THEY CAN’T STOP CHRISTMAS FROM COMING
There seems to be a lot of worry lately about Christmas being under attack. Newspapers are full of stories this time of year…Nativity Scenes being ordered removed from town squares, children not being allowed to sing Christmas carols in school programs. Why should this surprise us or worry us?
Even from within the Christian community there is disagreement and controversy about whether or not to keep Christmas. In fact keeping Christmas has always been controversial, ever since the Roman emperor Constantine replaced the pagan winter festivals with holy days commemorating the birth of Christ, around 320 AD. Because of this, many sects or groups within Christendom have, over the centuries, objected to celebrating Christmas, and many still do today. The Puritans certainly tried to keep Christmas from coming. They banned the observance of Christmas outright in the colony of Massachusetts, from 1659 until 1681:
“For preventing disorders, arising in several places within this jurisdiction by reason of some still observing such festivals as were superstitiously kept in other communities, to the great dishonor of God and offense of others: it is therefore ordered by this court and the authority thereof that whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way, upon any such account as aforesaid, every such person so offending shall pay for every such offence five shilling as a fine to the county.”
From the records of the general Court,
Massachusetts Bay Colony
May 11, 1659
Certainly, an argument can and should be made, that excessive revelry and merriment should be avoided at any time of the year, as well as at Christmastime. We should honor Christ by keeping his commandments always. Statistics plainly tell us that all of the crimes of human weakness and all the measurements of human misery increase during the season of Christmas, because we live in a world that is in rebellion against God. People feel the pinch of sin in their lives at Christmas, if they have not reconciled their lives to God through Christian obedience. The Christ child reminds them how far away from home they are, how far removed from God they are.
Christians should share the Puritan’s concern regarding human avarice, vice and wickedness. We should be careful how we keep Christmas. We should not allow ourselves to be dazzled or distracted by worldly splendors, so that we forget the lowly estate of the baby born in a stable, and we should never forget the poor and the poor of spirit who are always with us.
As to the concerns that all of the symbols of Christmas are pagan, I would say this:
The lifeless gods of paganism never held any power. They were hollow manifestations of false gods, created by Satan, to deceive and mock mankind. If a decorated evergreen tree was a pagan symbol for fertility and regeneration, so what? Did not my God create the evergreen tree? Does this history so corrupt the evergreen that I am now forbidden to decorate a Christmas tree? Did he not also create the holly and mistletoe? If the Germanic people of northern Europe, and the druid Celts of the British Isles utilized these as symbols in their animism and nature worship, may I not assign new meaning to these as symbols of the passion of Christ and life everlasting through him? Did not the apostle Paul tell us that all things are now clean, regardless of their former affiliation with idols (Romans 14:14)? God declared to Peter, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy" (Acts 11:9-NASB). We should be careful about making declarations that disagree with God’s declarations.
Some have objected to the celebration of Christmas, because we are not directed to observe it by Jesus himself, or by any gospel writer. It is true that we are not commanded to observe or remember the coming of Christ, as we are his death, burial, and resurrection, through the Lords Supper (Luke 22:19). Does this mean that we are not permitted to rejoice at the coming of the Christ Child? Would God deny us celebration for the coming of light into this dark world? If so, why did he deliver to us his Word, with multiple accounts of Christ’s birth that fill our hearts with joy and rapture? Centuries before Christ came into this world, the prophets proclaimed his coming. The world had been waiting a long time. Surely we should rejoice at his coming.
Does it matter to God on what date we celebrate the birthday of his son? I think it would please him if we celebrated his coming every day. Whether we celebrate in the winter or spring, summer or fall, every season is God’s season. Every day in our lives should be Gods’ day. What better time to celebrate the coming of Christ, than in the dark days of the dead, cold, silent winter? What better time to remember the words of the prophet Isaiah?
“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light. They that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them have the light shined.”
“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 Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”
Isaiah 9:2, 9:6
Don’t worry about Christmas coming. If Satan couldn’t stop it from coming, then the world can’t stop it either. No politician or Grinch can keep it from coming. No school board, or city council, or cranky neighbor, or miserable, wretched creature can keep it from coming. Nor can sickness, or financial ruin, or catastrophe, or decree.
Christmas will come because He came. Christmas will come because God loved us enough to send his only son into this world as a little baby. Christmas will come because Christ chose to empty himself of all of his heavenly glory, and abide with us. He chose to walk among us so that we could know him, so that we could know that he understands what it means to suffer, and work, and live in this world. He came here so that he could save us, by paying our debt, a debt that could be paid only by him, a gift to the world from that little baby, born in Bethlehem. He came here to lead us home, to the light of the home fire and hearth of that heavenly place that awaits us at the end of our long cold journey, through the winter of life. That is why we should remember his coming. That is why we should keep Christmas.
Christmas will come again this year, despite wars - pray for peace, despite famine - pray for plenty, despite sickness – pray for healing, despite hatred – pray for forgiveness, despite our woes and fears - pray for his strength, and wait. It will come, because He has come!