Should Christians Celebrate Christmas? (Part 2)

Answering four objections to Christmas



Every year, someone questions whether or not Christians should celebrate Christmas. While some conscientious objectors take their concerns too far (see image above), many more hold respectful and sincere qualms with Christmas: (1) Christmas is widely considered to have pagan origins and traditions; (2) Modern Christmas observances seem to be a syncretistic blend of sacred and common strains; (3) The religious aspects of Christmas are hopelessly linked to Roman Catholicism; (4) Christmas celebrations are often a celebration of gluttony and selfishness and thus are antithetical to the birth story of Jesus.


This is part 2, where we will tackle the remaining three objections:

 

2. Is Christmas Syncretistic?


Probably. But the fact that we cannot answer that question with any confidence is decisive. Many of our celebrations, both Christian and otherwise (birthdays, national holidays, etc.) probably have some non-Christian DNA.


When the ancient Israelites arrived in Canaan, they offered sacrifices - something the surrounding nations had been doing a lot longer. Does that mean they were borrowing from those pagan religions? While God did pass some laws designed to distance the Israelite practice from their pagan neighbors (no human sacrifices, for instance), it was impossible to be completely dissimilar. The pagans of Paul's day offered their meat as a sacrifice to their gods. Paul was unimpressed. Eat it if you can do so with a clean conscience, he told people. That association of dedicating food to the gods certainly didn't deter Jesus from offering thanks to his Father at the last supper.


So is our practice of Christmas in some way influenced by some ancient pagan practice? Probably. Does it matter? Not necessarily.



3. Is Christmas Hopeless Linked to Roman Catholicism?


No. For the first three centuries, Latin Christians didn't celebrate Christmas. Just because Roman Catholics celebrate Christmas doesn't mean Protestants shouldn't. After all, they also believe Jesus is the son of God and will visibly return again.



4. Doesn't Christmas just celebrate selfishness?


Often, yes. This is an area Christians could stand to pay more attention to. For Adventists, Ellen White was clear that the holiday should be used to celebrate Jesus' birth through acts of generosity and gift-giving that actually improves peoples' lives. Ellen White was concerned about Christmas a guise for pride, for gluttony, and for social injustice:

“Jesus Christ identified himself with His suffering poor, and when we do the works of benevolence we are doing it unto Christ. I want to know how many of us are doing this kind of work. How many will keep Christmas aright? The wealthy bring gifts to their friends but they are rich still. Then how can this be a sacrifice to them? Then what shall we do to please God? I will tell you. If you would keep this day as you should, you would call upon the needy poor, and if they are in want of anything, supply that want. And when this is done, come and render an offering unto the Lord. It says to your own soul, Christ for my sake became poor that through His poverty I might be made rich.” [source]

We can all stand to be more intentional about keeping Christmas focused on others; on not wasting our money on stuff just to avoid offense, and on worrying about what gifts we receive more than the good we may do with the gifts we do.


Merry Christmas!





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