I have had people ask me questions such as, “Are we wrong to celebrate Christmas?” “Is this idolatry?” “What should we do about celebrating Christmas?”
Everywhere we go during the season, the signs of Christmas are there with all their glitter, tinsel, lights, greenery, cards, festivities, carols, bells, Santa’s, manger scenes, angels, trees and presents–and the push by advertising agencies and the gimmicks of the retailers. The Christmas season, today is more business than religious and has the potential to either make or break a business.
It is true today that the birth of Christ has been commercialised and secularised to such an extent that its true meaning has been lost. Even the story about the birth of Christ is often distorted, mocked, or mis -represented. The giving of the Son of God, who became the babe in the manger so that He might become the man on the cross and one day reign as Lord of all is forgotten, rejected, or ignored.
If we use this as a legitimate reason for discarding the entire celebration of Christ’s birth at Christmas, it will follow that we would end up having to throw out a lot of good things -because Satan and man distort and ruin many such in life – like the Bible, sex, marriage, the church, food, etc. But we don’t throw things out just because the world misuses or distorts them.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:22 Paul says, “abstain from every form of evil” (NASB).Because of the translation of the KJV, “every appearance of evil,” some have taken this to apply to anything that even looks like it might be evil. However,as the NASB translation makes clear, Paul’s meaning is “to abstain from every genuine form of evil,” not what might simply appear to be evil. We are to abstain from what is genuinely evil or wrong according to the index of the Word of God.
To abstain from the mere appearance of evil would seem to contradict what the Apostle says in the second passage important to this discussion. In Titus 1:15, the Apostle also warns against those who see evil in almost anything and condemn it. For these people, a lot of things have the appearance of evil, but purity, is first of all, a matter of the mind and conscience, not merely the external. “To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled.” (NASB).
Just because the world distorts something, that does not make it evil. If we avoid the distortions and use it as God intended or in a way that does not go contrary to God’s character and holiness it can be good. A good illustration is the beauty of sexual love within the bonds of marriage.
DOES SCRIPTURE AUTHORIZE IT?
The argument is that since we are not clearly authorised by the Bible to celebrate the birth of Christ during such a season, we should have no celebrations or even special services to commemorate the birth of Christ.
Scripture tells us to remember His death in the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper and there is New Testament precedent for believers meeting together on Sunday. In essence, this is a celebration of the Lord’s resurrection. The early church automatically did this, but Scripture does not command us to do so. In fact, the early church at first met daily and took the Lord’s Supper daily, but we don’t do that today. Why not? Because these are not binding. We are not under the Law. Believers meet on Sunday because of its significance and because the early church set a precedent for it, but it was never commanded in the Bible. Believers did it out of love and adoration for the risen Savior. But, there is no precedent for celebrating His birth.
Such an approach completely misses the spirit and intent of the Bible.This is an intense devotion to the details of the Bible in such a way that one misses the spirit and essential thrust of a passage. Mountains are made out of mole hills and the truth is missed. One is busy counting the number of letters in a sentence rather than listening to its instruction.
If we applied this argument consistently, we would need to discontinue the use of projectors, musical instruments, hymnals, chorus books, the church building, pews, Sunday school, Christian schools, and many other things found commonly in churches today because none of them are specifically authorized by the scriptures. Further, there could be no special services or seasons to commemorate things God has done as with Thanksgiving or a dedication service for a new building. The only illustrations of such things being done are found in the Old Testament. If the New Testament had clearly spoken on this matter, this argument would be correct. However, since it has not, the argument from silence is not sufficient reason.
DOES SCRIPTURE FORBID IT?
Colossians 2:16-17 “ Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day– 17things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.”
Using this passage, it is claimed that Scripture actually warns and forbids the observance of any special months, seasons, days or religious festivals.
In this passage, the Apostle is talking about the Old Testament festivals which were shadows of the person and work of Christ–but Christ has now come. To continue to celebrate them is to dishonour the fact of His coming, or to act as though He were not enough for salvation or spirituality. Note what the Apostle says, “let no one act as your judge in regard to . . .” He is saying don’t let anyone tell you these things are requirements for fellowship with God. They were only shadows of the person and work of Christ, and He has not only come and fulfilled those shadows, but He is totally sufficient.
Colossians 2:16-17 are not verses that forbid believers from commemorating something such as the birth of Christ if it is done out of love, devotion, and the joy the season gives when used as a way of focusing on the Savior.What the passage actually forbids is the celebration of religious seasons or holy days when they have been prescribed as a religious duty and necessary for holiness or spirituality.
The issue is not the observance, but the reason, the attitudes and the spirit in which it is done.
The point is this: If the early church could celebrate the resurrection without a specific command from God, only the spirit of legalism or the letter of the law would forbid the celebration of Christ’s birth as a special season of joy and adoration.
Ultimately, the problem is not the celebration of the season; it’s the attitude and reason behind it and the distortion of it.
Let’s not throw out the baby with the wash.