In Defense Of Christmas
We are all familiar with the attacks on Christmas by atheists and secularists who are "offended" by the Christian connotations of the holiday. Demands have been made for the removal of nativity scenes from public spaces and for the term "Happy Holidays" to replace "Merry Christmas".
Be that as it may, there are also professed Christians who vilify Christmas and I am actually writing with them in mind. Some feel the holiday has an association with paganism and therefore reject it. Santa, the tree, the revelry, and the other pagan aspects of the holiday, are of course, not of Biblical origin. Most Christian scholars agree that Christ was born in the fall, not December 25. That date is reputedly related to pagan sun worship.
Assuming that's true, replacing a pagan festival with a celebration honoring the birth of the Savior, is somewhat of a victory in my estimation. Personally, I see nothing wrong with celebrating the birth of our Lord. I'm happy that he came and died for me. Nativity scenes, special services honoring the King, theatrical productions retelling the story, are all good things in my eyes.
Some in the Christian community refer to Christmas and Easter as baptized paganism. So what's the alternative? Tell the world to stop celebrating the Savior and go back to sun worship? The big problem I see with the legalistic mindset, is that it condemns everything outside of the narrow confines of what it deems acceptable, and believes everything (and everybody) else, is offensive to God. However, few things are as offensive to God, as the legalistic mindset itself.
How far are you willing to go to purify yourself? If you say Christians compromise the truth by celebrating Christmas, where do you set your own limits? Rings are of pagan origin, so do you wear a wedding ring? Do you shake hands when greeting others? The handshake had it's origin in paganism! How about the myriad of symbols allegedly originating with occult systems. Some people actually find circles and triangles offensive! Should you stop driving your car because the steering wheel is round or the company logo resembles a pentagram (Chrysler)? Are you going to do what the Pharisees did, and start adding prohibition after prohibition - until you are staggering under a load of burdens?
Also, consider the fact that many of the traditions commanded by God, and found in scripture, initially had pagan origins. Other traditions were not by command of God, but were accepted practices among his people and not condemned by him.
Circumcision was practiced by the Egyptians before it was practiced by the Jews. It was a cultural practice which had some religious significance. God captured the practice, gave it to Abraham, reinvested it with new meaning and it became a religious rite for Abraham to worship his creator. Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, wasn't given by God in the Scriptures. It's something that they do to recollect a deliverance, a special deliverance. (Is Christmas Pagan? Gregory Koukl)
Some people condemn what God does not condemn. They have not found their freedom in Christ, and have no love for others. Bondage to legalistic thinking and condemnation of others characterizes their spiritual condition.
Luke 6:37 Stop judging, and you will never be judged. Stop condemning, and you will never be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Lord's Spirit is, there is freedom.
1 Corinthians 10:23 We are free to do all things, but there are things which it is not wise to do. We are free to do all things, but not all things are for the common good.
I was once a legalist and seriously considered removing Christmas from my life. Baptized paganism, said the voices I was listening to. Now I listen to the Spirit, and when Christmas comes, I am thankful that Christ came to this earth (in the flesh) to save me! I rejoice in his birth, his life, his Gospel of love, and his hard-won victory - what is pagan about that?
Did some of the trappings (tree, balls, mistletoe, etc.) of Christmas, originate with paganism? Although debate exists, there is evidence to support that claim. So what? Like circumcision, it's not what it meant originally that counts, it's what it currently means. Circumcision was originally associated with paganism (Encyclopedia Britannica), then commanded by God and adopted by the Jews, later nullified by the New Covenant, and now seen as a sign of legalism - by those free in Christ.
1 John 3:21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in the presence of God.
This season I encourage you to put Christ back into Christmas and show love to your neighbor. Let us strive to honor the King in word and deed each and every day of the coming new year.
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR