Christmas is upon us, and this year has been virtually uncontroversial thankfully. We all remember the Red Cup drama of last year and the almost fiasco of the green cup this year. Both blown way out proportion because they are simply coffee cups. Christmas can be a stressful time as parents and loved ones shop for gifts fighting the crowds to find the right gifts or not having a lot of money to spend on gifts. So, there is no need for extra stress of “religious wars”. Therefore, we need to remember 3 things about Christmas to help us get through and enjoy this season.
1. Christmas is Not a Biblically Mandated Holiday
The Christmas holiday is not established in the Bible at all. The only tradition we find in the New Testament is the Lord’s Supper where Christ tells His disciples to remember Him as they eat bread and drink wine (Matt 26:26-28). More specifically, to remember what He has done on the cross by breaking His body and pouring out His blood for the forgiveness of sins.
There are plenty of holidays mandated in the Old Testament such as the Passover, but Christmas is not one of these. Yes, we need to remember the advent of Christ, but if we only do this once a year, then we’re doing it wrong. The coming of Christ, His earthly ministry, His sacrifice on the cross, His resurrection, and His promise to return are all what give us hope. We gather weekly to remember this and to encourage us to live a life honoring to Him bringing others into a relationship with Him.
2. The History of the Christmas Tradition
No, December 25 is not historically Christ’s birthday. In fact, His actual birth date is debated. Some say the spring because shepherds were watching their sheep in the fields at night (Luke 2:8). Something they would have done in the spring and not the winter. Others say the summer or autumn due to astronomical events that could have been the star of Bethlehem. But it is commonly agreed upon that it is not December 25.
The date coincides more with the Roman holiday Saturnalia and later, Dies Natalis Solis Invictus “Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun” on December 23. Some believe that as Christianity was promulgated through the Roman Empire, the two cultures mixed and December 25 became the day the Church celebrated Christ’s birth.
Santa Claus has ties to Saint Nicholas who is famous for giving gifts to the poor. Santa also has ties to Father Christmas from 16th century England who typified the spirit of good cheer, peace, and joy. Gift giving and joyful spirit are both embodied by Santa Claus and a major part of this season.
These traditions have been passed down, mixed, and adapted to culminate in our tradition of Christmas today.
3. We All Celebrate Christmas Differently
Knowing the different traditions that culminate in our Christmas holiday, it is no surprise that we all practice our own traditions. Christians set aside this time to celebrate and remember the birth of Christ. Almost everyone celebrates the season by giving gifts and spending time with family and friends.
My wife grew up with Santa bringing them gifts even into their adulthood. Yes, they knew he wasn’t real, but it was a fun tradition their family had. In contrast, I don’t ever remember doing anything with Santa growing up. Now that we’re married and have a child of our own, we have to figure out what traditions we want to have. It’s important for us to go to a Christmas Eve church service to celebrate the first advent of our Lord and Savior and look forward to His second advent with fellow believers. I enjoy spoiling my wife and son with gifts just as my wife enjoys shopping for, wrapping, and giving gifts. Therefore, we want to keep Christ in our festivities just as we strive to keep Him the center of our lives, but we also have no problem letting Christmas simply be about gift giving and family.
I say all this to say that there is no right or wrong way to celebrate Christmas. It is an arrogant claim to say so. I will encourage you to guard yourself from materialism and idolatry, though. It is your prerogative whether you want to celebrate the season sharing love, joy, and gifts with family and friends or solely celebrate the advent of Christ. Let’s make sure we don’t fight with one another on the purpose or how to celebrate because that simply defeats the purpose no matter how you celebrate. Let us spread good cheer, joy, and maybe even take the opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
What are some traditions your family has for Christmas? Comment below.