Summary: We are responsible to maintain our focus on Him Whom we call "Lord." At no time has this become more critical than during the Christmas Season.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Puritans under Oliver Cromwell banned Christmas celebrations in 1644. Since Christmas was observed by Anglicans, Lutherans, Dutch Reformed and Catholics, the Puritans regarded the celebration as a form of residual popery to be avoided by devotees of the Way. After 1660, the ban was no longer enforced, and the law was finally repealed in 1681. However, Puritans continued to disapprove of the celebration. It is important to note that Puritans were not the only Christians to discourage Christmas observances—Anabaptists, Quakers, Congregationalists and Presbyterians likewise discouraged Christmas festivities. To this day, some fellow believers are uncomfortable observing the Feast of the Nativity because there is no mention of it in the Bible, and because they see the observance as a form of concession to the evil of false religion.
Lack of biblical support is not the sole reason given for disapproval of the fête. Commercialisation of the season is reason enough for many Christians to resist the celebration. Other conscientious believers are concerned about the pagan origins of the celebration, and they are concerned for the increasing adoption of unholy practises by the world about them. Consequently, pastors are frequently asked, “Should we celebrate Christmas?” It seems likely that Christmas will continue to be celebrated by believers and unbelievers alike; and so the question should perhaps be rephrased to ask, “How should we celebrate Christmas?”
ISSUES SURROUNDING CHRISTMAS — To be certain, there is no command to celebrate the birth of Christ. However, it must be noted that neither is there a prohibition against such celebration. Whilst the observance of Christmas is not mentioned in the Word of God, the commemoration of Christ’s birth has ancient roots. The earliest evidence I can find for the observance of Christ’s birth is from about 200 A.D., when a few Egyptian theologians are reported as observing the 20th of May in the 28th year of Augustus for commemorating the birth of the Christ. Within the next two hundred years, similar observances during the spring of the year had spread to Cyprus, throughout Mesopotamia, Armenia and Asia Minor, and were occurring in such diverse and important locations as Jerusalem, Antioch, Constantinople and Rome.
There is little question but that the date adopted for the current observance was a continuation of the Roman Saturnalia festival, a week of lawlessness observed each year. Early on, it would appear that some Roman popes urged some of the most egregious excesses of Saturnalia on the masses, especially using the day as an excuse to abase Jews living in Rome.
Similarly, many of the trappings of the season—Christmas trees, tinsel, yule logs and other such accoutrements—find their origin in the pagan observances of the Druids and other northern European tribes. Many of these symbols were adopted by Christians living in what were at the time the outlying areas of the Empire. The effort appears to have been an attempt to co-opt the pagan practises, much as modern Catholicism adapts itself to pagan practises of the natives of the New World. Some, like Santa Claus, was quite modern. Whilst Father Christmas and Black Peter are known in Europe, Coca Cola was looking for a symbol to sell its drink during the midst of the Great Depression. They contracted with a Norse artist to draw a figure and dressed him in Coca Cola red to market their product. The rest, as they say, is history.
Another matter that must be addressed is the fact that Christmas is today a civic holiday. I would say that it has grown into a civic holiday, but the evidence indicates that even prior to the sixteenth century the day was set aside for the masses to drink and eat to the point of excess. It was this marked dissipation and excess that generated such strong Puritan opposition during Cromwell’s reign. Though Christmas is mandated by legislation as a holiday, any religious reference is nevertheless discouraged by many legislators. Let that knowledge sink in: Christmas is a worldwide observance among virtually all cultures. Though the day is set aside by legislation as a civic holiday, efforts to marginalise or eliminate any reference to Christian Faith continue, and appear to be increasing, to this day.
Undoubtedly, the day is problematic for conscientious Christians. Believers who permit themselves to think are disquieted by what the day has become and with the manner in which we celebrate. We see the popular attitude toward the day as an opportunity to eat to excess, to drink to excess, to impoverish ourselves to demonstrate our love for members of our family—but there is scant inclination to worship on Christmas Day. Perhaps some tolerate a Christmas Eve service, but the emphasis among many professed saints is to cancel services should Christmas fall on a Sunday. Unfortunately, the majority of professing followers of the Lamb refuse to think, or at least fail to think. The festivities, the comforting presence of family, the feasting as a means of celebration occupy the attention of most of us who are the professed people of God.