By Simon Padbury
We sometimes hear Christians talking about “putting Christ back into Christmas”. Some even talk about “putting Christmas back into Christmas”, because the word itself is being replaced by labels that some people find less offensive, such as festive season and winterfest (in the northern hemisphere).
For many non-Christian people, the combined forces of powerful marketing campaigns and peer pressure to buy everything for everyone is so great, that they suffer financial, health and emotional trauma. “’Tis the season to be jolly”—is not what they experience, all things considered.
That is why you sometimes hear people admit that they really hate it all. And yet they feel they can’t escape the compulsion to do “Christmas” again and again, every year. And they blame Christ and Christianity for being the ultimate cause. Every year.
We are right to be concerned about what these people are going through.
Both the desire to “put Christ back into Christmas” and the desire to blame Christ for “Christmas” are based on the idea that its origin can be traced back to the Lord Jesus Christ himself, and to the Bible’s New Testament.
But is this true? Is Christ really “the reason for the season”?
Is “Christmas” compulsory?
Before you say, “Yes! Of course Christmas is about Christ, the clue is in the name!”—let us stop and think about this more seriously.
Open your Bible and answer the following questions:
- Is there any record of the Lord Jesus Christ commemorating the anniversary of his own birth?
- Did Christ command his disciples to hold a special ceremony or celebration on his birthday?
- Did Christ give instructions for a special church service to be held on his birthday? Did he institute a sacrament for this purpose?
- Did Christ regard anyone who marked the anniversary of his birth as being obedient, respectful, honouring or pleasing to him?
- Did Christ regard anyone who didn’t mark the anniversary of his birth as being disobedient, disrespectful, dishonouring or displeasing to him?
- Was Christ offended at anyone for not commemorating his birthday correctly? Or for not commemorating his birthday at all?
- Did any of Christ’s disciples commemorate his birthday while he before his crucufixion? After his crucifixion? After his resurrection? After his ascension?
- Is there any record of an apostle or prophet instituting a special ceremony or church service in commemoration of the birth of Christ?
- Is there any record of an early church in the Bible commemorating the anniversary of Christ’s birth by holding a special church service or ceremony?
- Is there anyone in the New Testament, at all, provided as an example for us to follow in their practice of commemorating Christ’s birthday?
Contrary to popular belief, “Christmas” does not have its origin with the Lord Jesus Christ. And you will not find it in the Bible. So, where does it come from?
Those who are dismayed that “Christmas” is being taken over and ruined need to understand that it started out as an alternative to (or, replacement for) some of the the cultural and religious practices of the old Roman Empire.
Whatever the motives for the introduction what has become known as “Christmas”, this cultural adaptation of the Church’s worship has been one of the means of absorbing many pagan practices into the Church—including the adoption of the particular date for “Christmas”, and the holding of a special mass on that day. And many more traditions and inventions have been added since that time.
As Protestant, and even many Reformed, Christians put their efforts into defending and restoring “Christmas”, they find themselves in the service of the unbiblical kind of ecumenism.
It is not that “Christmas” needs to be put back to how it was in the beginning of the Christian Church—it wasn’t there in the beginning. But a proper recovery of New Testament Christianity will remove “Christmas” entirely from the Church as we reform our worship of God back to what was taught by our Lord Jesus Christ and his apostles.
You may already be thinking it—but no, being “Christmas deniers” does not mean that we are against having fun or enjoying get-togethers with family and friends. Nor are we against good music or the giving and receiving of gifts, at any time. And of course, being Bible-believing Christians, we are certainly not against of the true story of Christ’s nativity.
Let’s be honest. Reindeer do not fly. Snowmen can’t dance. Having lots of decorative lights can be nice, at any time. Some people really do like Brussels sprouts. But that big, red-suited man with a white beard should be totally avoided.