Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas and the Christian

[For a very good and rather exhaustive but general article on Christmas check out this. My post will deal more specifically with the church of Christ and their reasoning for not celebrating it.]

It seems like an unlikely question: Should Christians observe Christmas? I mean, think about it: "Christians" and "Christmas"...both words derived from "Christ"...what's the problem, right?

Yet there are those who consider themselves Christians who do not celebrate Christmas as the birth of Jesus Christ. They refuse to sing religious Christmas songs, will not let their children participate in school Christmas plays, do not put angels on top of their Christmas trees, and teach their children that Christians are wrong (let's just say it, sinning) for celebrating the birth of Jesus in the month of December. I know this is true. It once described me.

Think of it this way: If you knew absolutely nothing about Christians, and knew nothing about the observance of the holiday called Christmas, and if you came to earth and learned about the two concepts you would be puzzled to say the least that there are actually those who identify themselves as Christians yet sincerely believe and teach against observing the holiday.

The church of Christ of which I was a member believed this way - and we were not in a theological-vacuum. All the other local churches that we fellowshipped believed the same way, and there were several. Unfortunately I raised my son to believe this way and he still adheres to this mindset today.

Here's the reasoning: the COC say that you need "book, chapter, and verse" to practice anything religiously. They have such a carefully constructed approach to interpreting, understanding, and applying the Bible that they've painted themselves in a hermeneutical-corner. They believe that since we do not read anywhere in the NT about the Apostles or disciples celebrating the birth of Jesus (what they call an "approved example") or no specific command to do so, nor any inferences to celebrate it, we would be "unscriptural" to celebrate the Christmas holiday religiously. They are also quick to mention that the only time we see birthday celebrations in the Bible are for non-believers, i.e. Genesis 40:20, Matt. 14:6.

What I find interesting is that I have never met a member of the COC that does not celebrate their own birthday, or the birthdays of their family members. I even know people who celebrate "birthdays" for their pets. So when it comes to celebrating the Savior's birth into this fallen world for the purpose of redeeming man from his sins and thus saving us from eternal torment and excommunication from God - that's a no-no because God never told us to do it.

The problem I have with this argument is that it just seems pretty ridiculous when I consider the emphasis that the Word of God puts on the birth of Christ.

Have you or your children ever been invited to another child's birthday party. How did you find out about it? Like us, you probably got a really cute, gender-appropriate invitation in the mail announcing the time and location of the event. You probably even received this notice well in advance of the party so that you could make arrangements to attend (and bring their kid a gift, of course). Well guess what God did. He sent out birthday invitations for His Son, too. God put a little more effort into His invitations. He sent His in the form of Old Testament prophecies uttered by the Holy Spirit through the mouths of His prophets thousands of years beforehand so that the people could get ready! Wow, Glory to God!!!!

God's invitations told us the Child would be born of the seed of a woman (Genesis 3:15), a descendant of Abraham, (12:3), a descendant of Isaac (17:19), a descendant of Jacob (Numbers 24:17), of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10), an heir to the throne of David (Is. 9:7), born in the town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), born of a virgin (Is. 7:4), born at a specific time (Dan. 9:24-27), the Child's birth would cause the slaughter of other children (Jer. 31:15), and the family would come out of Egypt (Hosea 11:1). How's that for emphasis?

Mary did not have a copy of What to Expect When You Are Expecting, but she had something better. Mary's pregnancy was of the Holy Spirit and announced by the angel Gabriel who was sent by God (Luke 1:26-38). An angel also appeared to Joseph concerning the pregnancy (Matt. 1:18-25). At the time of the Birth, angels appeared to the shepherds in the field and praised God for the Birth (Luke 2:8-14). The shepherds glorified and praised God over the events (2:20). Also, to direct the Magi from the east God prepared a specific sign in our solar system to point the way. In verses 9-11 of Matthew Chapter 2 the Magi come to the child Jesus, presented Him gifts, and fell down and WORSHIPED him! I'm not too smart, but it sure seems to me that God is giving us lots of inferences and examples in these accounts. How can we share the story of redemption, the Gospel, without the story of Christ's Birth and the numerous prophecies that it fulfilled, thus proving the reliability of the Bible and the Faithfulness of God's Word? It's a part of the story of our salvation. Please do not rob the Gospel story of this beautiful chapter in God's plan for us.

Is it just me or does it seem a little hypocritical to not celebrate the Lord's Birth (at all) "because the Bible only records the birthday celebrations of pagans" but then celebrate your own birthday every year? Not just celebrate it, but fully expect attention, gifts, and praise on that day. How can we believe that there is "no authority" or no scriptural precedent to celebrate the Lord's Birth when the Gospels of Matthew and Luke go to such lengths to document and preserve the wonderful works of God woven throughout that account?

Please, do not waste another opportunity to take your family to a Christmas Eve candle-light service. Like God's people during the times of the OT (Ex. 13:8, 14) use these moments as opportunities to teach your children about spiritual things: sin, the unavoidable Judgement to come, the Atoning Sacrifice prepared by God, the humility and obedience of Jesus Christ, His life, His suffering, His death, and his Resurrection, and what that means for us today, everyday.

The real question is not whether or not we should be celebrating Christmas as Christ's Birth on December 25, but what day should we not be celebrating Christ's birth? Do not spurn the opportunity that Christmas gives you to preach the Gospel to your friends, your neighbors, your family, your wife, your children, and to your self.

Don't let the world turn Christmas into a fantasy about material gifts earned by a work-righteous reward system overseen by a false god called Santa. I'd hate to stand before God on Judgement Day with children at my side who believe in Santa but not the Creator of the Universe and the Author and Finisher of my faith.

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this." Isaiah 9:6, 7

Merry Christmas!!!