We’ve looked at silly, flawed, and misused reasons to abandon Christmas. I’d like to take some time to look at reasons to scrutinise / reevaluate Christmas. These sound Biblical concerns may impact the way we observe the day, or even cause some to quit celebrating it entirely.
“The gods of the People Round About You”
Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you;
12 One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies.
13 This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;
In an earlier post, I mentioned that the doctrine of discernment by ancient origins is not Biblical. The gods of our society ARE dangerous, because when surrounded by people who worship them, we can easily be drawn in. Paul told Titus that ministry to believers on Crete had to deal with their vulnerability to the same temptations as those around them.
Some traditional Christmas celebrations can actually encourage some of the common sinful attitudes in our society. We should be on guard, and perhaps drop some traditions, if they are dangerous for us or our children. As my previous posts have shown, I firmly believe it is acceptable for Christians to celebrate a commemoration of the Saviour’s birth, but that does not mean it is good or wise to expose ourselves and our families to deadly temptations.
….and covetousness, which is idolatry:
The whole gift exchange can stir a covetous attitude. If you ask children what they want for Christmas (or take them to see “Santa” to ask him), you risk stirring up a covetous attitude. We always encouraged our kids to try to find gifts another person would want, but we never encouraged them to think about what they wanted.
Believers are not immune to the huge societal problem of covetousness. Break the cycle. If necessary, abolish presents for a year as a family and use the money to help someone who is really in need. Teach your children the joy of giving, not the selfishness of getting. If they have a covetous attitude and don’t receive what they “wanted,” they will also commit the next sin:
II Timothy 3:2
For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
A sign of the last days is an increase in ingratitude / unthankfulness, and it is all around us. Rather than grateful for what they have, people are often upset about what they don’t have. Even when we face horrible injustice, there are many things for which we can be thankful.
Gifts are not always received with gratitude. One thing we’ve done is open presents slowly. Everyone watches each present being opened, and we take time to appreciate it and say thank you before anyone opens another. It seems to help prevent a “grab, grab, gimme, gimme” attitude. Also, the more gifts a child receives, the more likely they will be ungrateful for at least some of them. It seems counter-intuitive, but receiving too much can kill gratitude. Guard your children’s hearts.
False gratitude is also ingratitude. Even if a gift is not something we will value, we should turn our heart towards the giver. I once read something by a man concerned that his children were expected to be dishonest in their thanks when an aunt gave them socks and underwear. The aunt gave out of love, and children should be taught to appreciate it on those terms, even if they wanted a toy. (A gift of needed items is actually one of the best, because it frees your funds so you can buy something you’ll really enjoy, instead of Auntie hoping she’ll makes a good guess of what to give.)
See the verse above under Ingratitude — the first thing is “lovers of their own selves.” Christmas can provide us many opportunities to combat that temptation, or to yield to it.
Will we spend hundreds of pounds on gifts for our own family when we have brothers and sisters in Christ in great need, and we do nothing for them?
15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
There is nothing wrong with buying good things for our family to enjoy (I Timothy 6). But if we can’t manage to give to those truly in need, especially to other believers (Galatians 6:10), while we spend much on ourselves, something is seriously amiss.
It is not just money, but time. Did you know that suicides rise at this time of year? You don’t have to look far, if you can be bothered, to find a desperately lonely person. At Christmas, memories of better days can make loneliness even more desperate. Recently, Leslie Allebach posted a story I read long ago, Mrs Hildebrandt’s Christmas. It’s not about Christ, yet one of His works in our lives is to destroy selfishness. (I’ll wait while you read it. Take your time. :))
Christmas can remind us to break out of our selfish comfort zone, when we remember how the Saviour left Heaven to endure the contradiction of sinners against Himself, or it can build the barriers of our selfishness even higher. We can give time and/or money to those in need, or we can give it all to ourselves. We can use it to help establish good patterns (which should continue for the entire year) and break bad ones, or we can let it reinforce the bad.
1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
Much “giving” at this time of year is for show, or to feel good about ourselves. Offerings to the Lord may be public (they were at times in the Old Testament, when people encouraged others to give by their own giving). But giving to the poor and needy should be anonymous, where possible. If you are proud of what you give, you have your reward.
(If you ever feel critical of someone for not giving enough, this verse should deal with that, too. You might not know how much they give, and if they are giving Biblically, you DON’T. Let the Judge do the judging on this one.)
I Corinthians 9:25
And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
A friend once told me of someone who said, “Christmas is all about excess.” This verse calls Christians to be self-controlled (temperate) as we seek an eternal reward of pleasing our Saviour. The excesses of this world have no place in our life, at Christmas or any other time.
It pleases the Lord, to enjoy a feast — He commanded Israel to have them after all. But gluttony and drunkenness are sin. If we can’t observe Christmas without excess, we shouldn’t observe Christmas. A sinful lack of self-control does not magically become permissible just because it is 25 December.
Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.
There is nothing wrong with make-believe stories, when all know they are make-believe. Some parents work very hard to keep their children believing a story of a man going down chimneys. If you play the “Father Christmas” game with yours, don’t ever do it in a way that they will feel deceived when they find out the truth. They need to know you tell them the truth, even about things they can’t see. Be very careful with this one.
Even if you play the game, I doubt it is appropriate to sing, “He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness’ sake.” Even in a make-believe story, divine attributes (omniscience, arbiter of justice) for fictional characters is a bad idea. These attributes really do exist — we don’t want to teach our children that they are the stuff of fairy tales.
We enjoy Christmas without Santa figures, Christmas stockings, and some other trappings of that particular tradition. I understand it has a Christian origin, the story of a generous pastor, but as noted in another post, God is more concerned with what something is right now than its origins, and this tradition has become something we are happy to leave out.
One big danger of the day is confusion. There is nothing wrong with a family holiday to give each other gifts. There is nothing wrong with a commemoration to remember and celebrate Jesus’ birth. A gift-giving tradition is just fine as part of a commemoration of one of God’s gracious works (see Happy Feast of Purim!). A big feast as part of a God-honouring commemoration is a great idea — God had that idea first!
However, some traditions around Christmas make people think it is about family, giving, or trees / reindeer / Santa Claus and other stuff. If you want a holiday about those, don’t make it about Christ. If you want one commemorating Christ, don’t make it about those things. If you include any of them, make sure you do not worship this world’s false gods. Do not send your children mixed messages, and make absolutely certain they understand those things are not worship. They are, at best, fun traditions to enjoy in the right context. Despite the belief of some (according to a recent ICM poll), Father Christmas didn’t visit the manger. These fun traditions can bring confusion, and drag us into the wrong attitudes / behaviours discussed above. Tread cautiously.
Silly Reasons to Abandon Christmas — #1 “Christ-Mass”
Flawed Reasons to Abandon Christmas — #2 “It is Pagan / Catholic!”
Misused Reasons to Abandon Christmas — #3 “God Didn’t Command It”
Silly Reasons to Abandon Christmas — #4 “It’s the Wrong Date”