There seems to be a debate that is growing. Every Christmas I receive emails and comments questioning whether or not Christians should be celebrating Christmas. The arguments against it are claims that it was originally a pagan holiday and as such Christians shouldn’t be participating in it. Personally, I think this is akin to the argument the Apostle Paul was addressing in Romans 14 where you had a bunch of Christians arguing that Christians shouldn’t eat meat that had been offered to idols. For Paul’s solution you ought to read that chapter for yourself.
Others argue that because Christmas has become so commercialized, Christians shouldn’t celebrate it.
Still others point out that Jesus wasn’t born on Dec. 25th (actually we don’t know the exact day of Jesus’ birth — many scholars think it was sometime in April). Those who argue from this position hold that since they don’t believe that Jesus was born on Dec. 25th, no one should celebrate Christmas as the day of his birth.
Historically, the celebration of Christmas on Dec. 25th began officially under Emperor Constantine in 336 A.D., but there are early Christian records that go back to 200 A.D. that indicate that Christians were already celebrating the birth of Christ around this time. That would make sense since the earliest followers were Jewish and they were celebrating the Festival of Lights (Hanukkah) around this time of year.
Everyone agrees that the early church adopted this date to make Christianity understandable to the current cultures they lived in. In the Jewish tradition, Christ the light of the world being celebrated during the Festival of Lights, makes perfect sense. Christ being celebrated in the Germanic lands during the winter solstice was used by the church to evangelize those who followed this tradition as well as those in Rome who celebrated “the rebirth of the sun.” The Church took this and redefined it as a celebration of the birth of the Son. It worked because, frankly, you have to look long and hard to identify Christmas with the early pagan rituals today. Most know about the birth of Jesus on Christmas; few know about the celebration of the pagan Sun god Mathra.
Let me put all of this aside and give those modern Scrooges who want to end the celebration of Christmas for Christians something else to consider.
If you look at Jesus in the Gospels, you discover something we easily miss. Every time there is a party mentioned, Jesus is there! Not only is He there, He is fully engaged. It got Him in trouble at times with the religious people of His day!
If you go back into the Old Testament and read about God giving His Law to Israel, you discover that God instituted and encouraged numerous celebrations throughout the year! It strikes me that we Christians should be looking for reasons to celebrate more than looking for excuses not to celebrate!
With that in mind, let me say to you, “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!” Enjoy the season. Celebrate the birth of the Savior and recognize that we give gifts today because some 2,000 plus years ago God gave us the greatest gift ever given! “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21, NIV). That is worth celebrating!