Is there a ‘war’ against Christmas?
Many people perceive that there is a concerted effort to eliminate the word ‘Christmas’ from public discourse - sort of a ‘war’ against Christmas. Shopping centres invite and allow ‘festive displays’ from the community provided the displays have no religious connotation. It is possible to do all one’s Christmas shopping and never see or hear the word “Christmas” in the stores.
Engineering a secular culture
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with saying “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings.” But if someone says “Happy Holidays” for the sole purpose of not saying “Merry Christmas”, then we are right to question what’s going on.
“Why is the word Christmas censored?” we wonder as we wander through the malls. One reason put forward by those seeking to avoid the word Christmas is that it would offend non-Christians. The exclusion of Christmas, then, is not really a way to adapt to a more diverse culture, but a way to engineer a more secular culture.
How are we to respond?
Many times, the arguments against Christmas programmes and displays are couched in political terms, but the bias against Christmas goes much deeper than that. This is primarily a spiritual battle, not a political one. How should Christians respond to the ubiquitous use of “Seasons Greetings” and the exclusion of Christmas? Here are some suggestions:
1. Celebrate Christmas! Let the joy of the season show in your life. Teach your family the significance of Jesus’ birth and make the Christmas traditions meaningful in your home.
2. Wish others a Merry Christmas. When confronted with a “Seasons Greetings,” get specific, and wish the greeter a “Merry Christmas!” You may be surprised at how many respond in kind. Even if you’re met with resistance, don’t let it dampen your cheer.
3. Speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15). The Christmas season is a wonderful opportunity to share Christ’s love and the Gospel message. He is the reason for the season!
4. Pray for those in positions of power (1 Tim 2:1-3). Pray for wisdom. Pray for Revival so that Christmas, instead of being ‘offensive’, would be honoured by all.
Does gift-giving take away the true meaning of Christmas?
Many people take the idea of gift giving at Christmas back to the Scripture in Matthew 2:10-11 which talks about the Magi (wise men) giving gifts to Jesus at His home:
“When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with His mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.”
The best Gift of all
The Bible gives a wonderful story about the Gift God gave us, Jesus Christ, and we can use it as an opportunity to present the Gospel and to show love. Giving and receiving gifts can be part of fulfilling what Paul says about giving in 2 Corinthians 8:7-8, “But just as you excel in everything - in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us - see that you also excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.”
Paul was talking to the churches who were giving him gifts (financial) so that he could keep on in the ministry. We can apply this same lesson to our own lives by giving to others, not just at Christmas, but year round!
To give or not to give?
So, can gift giving become the focus of Christmas instead of thanking the Lord for the Gift of His Son (John 3:16)? Absolutely! Does giving gifts have to take away from the true meaning of Christmas? No, it does not. If we focus on the wonderful gift of salvation the Lord has given us (Isaiah 9:6), giving to others is a natural expression of that gratitude. The key is our focus. Is your focus on the gift, or on the ultimate gift-giver, our Heavenly Father?
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the Heavenly lights...” James 1:17.
Are Christmas trees and decorations pagan rituals?
The modern custom of a Christmas tree does not come directly or specifically from any form of paganism. There is no evidence of any pagan religion decorating a special fir tree for their mid-winter festivals, although the Romans celebrated the winter solstice with a festival called Saturnalia in honour of Saturnus, the god of agriculture.
They decorated their houses with greens and lights and exchanged gifts. Late in the Middle Ages, Germans and Scandinavians placed evergreen trees inside their homes or just outside their doors to show their hope in the forthcoming spring.
Tinsel and decorations
The first Christmas tree was decorated by Protestant Christians in 16th-century Germany. Our modern Christmas tree evolved from these early German traditions, and the custom most likely came to the United States with Hessian troops during the American Revolution, or with German immigrants to Pennsylvania and Ohio.
What does the Bible say?
There is nothing in the Bible that either commands or prohibits Christmas trees. It has been falsely claimed by some that Jeremiah 10:1-16 prohibits the cutting down and decorating of trees in the same manner as we do at Christmas. However, even a cursory reading of the text makes it clear that the passage is one in which Jeremiah sets forth the prohibition against idols made of wood, plated with silver and gold, and worshipped.
A similar idea appears in Isaiah 44, where Isaiah speaks of the silliness of the idol-worshippers who cut down a tree, burn part of it in the fire to warm themselves, and use the other part to fashion an idol, which they then bow down to.
What is your conviction?
So unless we bow down before our Christmas tree, carve it into an idol, and pray to it, these passages cannot be applied to Christmas trees. There is no spiritual significance to having or not having a Christmas tree. Whatever choice we make, the motive behind a believer’s decision about this, as in all matters of conscience, must be to please the Lord.
Romans 14:5-6 sets out the principle in a passage about liberty: “One man considers one day more sacred than another; 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.”
Avoid spiritual pride
The Lord is grieved when Christians stir up dissent and disunity amongst one another. Often celebrating or not celebrating Christmas can be a point of division and judgement. This is spiritual pride. When we feel that somehow we have achieved a higher plain of spirituality by doing or not doing something about which the Bible is silent, we misuse our freedom in Christ, create divisions within His Body, and thereby dishonour the Lord.
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
1 Cor 10:31.
What about Father Christmas?
Although Santa Claus is a mythical figure, his creation is based in part on a great Christian man named Saint Nicholas of Myra, who lived in the 4th century.
Nicholas was born to Christian parents who left him an inheritance when they died, which he distributed to the poor. He became a priest at a young age and was well-known for his compassion and generosity. He had a reputation for giving gifts anonymously, and he would throw bags of money into people’s homes (and sometimes down their chimneys) under the cover of night to avoid being spotted.
A saint to the poor
Nicholas passed away on December 6th sometime around the 340s or 350s AD, and the day of his death became an annual feast in which children would put out food for Nicholas and straw for his donkey.
It was said that the saint would come down from Heaven during the night and replace the offerings with toys and treats - but only for the good boys and girls. There are many different versions of the legend of Saint Nicholas, but all are the inspiration for the jolly, red-suited gift-giver that we now know as Santa Claus or in some countries ‘Father Christmas’.
Just a story...
Many Christian parents are torn as to whether or not they should play the ‘Santa game’ with their children. On one hand, he makes Christmas fun and magical, leaving wonderful holiday memories for years to come. On the other hand, the focus of Christmas should be on Jesus Christ and how much He has already given us. So, is the story of Santa Claus an innocent addition to Christmas festivities, or is he a subject that should be avoided?
Should we include Santa?
Parents need to use their own judgement in deciding whether or not to include Santa during the holidays, but here are some things to consider:
Children who believe that the gifts they receive Christmas morning are from a magical man with unending resources are less likely to appreciate what they have been given, and the sacrifices their parents make in providing for them. Greed and materialism can overshadow the holiday season, which is meant to be about giving, loving, and worshiping God. Children whose parents are on a tight budget may feel that they have been overlooked by Santa, or even worse, deemed one of the ‘bad’ boys or girls.
Telling a white lie
An even more troubling aspect of telling our children that Santa comes down the chimney each year to leave their gifts is that it is, obviously, a lie. We live in a society that believes that lying for the ‘right’ reason is acceptable. As long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, it is not a problem. This is contrary to what the Bible tells us. “For the Scriptures say, ‘If you want to live a happy life and good days, keep your tongue from speaking evil, and keep your lips from telling lies.’” 1 Peter 3:10. Of course, telling children that Santa is real is not a malicious deception, but it is, nevertheless, a lie.
We should foster trust in our family
Although it is probably not common, some children honestly feel deceived and betrayed by their parents when they find out that Santa is not real. Children trust their parents to tell them the truth, and it is our responsibility not to break this trust. If we do, they will not believe more important things we tell them, such as the truth about Christ, whom they also cannot physically see.
This doesn’t mean we must leave Santa completely out of Christmas. Children can still play the ‘Santa game’ even if they know it is all pretend. They can make lists, sit on his lap at the mall, and leave out cookies and milk on Christmas Eve. This will not rob them of their joy of the season, and gives parents the opportunity to tell their children about the godly qualities of the real Saint Nicholas, who dedicated his life to serving others and made himself into a living example of Jesus Christ.
Is the word ‘Xmas’ part of the war on ‘Christmas?
There are many who view the word ‘Xmas’ as part of an overall ‘war on Christmas.’ They view it as a blatant attempt to take Christ out of Christmas. While it is undeniable that some use ‘Xmas’ in that manner, the actual origin of the word ‘Xmas’ has nothing to do with taking Christ out of Christmas.
In Greek, the original language of the New Testament, the word for “Christ” is Χριστός, which begins with the Greek letter that is essentially the same letter as the English letter X. So, originally, ‘Xmas’ was simply an abbreviation of Christmas. No grand conspiracy to take Christ out of Christmas - just an abbreviation.
Replacing annoyance with love
However - there is no denying that there is a trend to, in a sense, take Christ out of Christmas. In pursuit of tolerance, inclusiveness, and political correctness, some are attempting to obscure the Christian origins of Christmas - as if our society’s materialism has not already obscured the meaning of Christmas! Whether they refer to it as ‘Xmas’ or ‘The Holidays’ or something else, some will not be satisfied until the celebration is entirely secularised.
In response to this, rather than getting angry or complaining about the use of ‘Xmas’, we should be sharing the love of Christ through word and deed.
The true meaning of Christmas
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” John 3:16-17.
The real Christmas story is the story of God becoming a human being in the person of Jesus Christ. Why did God do such a thing? Because He loves us! Why was His birth necessary? Because we needed a Saviour!
Christmas is about God’s love
God loved His own and provided a way for us to spend eternity with Him. He gave His only Son to take the punishment for our sins. He paid the price in full, and we are free from condemnation when we accept that free gift of love. “But God demonstrated His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:8.
Why do we celebrate Christmas each year? Out of gratitude for what God did for us, we remember His birth by worshipping Him, celebrating as families and being conscious of the less fortunate.
GOT QUESTIONS seeks to glorify God by providing Biblical and applicable answers to spiritually related questions. For more info: www. gotquestions.org