As Christmas time draws close, as Christians we are all faced with Christmas celebrations at the workplace, in our churches, in our extended families, and in our own nuclear family. Over the past few years of the SIH ministry, I have several posts that refer to the Christmas observance and the Biblical teachings surrounding the birth of Christ. Every year, I have received questions such as: What is the proper role of the Christian in these celebrations? Based upon the origin and history of the Celebration is it proper for any participation whatsoever?
Perhaps, the most complete series of questions that I have received on this subject comes from Shelia at http://talkativeangel.wordpress.com. I appreciate her allowing me to use her series of questions as the basis of this posting. I also very much appreciate the questions themselves because they do get to the heart of the issue at hand.
Let’s begin looking at the subject at hand by answering the questions that Shelia has asked in her comment…
1Cor 8:8-12 (KJV)
8) But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. 9) But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. 10) For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; 11) And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? 12) But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.
2Cor 6:14-18 (KJV)
14) Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15) And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16) And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in [them]; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17) Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean [thing]; and I will receive you, 18) And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
1Cor 9:19-23 (KJV)
19) For though I be free from all [men], yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. 20) And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; 21) To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. 22) To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all [men], that I might by all means save some. 23) And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with [you].
1Cor 10:28-33 (KJV)
28) But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth [is] the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof: 29) Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another [man's] conscience? 30) For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks? 31) Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. 32) Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: 33) Even as I please all [men] in all [things], not seeking mine own profit, but the [profit] of many, that they may be saved.
Here are Shelia’s questions followed by my answers…
(if anyone has anything to add to any of my answers I would be very happy to hear them, please simply leave them as a comment on the bottom of this posting.)
“Has anyone been able to pinpoint the exact month and date of which He was born of woman? I highly doubt it was in December even though I have not completed an indepth study on the time. The only thing so far that have always stuck with me is the verse in Luke 2:8 speaks of the shepherds being out in the field keep watching over their sheep.”
To the best of my knowledge, the date for the birth of Christ has never been pinpointed. However, it is common knowledge that it was not during the winter season. Most believe, based on the shepherds being in the field and the astronomical events that involved the star over the manger, that Jesus was born in late summer or early fall (Aug-Oct).
“How is that most if not all Christians seem to be in accord celebrating His birth on December 25th?”
The celebration for the birth of Christ began as a Catholic celebration. It was called the “Christ Mass” hence the name Christmas. It was purposely begun to give the lost world an alternative to the heathen observance of the winter solstice that was observed by false religions on December 21st or perhaps the Babylonian celebration of the birth of the son of the queen of heaven. Once it began on this date, it gradually became accepted in various denominations and nations of the world.
(For a very detailed look at the Christmas and Easter celebrations and their relation to the false worship celebrations please procure a copy of the book, The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop, Loizeaux Brothers, Neptune, NJ, 1959…. This is a REAL EYE OPENER and I suggest it wholeheartedly for this subject. It may be difficult to read but well worth the effort.)
(You can read this book for free at:http://www.biblebelievers.com/babylon/)
“Was this a practice/celebration of His birth that took place in the NT?”
No. Also, to my knowledge, there is no place in the NT that we told to remember the birth of Christ. We are told to remember His death and resurrection (through the Lord’s Supper and Baptism), but I do not know of a place where we are told to remember His birth.
“If Christmas is supposed to be the time according to most Christians or tradition, the time to focus on Christ, why is it that every day is not considered Christmas for Christians?”
My thought is that we should remember all that He has done for us on a daily basis. A part of His gracious work on our behalf was humbling Himself by His coming to the earth as the God/Man. So, yes, everyday should be Christmas. But also everyday should be Thanksgiving, and Easter as well. But besides thinking about Him every day, I’m not sure if there is anything wrong with setting aside a certain day a year to emphasize a particular aspect of His work.
“Second, I want to skip out of Matthew 1- 2 for a sec here, please sir. Matthew 15:8-9–”These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.”
I fully agree with the principles of this verse. If a person hypocritically goes through the motions of worship without truly being in submission to the will of God, it is sin. When we do “religious things” without a submitted spirit, it is all vain. When a teacher of God’s Word possesses a hypocritical, unsubmitted spirit, then his teachings cannot be from the leadership of the Spirit but must be his own thoughts and, therefore, the rules (doctrines) of men. This is what was taking place in Isaiah’s day and also Christ’s day…
Matt 15:8-9 is a quote from Isaiah 29:13… it was speaking to those who were experiencing “spiritual sleep” brought upon them by Jehovah as a punishment for their sins. They were unable to understand and proclaim God’s Word in truth because they were not in submission to His commands. Also, in Christ’s day, the lost Jews could not understand His Word, nor proclaim it… so they began to develop, and follow, false teachings that opposed the commands of His Word.
I believe these verses CAN apply to this very issue. We have lost people outwardly “celebrating” the birth of Christ without having a spirit of faith and submission to Him. In these cases, there is no doubt in my mind that this applies. Although blinded to the truth, they still hypocritically go through the motions of worship in the Christmas celebration.
Also, we could have saved people all wrapped up in the material, commercial side of things, claiming to be worshipping Him, but really that is not the spirit of their heart. In this case, I believe, these verses apply as well.
For believers to celebrate the Christmas celebration with a submitted spirit, desiring to put the Lord first in their celebration… I’m not sure that these verses address that… I am not sure that there is actually hypocrisy present in their celebration.
“The gift giving was from others to Jesus, and not to each other, correct? And it was also after his birth. It was common practice to bring a present to a King when coming before one, which I think still goes on today. (Matthew 2:1-11)”
To my knowledge, you are absolutely correct. Also, the only time I know of in the NT, where gifts are exchanged between individuals, is found in Rev 11:10 when the lost are celebrating the death of the two witnesses for Christ.
“With those verses in mind, I wonder if we as Christians should really celebrate in reality a man made holiday called Christmas?”
This is the “million dollar question”. I believe this issue must be between each Christian and the Lord. I can see different ways that Christians can look at this question:
First of all, if we apply 1 Cor 8:8-12 (warning against being a stumbling block to weaker Christians), I can see why a Christian would choose to totally abstain from the celebration….
A stronger Christian family could observe it in a God-honoring way by centering on His birth (and all His other works on their behalf). However, a younger Christian may see their participation and use that as an excuse to participate in the materialistic, God-demeaning aspects of the carnal Christmas celebration.
Secondly, if we apply 2 Cor 6:14-18 (the need to live lives separate from the world) I can see where a Christian may decide to abstain as well…
After all, the very beginnings of the celebration has human origins, much of the symbolism is drawn from false religions and finally much of the celebration has become so materialistic and carnal that the very aspect of Christ and His birth does not enter the mind of many who participate.
Thirdly, there is another aspect that we need to look at. Based upon 1Cor 9:19-23 Paul explained that he tried to reach people “where they were at” (socially, educationally, mentally, nationalistically etc) to reach them with the truth. This could apply to the Christmas celebration…
During December, the Christmas holiday is “where the world is at”. In other words, that is what they are thinking about, that is what they are talking about, that is what they are concentrating on.
Some Christians believe that during the holiday season there is a great opportunity to reach others with the truth of Christ and His word that exists no other time of the year. They believe the key is to be sure that we are placing Christ first in all of our celebration leaving the materialistic and carnal and mythical aspects behind. They say that if, as Christians, we remember with thankful hearts His coming to the earth, His living a sinless humble life, His being crucified and raised again on our behalf, there is nothing wrong with that. We should think on these things every day. Why can’t December 25th be one of those days?
Also they believe that by laying aside the materialistic, carnal, mythical aspects of the holiday, they are in essence observing a different celebration than that which found carnal beginnings in the Catholic church. It is as if they are doing in a Godly way, what the worldly Christmas celebration claimed to be doing in a carnal, sinful way. For example, if you are hosting a gathering of your family and friends be sure to have a Godly, Bible-centered devotion to reach those who may never set foot in a church. The Lord could actually use this opportunity to witness to be the only time they hear the truth about Christ and all He has done for us.
I’ve personally seen Christian families observe the Christmas celebration honoring Christ and leaving all the carnal aspects to the side. Solely through their example, they have been able to reach members of their extended family. It was those lost family members who offered to go with the Christian family to church on Christmas morning to visit with them when they had been otherwise unreachable with the truth about Christ. What made this change? They told me it was the way they saw Christmas being observed by the Godly Christian family.
What is my personal belief on the subject? My family seeks to celebrate the Christmas holiday in a Godly, Christ honoring way. We ask His grace to leave behind all the carnal, worldly, mythical aspects of the holiday as we center upon Christ and His work on our behalf. In doing so, we are attempting to be a living testimony to those around us. After all, what greater difference can be seen by a lost world than comparing a materialistic, carnal, selfish, Christ-less, Christmas celebration in stark opposition to a Godly, Christ centered, Christmas celebration?
After reading this posting please keep in mind, we should share the Apostle Paul’s attitude about all of this when he said in 1 Cor 10:….
29) …for why is my liberty judged of another [man's] conscience? 30) For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks? 31) Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. 32) Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: 33) Even as I please all [men] in all [things], not seeking mine own profit, but the [profit] of many, that they may be saved.
Let’s all hold a non-judgmental attitude towards each other, let us all allow the Lord to lead us to do what is pleasing to Him for each of our individual lives.But the most important decision we can make is to honor Christ and have others see Christ in us. That means no drunkenness, no gluttony, no materialism, no lies. If we abstain from these types of sin, the other stuff will take care of itself however the Lord may lead us.
(If I have failed to answer the questions, or if I misunderstood the question that was asked, I’ll be glad to try to clarify things. And once again, if anyone has anything to add to any of my answers I would be very happy to hear them, please simply leave them as a comment on the bottom of this posting. I am the first to realize, there is much that can be added for these answers. I would appreciate your wisdom on these things)