What should Christians do with Christmas?

Christmas is a funny one.

Is it just a shallow melee of pagan-rooted consumerism, or is Jesus really the reason for the season? Probably a bit of both. What, then, should we as Christians do with all that?

A few things are for sure:

  1. Jesus’ birthday didn’t seem to be important to either Jesus, the gospel writers or the early Church, and he never told us to celebrate it. It almost certainly wasn’t on December 25th anyway.
  2. The roots of the winter festival are a myriad of pagan, heathen and hedonistic traditions, all in opposition to the Spirit of Jesus. Nowadays consumerism dominates.
  3. There is no time of the year when Western society is more interested in the profound story of God’s incarnation in Jesus, more open to going to church and more expecting to work out values like sharing, family and hospitality.
A Charlie Brown cartoon about the meaning of Christmas

Props to peanuts.com. Click for full size.

In summary one could say it’s a messy opportunity.

During this season society assertively evangelises our counter-cultural values and God-shaped lifestyle so strongly it can take some deliberate ‘pushing back’ for us to align our lives with what we believe are Jesus’ intentions for us. We’re in a godless culture, so our culture’s celebrations will naturally be godless too, but that’s not cause for complete disengagement.

Many Christians do well in using the season to point to Jesus, much like Paul’s sermon at the Areopagus (Acts 17:22-34), with a great contemporary example being the Christmas starts with Christ campaign. But beyond sermons and advertising messages, how can we live our lives in a way that points to Jesus, being lights in darkness, friends of sinners and genuinely showing something different, just like him?

I decided to ask a few friends what they thought of Christmas, and how they feel we can best respond to its challenges.

 

Carole Claridge:

“When I was growing up Christmas was when mum, my brother and I pretended to be a happy family. The truth was the rest of the year we struggled to speak or spend any time in the same room, so Christmas has never held that magical “isn’t it lovely to be together with family” feel.

Since becoming a Christian, I have disliked it more and more. To me it is obvious that the commercial extremes; the immoral overspending; the selfish demands of spoiled children; the lazy drunken revelry and the exclusive, sentimental, natural family obsession, is an anathema to the spirit of Jesus. Despite the message the marketing experts try to tell us, there is more loneliness, despair, suicide, debt and suffering at Christmas than at any other time of the year.

However, as much as I’m happy to pretend it doesn’t exist, that doesn’t feel like the right response. Certainly, we need to be real and honest with ourselves, it would be so easy to enjoy the excuse to indulge, be exclusive with our natural friendship groups, etc. But shouldn’t we as Christians, rather than fear the spirit of the world and hide from it, face it head-on and love those who need loving as inclusively and wholesomely as we can?

I think the mother in me wants to invite all the waifs and strays home, feed them a nice roast dinner, include them and make them feel special. Using the time to be inclusive and bring a bit of Christmas cheer into some lives that need it. Would Jesus object to that?

 

Nathan Britten:

“Christmas is a time that heightens our instinct to be weak. If we have a tendency to be greedy we will be greedier at Christmas. If we hurt we will hurt more. If we are lonely we will be lonelier.

But this time also brings great opportunities to play to our strengths. Those who are able to be generous will be generous. Those are family focused will be family. I don’t think it helps to be religious and pious about Christmas, we can give the enemy too much ammunition.

Love conquers even at Christmas time, as it does all year round.

 

Esther Ross:

“Christmas. Should it be loved, adored, avoided, hated or ignored? Whether you are a spritely elf at Christmas or an Ebenezer Scrooge, Christmas presents a bit of a conundrum, especially for Christians. Many seem to fall into one of two camps: the overly-merry-christmas-jumper-wearing kind of Christian, or those who reject the whole thing as a secular pagan ritual that actually has very little to do with Christ these days, if it ever did to start with. But since Christmas is such an important part of our culture, it is at least certain that it is a hard to ignore.

I’d like to advocate a third camp. It is true that the rampant consumerism of the Christmas period is not compatible with the words and life of the Jesus I read about the in New Testament. And it is true that Christmas undoubtedly has pagan roots. But rejecting it outright seems to go against the New Testament wisdom of being wise in the way we act towards those not of the faith and making the most of every opportunity. Christmas is perhaps the biggest and one of the last unquestioned celebrations of Christianity in our western culture. True, it might not be much about Jesus any more, but as Christians we should try and use the fantastic opening it provides to put Christ back into Christmas. We should be in the world, if not of it. I reckon that means engaging meaningfully in our culture, being advocates for the king of the world. After all, who would want to listen to an ambassador from another country who hated the celebration of their own king?

 

Mary Golding:

“Human beings are by nature selfish, we have this lovely idea of Christmas being the ‘season of good will’ but really, its the season of rampant consumerism. One trip into town the Saturday before Christmas will show you that, with bickering arguing couples everywhere snatching and grabbing bargains. The devil is good at taking potentially good things and using them to exploit us, to confuse us and use us to spread that selfishness.

Jesus is the absolute opposite to the spirit of Christmas: he is simplicity, he is love, he is truth, he is selfless. He was partying with the poor with no money himself, not feeding the already rich with more stuff. He was on the streets with strangers, not tucked up warm with family.

That Christmas ‘magic’ that is so celebrated is nothing more than a chaotic spirit of greed… But, it doesn’t need to be this way. You can use it. A whole month of promoting who Jesus really is, not what this world thinks, and to find people open and wanting to step into a church, now there’s something!

A man tried to commit suicide at the bottom of my road the other week, threw himself off a bridge. He needs the real Jesus, not Christmas ‘magic’. It’s nice when people have lovely big families to celebrate with, but for everyone else, for those alone, those knowing loss, it’s a time of year that can painfully highlight life’s sadness. For these people Jesus needs to be promoted and offered as the real hope of the world. What better time to do it?

 

Andy Gardner:

“I think Christmas is a time of year that people are open to Jesus, giving to people, family being together etc. There are adverts all over TV about giving to charities because people are more likely to give this time of year. The season has been overtaken by consumerism, which is definitely worth avoiding, but there’s a great opportunity for us to give to people, invite people into our homes and generally show a bit of God’s love to people who need it.

 

If you’ve got to the end of this article and you’re thinking “yes, but…” or “no, because…” write your “yes but” or “no because” in the comments below.

Tree climber, pancake eater, initiator. Trying to keep up with Jesus. Webmaster, writer, video maker & creative coordinator thingamibob for Jesus Army.

  • I’d like to gently challenge the notion that ‘pagan’ necessarily = ‘bad’. I think there’s something to be said for the church’s noble tradition of assimilating, converting and even (yes, even this – ) learning from paganism. Like other belief systems, including Christianity, it has its light and its shadow sides. Personally, I’ve gone on quite a journey on this one from something like Mary’s position to something more like Esther’s and Andy’s, though I do need to be careful because I could get pretty sentimental and silly about the whole thing if I wasn’t. Twinkly lights, luxury food, dressing up, playing games… all very ‘naturally’ me – therefore, I proceed with caution… Great post guys – got me thinking. Thanks.

  • Dawn Gibson

    One question! Who is this Santa we lie to our children about? After much prayer and searching around the internet I think I know the answer, but wondered what other Christian parents thought about this Santa their children love so much … And who he is? Thanks x

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