Christmas (?)

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The song says (and if you can’t trust a pop song, who can you trust?), “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”

It wouldn’t be Christmas without controversy, though, would it? To start with, do we wish people “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”? Personally, I wish people “Merry Christmas”, but if someone wishes me “Happy Holidays” I don’t take offense, because I think of the word. “Holidays” is just our English contraction of “Holy Days”. So the person who is, maybe, trying to take religion out of the season by wishing me “Happy Holidays” has just said the day is holy. I get a little chuckle out of that.

Or how about the slogan we see on bumper stickers and T-shirts that says, “Keep ‘Christ’ in Christmas”? I like that one, but here lately I’ve found one I like even better: “Keep ‘Christ’ in Christian.” Comic strips from the “Katzenjammer Kids” to “Peanuts” to “Family Circus” have gotten a lot of mileage out of kids trying to be nice the last two weeks before Christmas. Unfortunately, there are a lot of adults like that, too. We live how we want most of the year, but then suddenly become pious near the holidays.

So let’s “Keep ‘Christ’ in Christian” and be one all year round. It takes effort but, on the other hand, there’s the incredible gift of grace that actually takes over the work for us once we submit! (And folks, imagine the difference to be made in the world if the Christians acted like representatives of Christ!)

Back to that holiday, thing.

One of the controversies I was reading about just this week was whether Christians should celebrate Christmas or not. The idea comes as a surprise to many of us because we’ve fallen into the mindset of thinking of Christmas as one of the holiest days of the year. And jumping back a couple paragraphs, even as adults, we’re almost in the mindset of, “I better celebrate Christmas or baby Jesus is going to be mad at me!”

So how could a Christian possibly object to celebrating Christmas? Well, for starters, it’s not mentioned in the Bible. No where in Scripture do we find anyone celebrating the birth of Jesus after the night he was born. Except maybe the wise men, who might have shown up later. But they only came once. We don’t read about them making annual pilgrimages to Jesus’s house; nor do we read about anyone celebrating Jesus’s birthday after that first one.

Some object to Christmas on the basis that we don’t know that Jesus was born on December 25th. According to legend, that day was picked by Roman Emperor Constantine because it was a day the pagans were already celebrating. Rather than tell them to stop whooping it up, he just turned it into a “Christian holy day”. Others object to Christmas because some of the symbolism has much in common with pagan rituals (the tree, the yule log, the ornaments … and, personally, I’m pretty sure cranberry sauce is evil).

Here’s what the Bible does have to say about this: “Or, say, one person thinks that some days should be set aside as holy and another thinks that each day is pretty much like any other. There are good reasons either way. So, each person is free to follow the convictions of conscience. What's important in all this is that if you keep a holy day, keep it for God's sake; if you eat meat, eat it to the glory of God and thank God for prime rib; if you're a vegetarian, eat vegetables to the glory of God and thank God for broccoli. None of us are permitted to insist on our own way in these matters.” (Romans 14:5-7, The Message)

And one other thought from the Bible, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31, English Standard Version, emphasis added)

So, whether you celebrate Christmas or not, just make sure you do what you’re doing for the glory of God. And please permit me to wish you a Merry Christmas, a Happy Holy Days, and a Be of Good Cheer!