Torn Over Christmas
Do you observe Christmas differently now compared to how you observed it when you were a child? Do you observe it at all? Did you know Christmas has pagan roots? Does that bother you?
Don’t get nervous. I’m not going to tell you what you should or shouldn’t be doing this time of year. I can’t because I don’t have it all sorted out myself. I’m torn.
Since the beginning of the church, there has been controversy over pagan customs. On one side were those who wanted to “Christianize” the customs to win over the heathen, and on the other were those who rejected anything about paganism.
Some Christians observe Christmas as they always have with family traditions, Santa, etc., but with a focus on the Savior’s birth. Some avoid the Santa scene, try not to get wrapped up in materialism (pardon the pun) and focus on Christ.
Some have entirely given up Christmas because of its pagan roots, or because the Puritans didn’t observe it, or the materialism, etc. Those who have given up Christmas usually face a lot of flack from friends and family.
Our Christmas Evolution
My Christmas in the Sixties
As a child, we did what everyone else did in the sixties. Full-blown Santa is coming, tinsel-decorated tree, with a big-time focus on presents. We didn’t leave out Jesus, but He wasn’t the focus. My mother would read the Christmas story before the nativity scene on Christmas Eve. Jesus got about 15 minutes of the holiday rush.
Our Christmas in the Seventies
When my first children were toddlers (over 30 years ago) we had a birthday cake for Jesus each year. Our traditional centerpiece was a Santa kneeling over the Baby Jesus in the manger. I also took my children to have their photos taken with Santa. Santa even came to our church to pass out presents.
Our Christmas in the Eighties
When my oldest children were school-age, we dumped all Santa décor and focused on Christ. (We also stopped all Easter bunny traditions that year). We made Chrismoms (symbols of Christ) for the tree out of white and gold felt and sequins and hung them every year as we read Scripture verses for the symbol (door, crown, sheep, bread, etc.).
We sent out “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” Christmas cards. My mother was disappointed we didn’t accept Santa and reindeer presents. The tree and stockings were still a family tradition.
Our Christmas in the Early Nineties
By this time, I learned about the Bible holidays and the pagan roots of Christmas and Easter. I wanted to give up Christmas and Easter. My children were horrified. All those holiday memories! Mom has lost her mind!
We went back and forth on the topic for a few years. I wanted to get at least rid of the tree (based on Jeremiah 10:1-5). We finally made the decision not to have Christmas. It was hard. My grandmother was crushed. (The shocked reactions from family and friends to homeschooling and homebirth decisions pale compared to reactions we got from giving up Christmas!)
When a Christian is raised to believe that devoted family traditions bring glory to God, then finds out about the pagan history and God’s ways, it’s quite a blow. God’s ways should have been taught since childhood and are now being learned in adulthood. My motives were pure. I only wanted to do what I believed God wanted us to do.
Our Christmas from 2000 until Now
I remarried, and my new husband did not want to give up Christmas (mainly because it was the only time his family gathered). I still don’t feel at peace with this decision, but it is not my call. So I make the best of it and focus on Christ. I feel God can use all things for His good.
My husband went to heaven in 2021. Last Christmas, I spent with my son in the Marines on base in NC. I will be here in TN this year; grandchildren will come over to open presents.
I want to Celebrate the Birth of Christ!
“That is the best picture of what the incarnation means when we look at in its true context. For that is what happened in Jesus Christ from his birth to his resurrection. The Son of God entered into our broken, Fallen, alienated human existence. He took upon himself our fallen flesh. He stood in Adam's shoes, in Israel's shoes, in our shoes, and he steadfastly refused to be Adam, He refused to be Israel. He refused to be what we are.” 1
I have no problem that celebrating Jesus’ birthday wasn’t commanded by God. Purim wasn’t commanded by God but suggested by the Hebrews as an observance to remember a miracle of God.
I want to celebrate the birth of Christ as a miracle of God. The most beautiful miracle of all! I would prefer not to merge the celebration with a pagan festival. It’s a compromise I don’t feel good about.
12 Things I Like About Christmas
- Focus on Christ
- Families getting together (for some, the only time of the year)
- Church programs (giving to the needy, the elderly, plays, songs, etc., focusing on Christ)
- Nativity scenes
- The music (especially Handel’s Messiah)
- The lights
- Baking time with children
- Homemade gifts and cards (especially from children)
- Goodies (fudge, cookies, nougat, and peppermint–yum)
- Creativity (crafts, gingerbread houses, decorations, Chrismoms, etc.)
12 Things I don’t Like about Christmas
- Lack of focus on Christ
- Pagan roots
- Lonely people feel lonelier
- Christians disagreeing
- Greed (coveting)
- Shopping, shopping and more shopping (and crowds)
- Family stress
- The good are rewarded philosophy (spills over into a “saved by works” mentality)
- Santa worship (idolatry)
- Political War on Christmas
God Wants us to Have Holidays (Holy Days)
God created us with a desire to have celebrations. He gave us instructions for observing the seven holidays listed in Leviticus 23. The holidays contain more divine information of spiritual and prophetic value than any scripture subject. Why aren’t we taught these marvelous lessons in church? The answer is found during the first through the fourth centuries.
How does God feel about us ignoring the holidays He gave us and replacing them with other days? I’ll answer in a parable and let you decide.
Once upon a time, a little boy loved his father very much. His father asked the boy to prepare and serve a special dinner on a particular day. The father wrote out all the specific instructions clearly and departed for a while, expecting these instructions to be executed.
While the father was gone, the boy shared the instructions with a family friend. The family friend said, “I have a better idea. We had a party that was much more fun, let me tell you about it. We tell mythical stories, dress in furry costumes, make beautiful decorations, and have tasty treats.”
The friend gave all the details and suggested they change the dinner date to another day. The boy decided the party would be more fun than the dinner and felt his father would understand. The boy undertook the friend’s party plan.
Was the Father disappointed?
The father loved his precious son but was probably disappointed in his disobedience. To what degree would depend on two facts: 1. the age or maturity of the boy, and 2. the boy's motivation.
God Looks on the heart. Yes, I do believe the pagan holidays are offensive to God. I also believe He is merciful. . . God looks at the heart and views our motives. “Man looks to the outward appearance but God looks to the heart.”
The Reason for the Season
The world's attention is called to acknowledge the birth of the Savior at this time of year, even if they don’t believe. Let us be careful not to get our focus off of what is essential. If we desire to celebrate or not to celebrate the birth of Jesus at this time of the year, then let that be done according to the purity of the heart and with the integrity of conviction without judgment toward others.
God looks at the heart. Jesus taught against condemning one another—He taught the most important things:
- Love God.
- Love others.
This should be our focus. Too many are condemning others on either side.
Christmas is a merging of pagan and Christian religions—it is a fact. The ultimate would be to abandon all pagan worship and teach our children the ancient paths—only God’s pure worship. Then our children won’t be faced with this holiday dilemma each year.
How do we get there from here? I think it’s going to take time. Josiah changed things (2 Ch 34:3-8). He got rid of the paganism that crept in—but over a period of time. If we commit to seeking God through His Word and teach our children His Word, we will grow spiritually and God will reveal His paths.
A Season of Peace?
With so much controversy, how does one have peace? Isaiah 26:3 says that if we keep our minds stayed (focused) on God, we will have perfect peace. Perfect peace was put in this verse when it says Shalom, Shalom.
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Isaiah 26:3
Let not your heart be troubled: John 14:1a
Bring peace to this season by focusing on Christ. Then celebrate Jesus in every season by loving one another.
Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all whom God favors. (Luke 2:14).
C. Baxter Kruger, The Great Dance: The Christian Vision Revisited