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Friday, December 13, 2013
Why I Celebrate Christmas Anyway
Every year at this time, some dear soul feels compelled to tell me I'm committing sin for celebrating Christmas. Then they tell me, as though I didn't already know, that December the 25th was originally a pagan holiday.
I know this.
Then, of course, there are some anxiety-ridden humanists out there who tell me they are offended because I celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday.
Well, I can't help that. They should get over themselves.
I'm still going to celebrate Christmas. Yes, it was once a pagan holiday with roots going clear back to the Babylonians. That has nothing to do with anything. I'm not worshiping Tammuz on Christmas. Most people who celebrate Christmas don't even know who Tammuz was. While the date itself was once a pagan holiday, it has been so thoroughly co-opted by Christians the pagans hardly count anymore. Besides, December is a nice time to celebrate something. Without Christmas the last month of the year would be as bleak as February is. And if you don't like some of the symbols, just don't use them. There are lots of things you can decorate with besides Santa Clauses or holly wreaths. Symbols are what you make of them. So make your own symbolism. Explaining the meaning of the symbols you choose can even be a part of your witness during the holiday season.
It's not like Christmas is a holiday which replaces any holy day which God has instructed us to observe. A case could be made that worshiping on Sunday is a man made substitute for the ten commandment Sabbath, a celebration commanded by God, but Christmas is not celebrated in place of anything which God commands us to celebrate.
I'm like Martin Luther. He once used a German drinking tune for one of his popular hymns. When criticized for using the devil's music for a hymn, Luther asked, "Why should the devil have all the good tunes?" To this day, Germans remember the hymn, but have long forgotten the drinking song. The drunks quit singing it because it sounded too much like a hymn. As children of God, we are not prohibited from celebrating things like the Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Labor Day or other secular holidays. Apparently it's okay not to be cheerless and self-righteous about things God has not prohibited. The Jewish Christians made a big deal about Christians buying meat that had been offered to idols. It was sold cheap at the markets once the priests had drawn out all the blood for the sacrifice. A lot of Christians, being out of the mainstream religiously were struggling to make ends meet. Paul said he saw nothing wrong with it. A good deal is a good deal after all. He did caution, however, that if a weaker Christian were to be tempted by your eating meat in front of him that had been offered to idols, then you, as the "stronger" Christian who had no qualms about it, should be careful not to cause the other believer to stumble by doing so.
Christ, Himself, was criticized for sharing meals with and going to parties
with sinners. His response was that he had not come to save the
righteous, but sinners and he kept right on offending the Pharisees and Sadducees. I think his example applies nicely to Christmas celebrations. After all, what better place to witness to sinners that to go where they are gathered to celebrate a holiday built around the birth of Christ?
Several friends of mine have relatives who are pretty militant about not celebrating Christmas. One son won't bring his kids to Grandmaw's while the Christmas decorations are up. It's hard to know what to do when someone you love goes holier-than-thou and jumps all over you because you celebrate a holiday that makes you happy and brings you joy.
Rather than give it up, here's what I'd do. I'd acknowledge that the pagan origins of the holiday might well cause my criticizer to feel uncomfortable with all the holiday decorations and activities. I'd be honest that you feel no such qualms and explain that you receive a real blessing from celebrating the birth of Christ and peace on Earth goodwill toward men with your fellow human beings whatever their race, creed, color or faith. Tell him you recognize that the celebration of Christmas offends his conscience and that you will respect his desire not to participate in your holiday festivities.
I would remind him at the same time that respect goes both ways and that it also offends you when he criticizes you for participating in a holiday for which you can find no scriptural prohibition and which offers you such a wonderful opportunity to share the love of Christ with your fellow man. He may choose to witness by refusing to participate and that is his belief and his right. Many churches and belief systems demand that their adherents refrain from joining in Christmas celebrations.
It is also, I would explain, my choice to witness by sharing Christ through unselfish giving and by joining in the carols and holiday celebration. I choose to witness by participation. Christ did. He went to parties, weddings and even threw a couple of what my church used to call "eatin' meetin's" Himself.
The question of whether to celebrate Christmas arises every year. Personally, I think those of us who believe it's a good thing should not hide our light under a bushel. If it's too commercial, simply don't fall into all that. Besides, merchants are people too. The annual spending spree on Christmas celebrations is good for business and thus good for every working person out there.
No, I won't try to change anyone's mind about Christmas at all. I shall, instead of disputing in the temple, go out among my friends and neighbors and spread a little good cheer and sing some carols about joy and peace and goodwill toward men this Christmas season with anyone who would receive it gladly. Eating, drinking and sharing fellowship with everyone, sinners included, is, I think, what Jesus did. I also remember from Scripture, that he was roundly criticized for it by the very same people who later killed him, in part, because he didn't praise them for their nonparticipation in worldly celebrations.
So, I think I'll celebrate this season. Merry Christmas to you all and God bless us every one.
That awful power, the public opinion of a nation, is created in America by a horde of ignorant, self-complacent simpletons who failed at ditching and shoe-making and fetched up in journalism on their way to the poorhouse. -Mark Twain