‘Tis the time of the year when you have enemies of Christmas on all sides – both from PC warriors and the Christian warriors. It surprises me just how radically different their view of Christmas is. If you’re a Christian warrior, Christmas is the most unChristian day ever devised, having its origins in pagan rituals. For PC warriors, Christmas is explicitly a Christian holiday that may offend some people who do not share Christian beliefs, so it should be extinguished from the State. I see no sense of balance between either views. I’ll aim to do that here. First, I will acknowledge with Christians that Christmas today is overall more about consumerism and tradition than an actual heartfelt celebration of Jesus’ birth. Several movies and celebrations have taken Christ out of it all together.
But it is undeniable that a significant portion of the holiday remains distinctly Christian in content, even if their hearts are far from Him. Look at the songs that get played on the radio, the Christmas plays, and all of the celebrations of Christ’s birth in churches across the United States. This is a good thing insofar as the gospel message is being spread, which God can use to convict, but Christians that fight against this celebration altogether are only encouraging further secularization of this holiday. Instead, they should be focusing on being an example of what it should be about in their own homes and churches.
Replies to Objections
My central claim is that Christmas should be redeemed or transformed, not destroyed altogether. I will be briefly addressing objections that Christians have raised.
Objection 1: Christmas is a pagan / catholic holiday. Catholic “mass” is in the word Christmas, the tree is a fertility symbol, gifts are Babylonian tradition, Santa Claus has origins in Odin, etc.
Reply: The reasoning behind this is extremely poor. Let’s assume the history is true, although it is very dubious. It is a classic logical fallacy known as the genetic fallacy, which “is a fallacy of irrelevance that is based solely on someone’s or something’s history, origin, or source rather than its current meaning or context.” (Wikipedia). Circumcision was practiced by Egyptians long before the Jews. Does that mean any form of circumcision is pagan? Obviously not. The word “Sunday” has origins in sun worship, so whenever we use that word, are we worshiping the sun? Obviously not. Wedding rings used to symbolize ankle chains to keep woman tied to their husbands. Does that mean wedding rings are still sexist? Clearly not. PC warriors reason in the exact same way as Christian warriors, except in reverse. It as if they’re incapable of recognizing that meanings change with time and use. No symbol or object ever carries inherent eternal meaning; it is always a temporary meaning we project onto the object. We are thus free to change that meaning.
Objection 2: The Bible says man’s traditions are vain (Jeremiah 10:1-3). Nowhere in the Bible does it command us to celebrate Jesus’ birth. We are called to be in the world, not of it.
Reply: Okay, I respect this, but this does not mean that we cannot change man’s traditions into something that honors God. Historical evidence conclusively shows that many of the festival practices in the OT had precedents in pagan practices, but God removed the idolatrous meaning and transformed it. Circumcision is another example. What Christians allegedly did for Christmas parallels what God did. They took a pagan worship of a god named Mithras, and rather than immorally worship some non-existent entity, they wanted to replace that day to worship Jesus. God may not have explicitly commanded the celebration of Jesus’ birth, but did that stop Mary from celebrating it? Is it not the proper thing to do? Jesus’ birth is the work of God, and we should celebrate all of His works (Psalm 145:10-12). How could God fault us for this?
Objection 3: Jesus was not born on December 25th. We shouldn’t celebrate falsehoods.
Reply: There’s a strong historical tradition that favors this date. As Augustine says, “But he was born, according to tradition, upon December the 25th.” We cannot be certain, however, so if it turns out that it is false then that is of no consequence. We are celebrating the fact of Jesus’ birth, so it does not matter what day we celebrate this on because any day we choose will not be 100% certain. What matters is that we choose a day to celebrate it. And besides, we can at least try to get Jesus’ birth date right by settling with a date that has historical support.
Objection 4: But still, Christmas is now associated with consumerism, selfishness, lying to children about Santa Claus being real, and other vanities. Even if the Christian doesn’t participate in it but seeks to transform it, nonbelievers will still think he is associated with it.
Reply: If gift-giving is associated with consumerism, does that then mean that all gift-giving is consumeristic? Are we then as Christians not allowed to give gifts (no matter what day it is) just because some nonbeliever reasons falsely? Obviously not. Don’t be too concerned about what the world associates to Christians. They thought that we were cannibals once, accused Jesus of being a sinner because he associated with sinners, and today we are associated with hate. Any person who visits your house will see that you practice Christmas differently.
It seems very clear that we can and should transform Christmas to what it used to be, or if it never was that way, then do what God and many Christians have done in the past: take a practice and change its entire meaning. Now a Christian is not obligated to celebrate Christmas. He can celebrate Jesus’ birth in other ways at a different day, but the point here is that Christmas need not be a godless practice. There is nothing wrong with giving gifts to your loved ones, enjoying beautiful Christmas-y decorations, eating delicious food, and the like all within the context of glorifying Jesus’ birth. Just do it from the heart; do not make it a dead ritual. Merry Christmas guys!