After my last post, A Defense of Christmas, I want to make sure that the conscientious objectionable parts are outlined so it does not seem that I defend all of Christmas. We must recognize that there are two ways to look at this, first is between Christian and non-Christian, and second between Christians; this article will focus exclusively between Christians. The reason that this distinction is so important is because for the unbeliever, all of Christmas is impure; they are NOT glorifying God in their observance of this holy-day (holy as in set-apart, not as a means of grace). See Titus 1:15 and Romans 8:7-8 for scriptural justification of this stance.
Between Christians it is possible to have two entirely different views on a matter of conscience, especially concerning things that one believer may have a past in. The prime example in scripture is food which was prepared as an offering to a false god. Some believers believe this food is a sin to consume, while others see no sin. The law says it is not sin, and therefore neither the one who abstains nor the one who partakes are sinning. Scripture is clear that someone MUST not go against their conscience and be careful not to go against the conscience of their brother (1 Corinthians 8:1-13).
Christmas is a prime target for this sort of matter of conscience discussion. Some see Christmas as sinful, while others see no sin. The scripture calls for the one who abstains and the one who partakes to be fully convinced as to their position. As my last post addressed, some (most) who abstain do so from utterly fallacious arguments, and these should be addressed, as God absolutely forbade Peter from calling any food unclean since God had made them clean (Acts 10:14-16).
This post will address several parts of Christmas which are lawful and logical reasons for abstaining from Christmas altogether. As my previous post attests, I love Christmas, but I willfully and completely abstain from the following parts of Christmas.
On the shopping-day following Thanksgiving, commonly called “Black Friday”, we were blessed to hand out over 2,000 gospel tracts to people who willingly stayed up all night, or arose very early in the morning, to patronize various businesses. Several times throughout the eight hours we were active in evangelism, I looked on the crowd and was overwhelmed by the insatiability of it all; that the crowds were longer than last year, and that the same people would be in the line again next year, and were buying and selling only because of the season.
I find no way in this exercise in greed to honor Christ; this holiday should not be about things or shopping or debt. The Bible says that the borrower becomes slave to the lender (Proverbs 22:7), and that we ought not store up our treasures here on earth (Matthew 6:19-20, 32-33), since we can only serve materialism or Jesus, it is absolutely impossible to serve both (Matthew 6:24).
On Black-Friday a man asked what the card I gave him was, I said, “It’s a gospel tract.” He said, “I’d rather have a TV.” It provided the subject of my open air sermon for that store where I preached that our greatest need is not televisions, iPads, or money, it is salvation from sin; things of this world are transient, we must seek the one who is immutable.
But then one may say, “But the things I go into debt for are to make others happy.” The idea that you can justify one sin with its positive outcome is probably my least favorite part of the Christmas season. Many become Machiavellians (the ends justify the means, even if the means are deplorable) during the Christmas season; people were shot and pepper-sprayed this year during shopping, last year people were trampled to death; yet the long-lines and great deals justify the violence and greed in the minds of many.
But worse than the unlawful justification is the idea that the ends are good; is going into debt in order to shower someone with presents on one day the loving and good thing to do? Isn’t it more loving and affectionate to teach children the principles that will lead to a joyfilled, fulfilling, sustainable, responsible life?
If you love someone, show them that more than one day a year, and not because the traditions of that day expect you to. Christians ought to be celebrating the Advent of their King every day of the year, remembering and honoring his humility and lovingkindness daily by loving their neighbors daily as themselves. One day of gift-giving does not make up for a year of absent charity.
Exchanging of Gifts
Let me be absolutely clear, I am not against gift giving; it is a viable and often excellent means of telling someone that you care about them. Consider, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16), “Christ loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). We see in Matthew 2:11 that gifts were given to the Lord Christ as he entered human existence.
What I am against is the compulsive giving of ‘gifts’, which is why I am against the exchange of gifts.
Beloved, if you are only getting someone something because you know they are going to get you something, your tradition is one I despise. You’ve entered into a complicated and unrewarding system of barter, one that quenches love and cheapens the definition of love. Give out of your abundance, and do so for affection, not because you are paying someone back. Remember, “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
Depending on which tradition of Santa Claus you follow, there may be something redeemable in this character, but as he is celebrated by most today, I reject him totally. Santa Claus has become an antichrist, a false idol, with many of the attributes of God. He is omniscient, all knowing (he knows when you’ve been bad or good), he is omnipresent, present everywhere (he sees you when you’re sleeping), and he is set up as the judge of goodness, rewarding niceness with presents and naughtiness with disappointment.
Even his name is blasphemous, Santa, directly derived from the German “Sinter” which means “Saint”, or Christian. But if that weren’t bad enough, he even shares a name with Jesus. When Martin Luther was trying to wrestle the focus of Christmas from Saint Nicolaus, he pointed at the “Christkindle”, or Christ-Child, as the purpose of Christmas. Today if you ask most people who Kris Kringle is, you will be told that he is Santa Claus.
The Santa myth is one with absolutely no redeeming traits. He steals children’s affections from their parents, he takes the credit for presents he didn't give, he provides a convenient lie which sounds suspiciously like the truth of Christ, and his overemphasis during the Christmas season drags the affections away from the one they should be on, which is the Christ who gives the ultimate and everlasting gift of life.
Some of the all time best hymns were written for Christmas. The best hymns focus both on Christ’s humility in being born a baby, and his saving work on Calvary. Consider from “Joy Has Dawned”, which is an archetypal great Christmas song:
Gifts of men from distant lands
Prophesy the story:
Gold—a King is born today,
Incense—God is with us,
Myrrh—His death will make a way,
And by His blood He'll win us.
Son of Adam, Son of Heaven,
Given as a ransom;
Reconciling God and man,
Christ, our mighty champion!
O What a Savior! O What a Friend!
What a glorious mystery!
Once a babe in Bethlehem,
Now the Lord of history.
But the part of Christmas music that I loathe are the ones that have absolutely nothing to do with Christ’s nativity or purpose of his advent, but rather focus on consumerism, joy without purpose, fleeting pleasure, and/or Santa Claus. I am utterly torn on heathens singing Christmas songs, because as we looked at earlier, the unbeliever cannot be pleasing to God (compare Isaiah 64:6), but I rejoice that they hear the gospel in the songs they are singing.
Granted, there is a place for secular music that is just fun, but when it claims to celebrate the birth of Christ I take an offense. I’ll sing “Winter Wonderland” or “Jingle Bell Rock” with you, provided we’re not doing so in church or listening to a “Christian” radio station, but we must keep it distinctly separate from any semblance of Christ worship, except to recognize that we are free to love life and fun and even silliness on occasion.
There is a call for every believer to be fully convinced why they are doing something or abstaining from something. I am fully convinced that most of Christmas is God glorifying and a valid means of honoring the Christ who is celebrated; I abstain from the consumerism, gift-bartering, Santa Claus myth, and bad music. But, I fully understand how someone could abstain completely from Christmas due to the debacle that it has been turned into by these traditions.
However you celebrate your Saviour, honoring him in your life, I pray that he will give to each of us a more tender conscience, one that is fully convinced we are living for eternity, one that hates sin and loves righteousness, that loves people and recognizes that stuff is perishable. Beloved, if you are convinced that any of these can be used to honor Christ, then by all means tell me, or if all of Christmas offends you, let us bear together, and may the God of endurance and encouragement grant us to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together we may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 15:5-6).
I feel that we can do so through Christmas, and so I once again echo the sentiments of the hymn, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, that even though so many have defaced Christmas, it is still a viable and wonderful celebration of the Lord of History.
Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas
All other doth deface.
O Tidings of Comfort and Joy,
Comfort and Joy,
O Tidings of Comfort and Joy.