It’s that time, Christmas time is here,
Everybody knows, it’s the most controversial time of year,
Read those blogs, preachers soapboxing,
Hip, hip hooray for Christmas Vacation!
Okay, I’ll stop singing now, and, while I stop singing, can I make one request? Can we all stop arguing about Christmas? Back in Romans 14:5-6, Paul had this to say regarding the observance of holidays:
One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.
Observe Unto the Lord
Some of us don’t observe Christmas at all. Others observe it but do so as a “secular holiday,” while still others see it as one more way they can honor Christ in their lives. That religious undertones may exist has little to do with the argument. Do you think those Roman feasts and holidays early Christians felt were a part of their culture were completely absent of religious undertones? Of course not, but those Christians recognized, amidst the celebrations, that their blessings were not from Minerva, Jupiter, or Apollo. They knew their blessings came from God, and that’s exactly what Paul is saying here. Celebrate or don’t. Either way, give thanks to God.
Can a Christian converted out of Judaism celebrate Chanukah as a part of their culture? What about a Christian come from Islam? Might they still celebrate Ramadan? Remember that Paul, in Acts 18:18, observed a Nazarite vow. In Acts 20:6, Paul observed the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and in verse 16 of the same chapter, he celebrated Pentecost – both of these religious holidays. Do you think Paul, for an instant, felt his soul depended on observing those Jewish holidays? Do you think he remained unconvinced that the Old Testament had been done away with? Of course not, but these were a part of his culture, and Romans 14 makes room for personal and cultural traditions, so long as they don’t actively violate God’s law.
Again: celebrate, or don’t. Either way, glorify God.
About That War On Christmas
Along these same lines, certain TV personalities like to bang the drum about the “War On Christmas” every year. Watching TV, we become outraged that anyone would want to “take the Christ out of Christmas,” while we then listen to sermons at church about how Christ has little to do with Christmas. On the one hand, many conservative Christians will say that Christmas is a “secular holiday” (in quotes because I’m not sure how secular a holy day can be); then, with the other hand, we’ll pound the gavel about the Reason for the Season and how “liberals” are trying to erase Jesus from this holiday.
Here’s the thing: it’s a one-sided war. No one is actively trying to take the Christ out of Christmas. (Well, maybe a couple of people are, but it’s not as prolific a problem as some would make it.) There is no War On Christmas; there’s only the War On the War On Christmas. (Did you follow that?) It’s a manufactured conflict to keep people of a certain religious mindset engaged in a culture war that is equally as one-sided. You know your personal reason for the season. Don’t get dragged into conflicts over the reasons others have to celebrate or not. Otherwise, any meaning is lost entirely over the type of bickering Paul warns against in II Timothy 2:14.
Bring On the Grace
To end on a more positive note, remember what Paul said of Christ in I Corinthians 8:9, right after praising the generosity of the saints in Macedonia:
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.
The way I see it, the holidays many of us observe between the months of November and January serve to cast God’s grace and mercy in our lives into sharp relief. We have reminders of His blessings and care all around us as many families gather for Thanksgiving. Whether remembering the birth of Jesus or the deliverance of Y’hudhah HamMakabi, we see reminders of God’s salvation and forgiveness in the darkest of times. Under the stars of Solstice, we are reminded of God’s renewal and His gift of our natural world. As we then approach a new year, we look back on the many ways God has blessed us over the year and look forward to rededicating ourselves to His service. Yes, these are things of which we should be mindful every day, whether December or May, but these traditional holidays can bring our thoughts into sharper focus.
For this Christmas, let’s lay aside the bickering and arguing the conservative media encourages. Let’s not split hairs over the consciences of others. Let’s instead strive to emulate the generosity, the grace, the forgiveness, and the mercy of our Lord, so Christ can be seen in us this season and every season.