Diplomatic Notes

Should we celebrate Christmas?

One of the perennial debates that take place every year among some Christians is should we celebrate Christmas, and if so, how should we celebrate it? Some Christians have opined that Christmas itself is a pagan celebration and should not be celebrated at all, while others have felt that it may have pagan origins or influence but that should not deter us from celebrating in our own way.

Among the problems with celebrating Christmas is the fact that it has been historically proven that the date is wrong – that Jesus’ actual birth date could not have occurred during December based upon typical weather seasons and patterns. Shepherds would not have been in the fields during that period because it would have been too cold. The thought being if the date is wrong then it should not be celebrated at all. Another factor is the fact that Christmas is not a command in the Bible and there is no requirement to celebrate Jesus’ birth. The only requirements are that we celebrate his death and resurrection through communion. Jesus stated that, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Christmas is not suggested or mentioned in the Bible.

Another factor in the debate about Christmas is its origins. It is alleged that when Christians who were persecuted and killed for years were accepted into Roman society, the pagan traditions of Rome were incorporated into Christian observances leading to an unholy mix of pagan tradition and Christian observances. It is alleged that Christmas actually coincides with another festival observed as the festival of winter solstice or harvest and the two were merged creating something that can create confusion for the believer. Believers can assume that the pagan traditions and celebrating Christ are one and the same, or are compatible.

There is also the issue of mythologies that create false narratives and characters that compete with Christ. Santa Claus is an all-knowing and seeing being who is able to magically fly around the world on a sleigh going to every home in a matter of hours. We then lie to our children and perpetuate this fraud in the name of fun for the holidays. Christmases have also been characterized by excessive revelry and drunkenness with little acknowledgement of Jesus or the purpose for celebrating.

The word Christmas is derived from two words, Christ and Mas which is meant to be a Mas or celebration of Christ. Essentially Christmas is supposed to be a celebration or Christ’s birth into the world. I do not see anything inherently wrong with celebrating this momentous event so I would like to give my opinion on two questions.

Should we celebrate Christmas?

And how we should celebrate Christmas?

In answering the first question we must realize that everything human is flawed. The Bible tells us we live in the world but we are not of the world. Humans get very little right and even less right when it comes to God and his word. If we were to avoid everything in the world that was either taken out of context or merged, we would probably have to live in separate communes like the Amish or Quakers and try to avoid contamination from the world. Unfortunately, this is the opposite to what Jesus taught. He actually expects us to figure out how to live in a flawed and confused world and to do it in such a way that people see the difference in us and want to find out more about who we are. The Bible actually calls us ambassadors. Ambassadors live in foreign countries and in many instances observe both the local observances and their own, as long as there is not an obvious conflict.

I believe that regardless of whether the date is wrong or there are pagan traditions intertwined with Christmas, as believers we should use the opportunity to focus on the fact that Christmas is celebrating Christ. I believe it is a wonderful opportunity for us to focus on the fact that he came – and what was accomplished by his coming. We do not have to participate in the pagan aspects – but we should take every opportunity available to acknowledge and celebrate Christ. If it is also a tremendous teaching opportunity, we can have open discussions with our friends and acquaintances and tell them about the true meaning of Christmas. I am not sure what will be accomplished by either chastising sinners for celebrating Christmas wrong or trying to separate ourselves completely from the season.

We should celebrate with understanding. Can you imagine that the governments of the world have set aside a day and even days to celebrate Christ even if they do not know what they are doing and are not celebrating correctly. This is another opportunity for us who are believers to steer the conversation and celebration in the right direction. To me Christmas has always been a fun time. It used to be an ignorant fun time filled with drunkenness and revelry, but now it is a fun time where I pick and choose what is in keeping with what Christ would expect of me. I celebrate with knowledge rather than ignorance.

So, I say to you, get together with family and friends. Celebrate Christmas. Use every opportunity to focus on Christ and remind others who he is and why he came. Christ should be the center or our season and not the sideline. We should go to church, have devotions on Christmas morning. If you want to give gifts, fine. If you don’t, fine. If you have to have lights and a Christmas tree then do what you are comfortable with. I love the lights of Christmas. It just adds to the aura of the season. I don’t really do Christmas trees anymore; but to those who like this tradition, it’s your choice.

What I always do and have done is make sure that I put Christ at the center of my Christmas and be the ambassador that he called me to be. I tell people about my country and kingdom and what wonderful things it brings to the world and how they can benefit. I don’t get into arguments or unnecessary conversations. My focus is on enjoying my life every day and commemorating his entry, even if the day is wrong. No ho ho ho for me but there is a joy to the world, the Lord has come, let earth receive her king, let every heart prepare him room and heaven and nature sing and heaven and nature sing. Joy to the word. Merry Christmas!

• Pastor Dave Burrows is senior pastor at Bahamas Faith Ministries International. Feel free to email comments, whether you agree or disagree, to pastordaveburrows@hotmail.com. I appreciate your input and dialogue. We become better when we discuss, examine and exchange. 

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