The question of whether Christians should celebrate Christmas seems like a foregone conclusion. However, a number of Christians are strongly against celebrating Christmas. This page will examine the question of celebrating Christmas from the scriptures. Are there good reasons for or against celebrating Christmas? How should we celebrate?
Celebrate - Yes!
Although there is no record of early Christians celebrating Christmas in the Bible, there is a record of God celebrating the first Christmas. According to the gospel of Luke, God sent a multitude of angels who were praising God and announced the birth of Jesus to a number of shepherds.1 So, God Himself doesn't seem opposed to celebrating Christmas.
Celebrate - No!
A history of the church shows that Christmas was not celebrated for the first three centuries after Jesus' resurrection. The first Christian Roman emperor, Constantine, began the celebration of Christmas on December 25 in 325 A.D. The December 25th date of Christmas might have been selected to correspond with the winter solstice2 or with the Roman solar holiday Dies Natalis Solis Invicti,3 but was unlikely to be the actual birthday of Jesus. For this reason alone, many Christians have rejected the traditional December 25th celebration of Jesus' birth.
Saint Nicholas, a 4th-century Greek Christian bishop of Myra, known for his generous gifts to the poor, became the primary inspiration for the Christian figure of Santa Claus, which gradually became associated with Christmas. Many Christians (including the author) object to the tradition of lying to one's children about the existence of Santa Claus. For this reason, my wife and I never talked about Santa Claus unless the children specifically asked about him. When they did ask, we told them the truth. At one point, I can remember one of our younger children insisting that Santa was real, which was quickly countered by an older child. Of course, the parents became the final arbitrator of the dispute. As a Christian, I believe that one should never lie to one's children. Keep Santa Claus out of Christmas!
The tradition of exchanging gifts might have come from the Bible's account of gifts given by the wise men to Jesus.4 These traditions have been capitalized on by merchants, resulting in the commercialization of Christmas, so that greed, rather than giving, has become the primary focus of Christmas. Obviously, coveting5 the latest shoe style, clothes, or phone does not constitute a scripturally-sound way to celebrate Christmas.
Traditions such as the "Christmas" tree are relatively recent developments, having been first instituted in 16th century Germany. So, the Bible does not address issues, such as Christmas trees, although it clearly prohibits carving them into idols.6 Having established trees with lights eventually led to lighting entire houses and neighborhoods. Such decorations, although not specifically prohibited, do contribute to energy waste and competition between neighbors. In our neighborhood, nearly all "Christmas" decorations are purely secular (e.g., Santa, reindeer, Frosty, etc.). We don't do "Christmas" lights.
What to celebrate?
The Bible is clear that Christians should not be telling other Christians what days to celebrate, as long as they honor God and do it giving thanks to Him.7 So, whether or not a Christian celebrates Christmas is up to their own personal conscience. However, the manner in which Christians celebrate Christmas is a legitimate topic for discussion among Christians. Certainly, entertaining family and friends and celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ honors God and fulfills the advice given by Paul in Romans 14.7 However, random "holiday" parties and endless gift exchange just adds to the secularization of Christmas.
Christmas should be a time to celebrate God's greatest gift to us, the birth of Jesus Christ. Although we do not know the day (or even the year) of Jesus' birth, celebrating on December 25th is as good as any. In fact, many of the feasts given in the Old Testament were based upon a calendar that was not 365 days long, resulting in them being celebrated on different solar days each year. Even the Christian celebration of Easter is based upon the Jewish Passover, so is not celebrated on a specific day of the solar year. The Bible advises that Christians celebrate based upon their own consciences, "giving thanks to God." So, we advise celebrating as the Lord leads, but always giving thanks for God's great gift to humanity - Jesus Christ.
- In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased." (Luke 2:8-14)
- Newton, Isaac. Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel, and the Apocalypse of St. John.
- Sol Invictus, from Wikipedia.
- After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11)
- "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet
your neighbor's wife or his male servant or his female servant or
his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor." (Exodus
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. (Ephesians 5:5)
- Thus says the LORD, "Do not learn the way of the nations, And do not be terrified by the signs of the heavens Although the nations are terrified by them; For the customs of the peoples are delusion; Because it is wood cut from the forest, The work of the hands of a craftsman with a cutting tool. They decorate it with silver and with gold; They fasten it with nails and with hammers So that it will not totter. Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field are they, And they cannot speak; They must be carried, Because they cannot walk! Do not fear them, For they can do no harm, Nor can they do any good." (Jeremiah 10:1-5)
- One man regards one day above another, another regards
every day alike. Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind. He who
observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for
the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord
he does not eat, and gives thanks to God. (Romans 14:5-6)
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 - things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. (Colossians 2:16)
However, there are qualifiers to this verse:
And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. (Colossians 3:17)
Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, (Colossians 2:18)
We are what we think.
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Last updated December 12, 2008