Would it shock you to learn that I, a Christian and pastor, do not observe Christmas or Easter as Christian festivals? I make no special provision for these times, nor do I hold special services. Yet, I thoroughly enjoy the ‘Christmas’ period – which is unusual for someone who does not observe it! Let me unravel what may at first appear to be a most odd (some say ‘heretical’, but I am strong enough to stand against their misplaced accusations!) situation.
I enjoy the ‘Christmas’ period simply for its coziness. That’s all. I enjoy it because, usually, people have time off from work (but not my pastoral office, which is ongoing) and the family are all together – brought about mainly by the way the world seems to stop dead in its tracks!
No, I do not like the drunken activities. No, I do not like the commercial rubbish. Indeed, as a family, we stopped the sinful buying-in of rich stores of food which was really a waste and a shame. Nowadays, we buy-in the amount of food that is normally consumed in any other period.
Some ardent Christians seem to lose all sense at this time, and even accuse fellow believers of being ‘unsaved’ because they dare to have Christmas trees, etc. This is not acceptable. Indeed, I have come to see that these accusers tend not to do their research very well, but rely only on carefully selected sources of information which circulate ad nauseam! As a researcher I must disregard this bad practice. If someone is truly wrong, then we must prove it, not just shout loudly.
As for buying presents, we have nothing against that, because the giving of presents is not particularly a ‘Christmas thing’ nor is it necessarily pagan! What of presents given for birthdays? Or, for wedding anniversaries? Or, for the birth of babies? I am very sure that if they searched hard enough accusers could find some link to paganism or Rome! (Obviously, I speak from a Protestant perspective).
We certainly do not place ourselves in debt to buy presents for all and sundry, just because they buy presents for us! In fact, we told our extended families that we would not be buying them presents at Christmas-time anymore, because it gets out of hand. And they all agreed, with a sigh of relief! How many readers wish they could do this? You CAN! Just be honest.
When in the usual kind of churches we once enjoyed singing Biblical carol-hymns (which are very few). We used to enjoy our Christmas dinner, too, though this has greatly diminished because of smaller appetites and few attendees! In fact our buying of food at this time is usually a normal weekly shop and not lavish or excessive. But, we do not ‘celebrate’ Christmas, because it is not a Christian festival at all. (Read my words carefully – don’t assume).
It is far more prudent to say that many who look upon Christmas as being ‘Romish’ are themselves guilty of a Romish attitude. But, those who do not see it this way, and who genuinely wish to celebrate the birth of Christ, may do so without an accusation of paganism. They are free to celebrate because the New Testament generally says so! The fact that Rome ‘stole’ the idea and misused it to produce a day of three masses for Christ is just a sad coincidence. Please – teach fact, not supposition!
Jesus Christ could have been born anytime during the five or six months of winter. Fixing the date at 25th December was indeed a concession by Roman Catholic popes to an existing pagan rite and nowhere in scripture do we find any warrant for keeping a Christmas festival. It is also true that most churches slavishly hold ‘candlelight services’ on Christmas Eve… if some wish to celebrate, well, they have the biblical right to do so, IF it is a genuine act of worship. The only time they should be castigated for it is if their services are either slavishly habitual or deliberately Romish.
Paul tells us that each Christian must answer to his own conscience on matters of holy days. Thus, one man may count a certain day as ‘holy’ whilst another may not. The only holy day we must all observe is the seventh-day sabbath. All other observations are up to the individual Christian. (See the article A/521 on my website).
Personally, I do not see ‘Christmas’ as a holy day, but a few might do so. The actual day – 25th December – has no substantial association with the actual birth-date of Jesus Christ. The Bible itself does not require us to observe the day or the event. Certainly we are not instructed to ‘celebrate’ it or to hold a ‘festival’. On the other hand, scripture does allow a person to think of the day as holy if he so wishes.
Egged-On About Easter
What about Easter? Is this a genuine holy day? Easter is not a required observance either! While much is attributed to Roman Catholicism, if a man chooses to hold Easter as a holy day, then he can. I do not. (Note: the word ‘Easter’ is correctly attributed in scripture – see my article A/29 – though to use it as a title for a feast-day is not appropriate. It needs a different title).
It is absurd for Christian leaders to publicly say that the world has lost the “true meaning of Christmas”. It is equally ridiculous for them to talk of the “real meaning of Easter”. Both are absurd! What on earth is the “real meaning” of Christmas and Easter (as feast days), if these festivals are products of cultish or religious whimsy? All talk of their “real meaning” is spurious, irrelevant and meaningless.
I know some folks who get steamed up about Christians adhering Christmas as a celebration. Some even go so far as to say that these people ‘must be unsaved’. Oh dear! As both a pastor and a Bible researcher I know this arises from a genuine desire to be scriptural. But, to make such harsh decisions is wrong, if not sinful. We must separate the content and aim of celebrating Christmas (etc), from the idea of it as an holiday.
Mostly, Christians adhere to Christmas, Easter, etc., as a religious festival because of poor teaching, rather than as a personal desire to worship the Lord. Some do so because of ignorance. Others do so out of a genuine belief that we ‘ought’ to celebrate these festivals. But, most celebrate a ‘belief’ that is not really a ‘belief’ at all, but a long-held misconception. As a pastor I must distinguish each kind of reason and apply a different answer to each! It is my task to guide the sheep – not to obliterate them for bleating ‘Bah’! We should not assume that a misplaced regard for a festival is a sign of their unsaved state, or of a blatantly-paganistic mind! We must never assume that something ‘similar’ is always the ‘same’! In terms of truth we must be very sure before we accuse others of heresy or sin.
And, remember Paul’s counsel when asked if it was okay to eat meat previously submitted to a false god. He said it was alright to do so, as long as the eater did not take part in the eating as an act of worship. To me, this is a precedent for enjoying a holiday when others use it as worship. So long as we don’t treat it as an act of worship, our consciences are clear.