Is Christmas Christian?
Christmas has become a commercial racket. Many people turn their noses up at the 'religious aspect'. However, if 'Merry Xmas' is preferred to 'Happy Christmas', is the merriment quite what it was? Indeed, who looks forward to Christmas? Of course, small children are enchanted at the prospect of getting gifts from Santa Claus. After they've grown out of the 'Father Christmas' phase, they still enjoy the excitement of presents. Teenagers enjoy Christmas opportunities for a 'good time' -drinking, dancing (with drugs?) and late-night fun. Adults obviously enjoy good food, office parties and a chance to relax.
A Happy Christmas
For the unemployed, Christmas is a depressing time. Their children's expectations are hard to meet. For others, Christmas contributes to divorce and family breakdown. The strain of being sociable can be intolerable. Spending a few hours trying to be nice to those you seek to avoid most of the time is not exactly fun.
For the lonely and homeless, Christmas can be far from happy. Sensible parents will be sick with worry if their not-so-sensible teenage children drink and drive. For the police and emergency services, Christmas is a nightmare with robbery and violence, drink-drive accidents and associated carnage. The commercial world hopes to grow fat at Christmas, but recessionary pressures will take the shine off Christmas even for them.
So, is Christmas all that it's cracked up to be? Even nominal churchgoers may wonder what it has to do with the birth of Christ. Indeed, is there any link between carols and commercialism? The gap between secular materialism and Christian spirituality becomes a chasm at Christmas time. More serious Christians feel increasingly trapped by the unholy alliance between greed and the gospel. It's surely time to stop and ask a simple question: is it enough to plead that we shouldn't forget the meaning of Christmas?
Christmas is Not Biblical
There is no New Testament evidence that Christ was born on December 25th. Judean shepherds never kept their flocks in the fields (Luke 2:8) in the middle of winter. Indeed, winters in Israel can be very severe. So when Christ prophesied the Roman destruction of Jerusalem (AD 70), He urged the disciples to escape before winter (Matthew 24:20). Famous for their administrative efficiency, the Romans would not decree the 'taxing' or census (Luke 2:1-3) at a time when travel might be difficult. It probably occurred after harvest time, before the onset of bad weather. Thus Christ was probably born in early autumn.
Pagan Origins of Christmas
'Christmas Day' resulted from an attempt to 'Christianize' the pagan midwinter festival. In honour of Sol, the sun god, all kinds of grotesque merriment was encouraged during the wild celebrations of the Roman Saturnalia. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, 'The well-known solar feast of Natalis Invicta celebrated on 25th December, has a strong claim on the responsibility for our Christmas date.' Initiated by 'Pope' Julius I (AD 337-352), 'Christmas' was the result of a growing tendency of the Roman Church to meet paganism half-way. This Christianized paganism brought its obvious problems. Many people identified Jesus with Sol! Augustine lamented the continuing confusion and 'Pope' Leo I bitterly reproved it. However, the unholy alliance between Christ's birth and pagan customs became entrenched. Christmas trees, mistletoe and yule logs all have pagan significance. They have nothing to do with the birth of Christ. By the late twentieth century, the real message of Christ has been suffocated by neopagan materialism. The mid-winter romp is making nonsense of the thin veneer of Christian symbolism.
All this is in glaring contradiction to the Bible. While Old Testament Judaism was structured around a religious calendar, New Testament Christianity dispensed with it. The Apostle Paul specifically argues against the idea (see Galatians 4:10-11; Colossians 2:16-17). Furthermore, the observation of special days is a sign of spiritual immaturity (Romans14:1-5). Significantly, Christ Himself only ever commanded the remembrance of His death in the Lord's Supper (Luke 22:19).
Consistent and Cheerful Christianity
Plainly, it is time to call it a day – an ordinary day! If Christmas is without a true Christian basis, it should be scrapped. However, some objections need to be met. While Jehovah's Witnesses ban Christmas, they throw the baby out with the bath water by denying the deity of Christ. My arguments must not be confused with their anti-Christian heresy. For those who stress the value of the church calendar for balanced Christian teaching, the Apostles managed quite well without it. To argue that Christmas provides opportunity for preaching the gospel is to adopt a false agenda. Should we use an unbiblical method to promote the Biblical gospel? We need no seasonal excuse to preach the gospel (2 Timothy 4:2). The abolition of Christmas does not imply a negative, cheerless or selfish life-style either (1 Timothy 6:17-18). Exchanging gifts (Luke 11:13) and enjoying social occasions (Luke 14:16) simply do not require events like Christmas to justify them. Indeed, the whole of life is meant to be a celebration of the gift of Christ to the world (John 3:16). May we demonstrate this in the true liberty of the Gospel!