It’s name recognition is universal and, until recently, so was its appeal.
Who can resist a family dinner with roast turkey, bread dressing, Christmas pudding, and all the trimmings?
Or going into the living room, a warm fire roaring, hot chocolate topped with marshmallows in the mug, while gleeful children unwrap presents found under the Christmas tree?
Or listening to the public singing of Christmas carols, with those time-honoured verses are still able to stir the soul?
Yes, Christmas still evokes much enthusiasm throughout the world, and not just in the West. Asia goes crazy over Christmas, including places like Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, and Japan.
Even in ‘laid-back’ Australia, where a few even refer to it as ‘Chrissie,’ Christmas is still a very popular day off for the big meal, the family gathering, and, if possible, a splash at the beach while throwing ‘another shrimp on the barbie.’
In his best-selling book, A Christmas Carol (1843), Charles Dickens wrote about a miser called Ebenezer Scrooge, who tried to throw a wet blanket on Christmas. He immortalised the words, ‘Bah! Humbug!’ Scrooge was eventually transformed into a kinder, gentler man, because of the Christmas Spirit.
Today, amazingly, a postmodern spirit of Ebenezer Scrooge has permeated western society. Christmas has been under a concerted attack from two quarters.
Secularists: Courtesy of political correctness, some secularists have declared war against Christmas. They want to ban displays of Nativity Scenes on public property since, they claim, it crosses the boundary of separating church and state. They also want to ban the greeting ‘Merry Christmas,’ lest it offend non-Christians (personally, I know many non-Christians living in the West who also enthusiastically observe some, or all, or the Christmas activities). Vacuous phrases like ‘Happy Holidays’ and ‘Compliments of the Season’ are offered instead.
Christians: Christmas is also under assault by some Christians, too. Just this year I heard a normally mild mannered Christian become agitated and militant, just at the mention of the word ‘Christmas.’ This individual insisted that Christmas is a non-Biblical, non-obligatory, downright pagan event that should have no part in the life of a Christian. Not content that they and their family boycott Christmas, this person tried to ‘proselytise’ others to join the Christmas boycott.
Chances are, this individual is facing an uphill battle. And rightly so.
I, for one as a Bible teacher and one that endeavours to train people to live a Biblically-correct, Spirit-filled, God-honouring life, have no problem whatsoever in observing Christmas. Here are some reasons:
BIBLICAL EVENT, NOT BIBLICAL COMMAND
The Christmas story, as found in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, are part of the great narrative of the coming Saviour. While no where are we commanded in Scripture to observe the birth of Christ (indeed, it is highly unlikely that December 25th is the day of His birth), we are still reflecting on two important Biblical events:
1. The Incarnation of Christ: ‘And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us ….’ John 1:14;
2. Emmanuel: Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us - Matthew 1:23.
PAGAN BUT PURIFIED
Christian critics claim that Christmas is a pagan holiday. Some elements, like the December 25th coinciding with the winter solstice and/or the Christmas tree, could have pagan origins. For some, this is like eating meat offered to idols. But for others, when something is dedicated to God, it is no longer unclean. After all, the pagan city of Jebus, after being captured by King David, was converted into Jerusalem, City of God.
TIME OF REST, FAMILY, FELLOWSHIP
Many people live ridiculously busy lives. Christmas is a time to put on the brakes, rest, relax, and have family time or interaction with friends. Most people find this an immensely gratifying experience.
OPPORTUNITY TO PROCLAIM CHRIST IN AN INCREASINGLY SECULAR SOCIETY
With so much indifference and antagonism to the gospel message, Christmas is a golden opportunity to publicly tell the gospel of Christ - with impunity! That’s why many churches use this occasion to have concerts, plays, and other forms of community outreach. Few can object because, after all, ‘It’s Christmas Time.’
CHANCE TO GET PEOPLE INTO CHURCH
For some people, Christmas may be the only time in the year they will darken the door of a church. As such, they become a ‘captive audience.’ This again is a chance to show them the meaning of Christmas - it is about Christ. As the saying goes, ‘Jesus is the Reason for the Season.’
Let’s remember that celebrating Christmas is ‘optional.’ One’s eternal salvation is not dependant on whether a person observes this holiday, or not. So if you choose to not to celebrate, that’s perfectly fine; provided, you don’t emulate Ebenezer Scrooge and try to spoil it for the majority who do.
We would do well to remember the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 14:5-6:
One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. 16 He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord;fn and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it ….
As for Ebenezer Scrooge, may he rest in peace (RIP).