Many of the present day Christmas customs actually have little relevance to biblical Christianity. Such things as commercialism, drunkenness, and the general letdown of morals that have come to be associated with the “holiday season” obviously find no basis in biblical Christianity. But did you know the same could be said for Christmas trees, holly and mistletoe, the Santa Claus myth, and similar more pleasant Christmas traditions.
There is no evidence in the New Testament that the early Christians observed Christmas at all. Furthermore, many authorities believe now that Jesus wasn’t even born on December 25th. It is not surprising then, that many Christians have questioned whether Christmas is even a Christian holiday at all. Some have even gone as far as to vigorously reject and oppose the holiday altogether. Entire churches and families will boycott Christmas this holiday season because they firmly believe it is not only un-Christian but also anti-Christian.
So what is to be done with Christmas? Are there any observances during the holiday that, though not explicitly found in the Bible, make it a legitimate and wholesome time of festival? It is my prayer that the following thoughts will help us all to avoid a cantankerous, critical, and divisive spirit during this holiday season.
Common Arguments Considered:
1. Christmas is Commercialized and Materialistic
Some will say that because the birth of Christ has been so commercialized, the true meaning of the season has been forever lost. For the most part this is a fair observation. There is no doubting that stores make a lot of money during the holidays as shoppers frantically search for gifts to give their friends and family. Christmas is believed to be the season of giving, but in the midst of our hustle and bustle to give out gifts the real gift from God in the form of a babe in Bethlehem seems to have been forgotten.
Answers and Considerations:
This is perhaps the weakest argument of all to use against Christmas. If we stick to this argument we would end up having to throw out everything. By everything I really do mean everything – our Bibles, marriage, the church, food – everything! Why? Because Satan and man are constantly trying to distort and ruin everything in life. Is there anything in this world that Satan doesn’t try to ruin? It would be wrong for us to simply throw things out because the world misuses and/or distorts them.
Many people look to 1 Thessalonians 5:22 when they make this argument. The KJV reading of this verse says we should avoid, “every appearance of evil.” Some have read this translation of the verse and have taken this to apply to anything that even looks like it might be evil. A more direct translation from the original Greek would read “abstain from every form of evil.” Paul is making the point that we should abstain from every form of genuine evil, not what might simply appear to be evil. Purity is a matter of the mind and conscience and not merely an external issue. Just because the world distorts something that does not implicitly make that something evil.
Except in the cases where the spirit of greed and covetousness intrudes, the practice of exchanging gifts on Christmas is a reminder of the One who “so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16). And while we are giving gifts to our loved ones it would be appropriate to remind ourselves to give to the Lord first “ourselves” and then special gifts to those who in a special way are “ministering” in His name (2 Cor. 8:4,5).
2. X-Mas is a Deliberate Attempt to Remove Christ from Christmas.
The holiday season seems to always cause our Facebook news feeds to be clogged with posts about “Keeping Christ in Christmas.” Many react with abhorrence towards the use of the expression “X-Mas.” It appears to be a not so subtle sabotage of all things baby Jesus during the Christmas holiday. Many well-intended Christians will preach against the wickedness of “X-Mas.” They believe the message is clear – The World Hates Jesus. The conspiracy theorists within the flock try and warn other Christians about the use of this vile word choice during the holiday season. It would appear that the name of Jesus, or “Christ,” is being obliterated. Our wicked society, in an attempt to become more “politically correct,” has replaced “Christmas” with “X-Mas.”
Answers and Considerations:
Suffice to say that this is not an issue. Writing Christmas as “X-Mas” as it turns out is actually part of the historic Christian tradition. As shocking as it might be to some, the Bible wasn’t actually written in English. The New Testament was written in Koine Greek, and the Greek word for Christ is "Cristos." The Greek letter to begin this word is the letter . . . (pause for dramatic effect) . . . "X." I guess you can see where I’m heading now. In Greek, the first letter for the name of Christ is “X.” Instead of always writing out the full name for Christ, we see in early Christian theology a tendency to abbreviate by simply writing “X.” There are manuscripts that date back as early as the 3rd and 4th centuries with this abbreviation for Christ in them.
A brief study of church history demonstrates that it actually wasn’t the atheists who were to blame for the substitution of “X” for Christ but early church fathers instead. Clearly the perceived war on Christmas is just a case of mistaken identity. So the next time you see “X-Mas” instead of “Christmas,” remember that X-Mas is actually part of Christian tradition.
3. Christmas Trees and Decorations are Pagan
In the past there have been many objections to the Christmas tree. Some find their ammunition in Jeremiah 10.
- "Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not." (10:2-4)
Further compounding the argument against Christmas trees is the idea that the use of evergreens is distinctly pagan in its origin. Many Pagan cultures used to cut boughs of evergreen trees in December and move them into their homes or temples to decorate them. Even modern day pagan cults still practice this tradition. Some cults believed the trees had some magical powers because they were able to withstand the rigors of winter.
Answers and Considerations:
A careful reading of the Jeremiah 10 passage indicates that it is not speaking of Christmas trees. The prophet in this passage is condemning the use of idols made of wood not decorating evergreens [see Isaiah 44:9-17]. Using this passage to argue against Christmas trees is an argument of “parallel association.” To stay consistent with such an argument we would have to forbid the use of plants grown in houses, statuary, or portraits of persons or animals. We couldn’t even gather rocks for rock gardens! Of course, forbidding these things would be ridiculous. God, himself, instructed the Israelites to adorn the temple with many of these things.
There is reason to believe that some of the uses of evergreens for Christmas decorations have their roots in pagan tradition. At the same time there are conflicting stories about an 8th century English missionary to Germany named Boniface who used Christmas trees. Whatever the origin of the Christmas tree is, it would be safe to assume that it has been adequately divested of any pagan connotations by now so that a Christian can, in good conscience, utilize them to encourage the spirit of love and reconciliation that honors Christ.
4. Christmas is a Catholic Holiday
This argument goes something like this, “Christmas is clearly a holiday that comes from the Roman Catholic Church; after all, even its name has the word ‘Mas’ in it.” The word "Mass" means death, was coined originally by the Catholic Church, and belongs pretty much exclusively to the church of Rome. In short, Christmas is strictly a Roman Catholic word.
Answers and Considerations:
Be careful with this argument. As we have already pointed out in our answers and considerations to other arguments, consistency is vitally important. It’s pretty difficult to find consistency in the dictionary. “Saturday” is named after the God Saturn. “Sunday” probably comes from the worship of the sun. “January” comes from the God Janus. Even the word “Easter” is not distinctly Christian since it comes from the name of the God Ashtoroth. Should we remove from our vocabulary every word that has pagan origins?
Further debunking this argument is the fact that the word “Mass” is not in fact a distinctly Catholic Word. “Christ” plus “Mass” can also refer to a large number or quantity of religious services in commemoration of the birth of Christ. In other words, “Mass” can stand for a festival involving a number of religious activities.
5. Scripture Doesn’t Authorize the Celebration of Christmas
This argument is pretty simple. It’s the basic belief that the Bible nowhere tells us to celebrate the birth of Christ during such a season. The Bible does tell us to celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ, which is the reason for us gathering together on the first of the week. If God had wanted us to celebrate Christ’s birth he would have commanded us to do so, just as He instructed celebrating His death and resurrection.
Answers and Considerations:
We could categorize this argument as being a sad case of “hyper-literalism.” Hyperliteralism (or letterism) is a concentrated piety to the minutiae of the Bible in such a way that one misses the intended spirit of a passage. Such an approach to the Bible is eerily reminiscent of the Pharisees in the time of Christ. Within this paradigm, mountains are made out of molehills and the truth of God’s Word is lost in the details.
We could also categorize this argument as an “Argument from Silence.” If we were to take this argument to its fullest extent we would have to forbid the use of PowerPoint projectors, hymnals, microphones, and any other modern amenity that is not addressed in the Bible. Furthermore, we would no longer be allowed to celebrate such holidays as Thanksgiving and Memorial Day since they too are not addressed in Scripture.
6. Santa is Just an Attempt to Replace Jesus
Many believe that Santa is nothing more than a mythical figure meant to distract children from the real reason for the season. The argument is that Santa takes attention away from Jesus as the real gift giver. Santa is even described as being almost omniscient and omnipresent since he “sees when you are sleeping and knows when you’re awake.”
Santa is also said to give gifts to “good little boys and girls.” This teaches children that you must do good deeds in order to obtain favor, which is a mentality that is opposed to receiving God’s gift of eternal life through faith.
The final scary consideration about Santa is that a simple rearrangement of the letters in his name will spell “Satan.” He even wears red as a subtle depiction of the devil.
Answers and Considerations:
The idea of Jolly Ol’ St. Nick came from a man by the name of St. Nicholas. Nicholas was a bishop in Myra in Lycia which is present day Turkey. The story is that he went about, usually at night, giving gifts to children. He later became the patron saint of children in the Roman Catholic Church. Since that time the legend of St. Nicholas has grown and morphed to become our current manifestation of the fat man in the red suit. Countries around the world have their own unique take on this jolly gift giver.
So how are Christians supposed to respond to Santa Clause? It is possible that we could take Santa Clause to be nothing more than a fairy tale. With this mindset we would lump him in with Alice in Wonderland and the three little pigs. Children do not normally have a problem understanding that the fairy tales are make believe.
In some cases, however, children do believe that Santa is very real. This can be rather harmless but it can also create unnecessary confusion. I, for one, grew up enjoying Christmas and Santa Clause but I never once thought he was real. Did that ruin my childhood? No. Christmas was still a fun time of the year and I still got my picture taken with Santa at the mall. Suffice it to say that because of the confusion between Santa and Christ (especially in little minds) parents would do well to be cautious about teaching their children that Santa is real.
We also need to remember that Scripture does not teach rewards in exchange for good behavior. There is nothing we can do to earn more favor from God. Salvation is unlike a gift from Santa because we do not earn this gift.
Rearranging letters in Santa’s name to spell Satan is a pretty big stretch. Any number of words could be rearranged or taken out of context to mean something they are not.
7. Jesus Wasn’t Born on December 25th
As acceptance of December 25th as the date for Christ’s birth became more and more popular, some continue to argue that the birth of Christ was really around autumn and not winter. This argument says that Christ was not born in the winter, let alone on December 25th, therefore, the entire celebration is wrong. Opponents of Christmas celebrations argue that Constantine replaced the annual December worship of the return of the Son and the god Tammuz with Christmas.
This pagan holiday known as “Saturnalia” was an ancient Roman festival in honor of the deity Saturn. It was held on the 17th of December of the Julian calendar and later expanded with festivities through to the 23rd of December. The holiday carried with it many apparent similarities to our modern Christmas holiday traditions. Acts of benevolence were encouraged and their masters treated slaves as royalty during this celebration. The Sigillaria on December 23 was a day of gift giving. Adults would receive valuable gifts of pottery and clothing while children would receive toys.
A number of historians see many similarities between Saturnalia and our current Christmas traditions. These similarities cause many to question the validity of celebrating Christ’s birth on the 25th. In their mind the similarities are too strong to pass over. Clearly Christmas is celebrated on the 25th for reasons other than the birth of our Lord.
Answers and Considerations:
As far as the date of Christ’s birth is concerned, this is actually rather unimportant in comparison with its message. The truth is we don’t know the exact date of Christ’s birth. In fact, we don’t even know for sure the year of Christ’s birth.
There is clear reason to avoid patterning our celebrations after Saturnalia. At the same time there are good reasons to celebrate Christmas at the time of winter solstice. This is the time when the sun is at tis farthest retreat and the nights are longest, for “the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ hath abolished death and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10).
Dr. Henry M. Morris notes that it is unlikely that December 25th is the actual date of Christ’s birth. In his book The Bible Has the Answer he writes this about our Lord’s birth.
- “Perhaps the most probable date, though no one really knows, is about September 29. This was the first day of the great Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, when thousands of pilgrims from all over Israel went up to Jerusalem to dwell in small ‘tabernacles’ or booths, commemorating their wilderness wanderings and anticipating the coming kingdom, when God Himself would ‘tabernacle’ with them (note Rev. 21:3). This would have been a good time for the Roman census, with the weather still warm and most of the harvest in, and with people traveling anyway. Shepherds would likely still have their flocks in the field, whereas none of this seems at all likely in the wintertime.”
Final Concluding Thoughts
The debate over whether or not Christians should celebrate Christmas has been raging for centuries. While there are good men and women on both sides of this issue, we have to conclude that there are not legitimate Scriptural reasons to oppose Christmas. As with other doubtful things each individual must make up his own mind when it comes to Christmas. Whatever your decision is when it comes to Christmas, your viewpoint should not be used as a club to beat down or disparage contrasting views.
 Henry M. Morris, The Bible Has the Answer (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1971), 202.
Posted by Caleb