The OTHER Front in the “War on Christmas”: Christian v. Christian

It’s Christmas time — the season of “peace on earth/Good will toward men!”, y’know —  so of course, not only are the  unflagging secularists setting their impious sights on shuttering public displays of “Christ”-mas cheer; but there is a whole other group of “Bah-Humbuggers!” on the other side of the cultural equation: devout Christians who denounce observance of the late-December holiday. (They usually turn up, albeit a bit less vocally, in the springtime snorting at “Easter” celebrations, as well.) 

The latter group’s beef with these holidays usually, broadly, turns on a number of objections. There are accusations of “pagan” influences ((the winter solstice, ancient Roman Sun worship) contaminating various traditions (Christmas trees, mistletoe, Easter eggs and bunnies). Many take offense at the levels of materialism and commercialism which have polluted the commemorations (too many presents, too much shopping-mania, overemphasis on candy, etc.). Furthermore, in the specific case of Christmas, critics charge  dissonance  between the selection of December 25 for the big day versus another, more likely birth date for the Baby Jesus.

Suggestion: how about both sides of this intra-church debate — that is, those within the Christian community who are at loggerheads over “Christmas”– apply a bit of somewhat obscure, but terrifically practical, biblical reasoning that seems to be pretty much lost nowadays in the holly-and-ivy shuffle: “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths.” (Col 2:16)

In that admonition, the Apostle Paul supplies not only a closely-tailored command regarding distinctly Jewish special days but, beyond that, a ruling principle which might free a bunch of us from this annual fret-fest. If someone, genuinely before God, can worship Jesus and have his relationship with Him fortified through acknowledgement of certain festivals or cherished observances — more power to him. That doesn’t mean the other guy has to indulge the same practices; and he shouldn’t be spurned by the celebrators if he chooses not to follow their lead.

Don’t, for a moment, think the epistle writer would be unable to identify with this controversy. Fact is, he faced his own contemporaneous conflicts over issues like this: Should followers of Jesus honor the Jewish Sabbath, another day, or no day in particular? If an idol worshiper offers a slab of beef to his god, can a disciple of Christ use it for hamburger? What if one of those aforementioned idolaters extends a dinner  invitation to a Christian — can he accept it? 

The New Testament sections which address these questions — mainly Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 10 — typically are skated over by Bible readers as being inscrutable and irrelevant. But for the first century Christian they were anything but that — this was penetrating stuff dealing with what, for them, were pressing dilemmas. 

Paul, as a highly influential church leader, dealt with these concerns, his era’s  burning, religio-cultural dust-ups, by cautioning: “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand” (Rom 14:4). 

Yes, the professing Christian who bows down in reverence to the bedecked fir tree in his living room? Who invokes evergreen garlands for good luck? He needs a healthy rebuke, for sure — I’ll even volunteer to deliver it!. (By the way, I have yet to find anyone guilty of any of that)). Stipulating that, however  … 

Frankly, for my part, delightfully partaking of Christmas season conventions, (and to a lesser degree, tipping my hat to “Easter Sunday”), helps me focus on key parts of the Savior’s earthly mission. No, my spiritual walk won’t fizzle in the absence of these societal “holy days”;  they do, nonetheless, serve me as yearly, calendrical tools that sweeten my relationship with my Savior.

Some fellow believers doesn’t share my enthusiasms? No sweat; I have no intention of crowbarring my preferences into anyone’s customs, religious or otherwise.  

And, for the record, even in our modern, libertine, earthly-minded society, both holidays open doors for the church to bear witness to the Gospel’s historic and essential  facts (Jesus’ birth, ie, His incarnation; and his death/resurrection). In starkly practical ways, they carry huge potential for cultivating a favorable spiritual atmosphere, stirring spiritual interest in unbelievers. I’d like to think a church dedicated to reaching people’s hearts could find imaginative and appropriate strategies for leveraging “Christian” holidays for the proclamation of the Christian message. 

If aspects of these celebrations, however, offend other believers — who am I to dismiss them? To scorn them? My responsibility is to be sensitive to their convictions, while enjoying the liberty of enjoying my own. 

“It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.” (Rom 14:21, 22). 

“Why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience?” (1 Cor 10:29)

Good grief — the time and emotional energy the people of God needlessly expend on fighting one another over distractions like these. 

Note: For those who’ve heard their whole life we celebrate Christmas on December 25 because of a pagan, Roman tradition,  I highly recommend Mark P. Shea’s study on this matter; he argues, persuasively, in my opinion, that this popular thesis has it exactly wrong. 

While I’m at it, this is also thought provoking: Was Easter Borrowed from a Pagan Holiday?

Image: Re-enactors Peter Knight and Stefan Langheinrich, descendants of Great War veterans, shake hands at the 2008 unveiling of a memorial to the 1914 Christmas Truce; 11 November 2008
Source http://www.flickr.com/photos/alancleaver/sets/72157607059019882/detail/
Author: Alan Cleaver;e Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

About the author: Steve Pauwels

Steve Pauwels is pastor of Church of the King, Londonderry, NH and managing editor of ClashDaily.com

View all articles by Steve Pauwels
  • waterman

    I think christmas and easter are pagan holidays, but I feel that if someone wants to celebrate the holiday then do it. At the same time I teach my grand children just what the rite signafys and that they know that the commerialisation of the holiday does not carry the true meaning of the holiday.
    I have a take it or leave it attitude toward the hype of the so called holiday spirit, since most of the strong christmas and easter holiday advocates would not know the spiritual things of God if it hit them square in the nose, with exception of the (pentecostal) full gosple church groups that thinks God physically knocks them to the ground or causes them to sprint around and jump pews.
    If you are a true Christian, you realize that it is a spiritual belief not a physical or carnal thing that is celebrated, it is the spiritual impact that God has on us that He is concerned with. Jesus wrote His laws on our hearts not on stone tablets to be idolized or enshrined in some catholic temple in the vatican.
    It’s those that deny the existence of Jesus or the deminishing status of Jesus according to their beliefs that want to rid the holiday all together, this would be an injustice and should not be allowed.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1443371258 Tbark Knives

      Love Trumps Everything (Patric Mead) according to Gods Word Love trumps all faith or Hope or law , Good statement True Christians are concerned with Getting Folks Saved by Holding up Jesus . If someone see’s Jesus in our lives their more likely to Ask about whats up with that person an see if they can get what they have .
      Use every oppertunity to teach ,Especialy Christmas , or any other time were presented with ,t

  • MATTHEW

    WHOA! I THINK A CHRISTIAN WHO’S UPSET ABOUT CHRISTMAS IS LOOPY! MAYBE THEY NEED TO GO OUT TO THE DESERT AND RIDE THE SNAKE W/JIM MORRISON AND GET FOCUSED ON WHATS IMPORTANT! WHOA! WHOA NELLY! WHOA!

  • Rose

    It’s the difference between the milk of salvation Christians (John 3:16) and meat of His Word Christians. 1 Corinthians 3:2 and Hebrews 5:12 KJV

    Jesus’ conception is 12/25 and that is Biblically documented with some study in His Word. http://rosethistleartworks.blogspot.com/2010/12/christmas-jesus-christ-immanuel-god.html

    Jesus became our Passover so that evil must pass over His brethren in His Name.

    1 Corinthians 5:7-8
    http://rosethistleartworks.blogspot.com/2010/04/happy-passover.html

    Jesus said in Luke 8:21 KJV And he answered and said unto them, My mother and
    my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it.

    People celebrating love for God according to their knowledge is one thing, but if you wrote a letter to someone explaining how you loved them and how you wanted them to love you, wouldn’t it pleasing if your beloved read it, studied it and wanted to be pleasing to you? How can anyone love God and not want to learn more of Him in His Living Word, eating The Bread of Life and growing in His Word and in His love to His family?

    Hebrews 4:12 KJV For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the
    joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

  • Fedthehellup

    I feel that if you wish to celebrate Christmas or Easter, then do it!! If you don’t believe in celebrating it then don’t!! But, if someone wants to celebrate it, it is their business. Leave them alone. It is none of your business. You can’t force someone to believe what you believe. If someone wants to put up Christmas trees and lights then have at it. If you don’t belive in that, well just keep your mouth shut because that is their right to celebrate Christmas anyway they want!! I think this is something that we as Americans have to learn to do. That is leave others alone if they don’t think as you do. As long as no one is getting hurt, and you are not trying to destroy what others believe in, just shut the hell up and mind your own business!!!!

    • alan_1969

      I don’t judge others for wanting to celebrate holidays, but they sure do judge me for not celebrating.

  • 19gundog43

    Another verse comes to mind, ”Strain at a Knat and swallow a camel” These
    Christians need to chill and get a real life, they embarrass themselves.Modern
    day Pharisees.

  • alan_1969

    There is only one thing that Jesus said to do in remembrance of him and it wasn’t easter nor christmas.

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