to those around us is a way to show love to them. Christ told us to love one another, and I think doing that through giving gifts on his birthday is a way we can celebrate his message of love.

There are things that I will not be doing with my children, though. One of the traditions I will not be passing down is the "Wish List". You know the problem, family members need ideas for the kids because they don't know what to get for them. Dad and Mom need to get ideas, too, because they really only planned on what they were going to buy the kids. So, out comes the Sears Wish Book, filled with more ideas and choices than the child ever knew existed. Now, instead of just asking for one toy (or nothing), the child asks for more than they could ever get - and it may be hard for them to even tell you which they want the most. The whole point in advertising is to make you discontent with what you have - it makes you want something you don't need. Now, instead of being happy with whatever they get, they are set up for disappointment about what they didn't get. I am working hard to teach my children to be responsible about money and self-control in their desires. I feel it would be foolish to teach them that all year and then let them loose for one month at the end of the year.

There are a few things that we do to get ideas, though. I keep a list throughout the year of things that catch their eye (or mine!). We also take them along when shopping for others (for Operation Christmas Child, or for our sponsored children). We just try to pay attention to the things they are drawn to. It may seem that they are being exposed to an awful lot of advertising this way, but their focus is different. They are thinking of the other children they are buying for. I think this gives them an opportunity to practice correct responses to the overwhelming about of STUFF that is out there.

For this argument against Christmas, I think I want to be intentional about keeping Christ at the center. I want to keep doing advent with my kids, using the time leading up to Christmas as a reminder of the MIRACLE of his birth. I want to keep adding ways we can reach out to the "least of these" at Christmas and throughout the year. I want to teach my children the TRUTH about Santa; Saint Nicholas was a man transformed. I think having this holiday is a great way to remember again what Christ gave up for us - Not just his life for our sins, but coming here in human form in the first place. I don't think we fully grasp how much he gave up when he gave up his heavenly form to become a man; and that sacrifice is eternal. This argument does not seem to outweigh that sacrifice.

Tomorrow, I will let you know some of my thoughts on the other two arguments.


  1. Fantastic post. We need to get together to chat! I've been thinking about the same stuff but you have it laid out so.much.clearer. Looking forward to your next posts.

  2. AMEN AMEN AMEN! PS> we never do 'wish lists' either, in fact my kids didn't even ask for a single thing this Christmas! Imagine their surprise when they saw we had chosen things that were perfect for them! Just like you, we just pay attention to their likes and such all year long. ;)

  3. Yes! I have been concerned seeing how covetousness can overtake my children (and me when I shop for them and get an urge to buy out the store). I think materialism is one of the great demonic plagues that keeps our nation from God and I want to teach my kids to stear clear of it and not fuel or teach this at Christmas time. I would love to talk/pray with you or others as to how to keep Christ central and instead fuel a passion for compassion and giving. Oh, that our kids would learn to live for eternity and sacrifically care for "the least of these" and not live to accumualate stuff for their own pleasure pursuit.


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