Exciting phrases, easy acronyms, and memorable lists formed from dense works of systematic theology can be helpful for the everyday Christian. While these reductions of God’s Word and His nature help us understand general frameworks, they are unable to help us understand everything the Bible teaches. It is one thing...
Question: Should Christians celebrate Christmas, Easter, etc.? I’ve heard they are actually pagan traditions that have been “converted” into Christian holidays. All that I’ve read seems to back this up.
Answer: Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Christmas is a pagan tradition. I’m not saying that it is or that it isn’t, but let’s just say that it is. I guess the question then is: Would it be wrong for a Christian to celebrate Christmas because it was originally a pagan holiday?
A Wise Pastor Once Said…
One man considers one day more sacred than another (eg. Christmas); Another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. (Romans 14:5-6, parenthesis mine)
We’re not sure precisely what situation Paul was addressing, but clearly there were some Christians who were celebrating special days, and other Christians who had decided not to set apart these days as special celebrations.
Paul’s advice is simple: It’s not wrong to celebrate these special days, and it’s not wrong to refrain from celebrating these days. But whatever you decide to do, be fully convinced in your own mind.
In other words, don’t follow the crowd, and don’t do it (or refrain from it) because of peer pressure. What really matters is not where the special day came from and who originated it but why you are doing it.
The way we celebrate Christmas amounts to idolatry whenever we put something (Christmas presents, food or drink, even family) in the place of God. But for many, many Christians, Christmas is a wonderful celebration of the birth of Christ. We celebrate this day in honor of our Savior.
Honoring God does not hang on making “the right” decision about whether or not to celebrate Christmas. It is a matter of the heart. Why am I doing what I’m doing?
This is the principle of Christian freedom. I am free to do anything that God has not prohibited (really!). If God calls it “sin” then I am not free, as a Christian, to do it, and I will warn others about doing it.
But it’s important to remember that in situations where God has not prohibited something, I am still responsible to make judgments about whether or not it is the best thing for me to do.
If God has given us the freedom to do something (in other words, He has not given us a command against it), like celebrating a holiday, but I’ve decided not to participate for reasons of conscience… whatever I do, I must not make my own conscience the “rule” for others to follow.
This is the essence of legalism — allowing my conscience, instead of God’s Word, to determine what’s right or wrong for others. Something cannot be wrong for all people, everywhere, unless it is something that God has prohibited.
The Greatest Danger
After Paul wrote the words above about celebrating special days, he spells out his reason for writing, and it is meant to communicate how toxic and divisive these kinds of issues can be among God’s people:
You then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat… So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. (Romans 14:10-12)
The greatest danger is not that we might fail to celebrate a special day, or that we might celebrate a holiday that was originally pagan. The greatest danger is that we judge one another in matters where God has given us freedom.
God himself is our judge, and he alone knows the intention of our hearts.
Therefore, do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival (eg. Christmas), a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. (Colossians 2:16, parenthesis mine)
I trust and pray that God’s Word will help you as you try to sort these kinds of things out.
Warmly in Christ, Pastor Tim
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