There is a very real war on Christmas out there. There are people who are hell bent on banishing the holiday to the very depths of hell. Surprisingly though it’s not Starbucks or the people that say “Happy holidays” instead of "Merry Christmas" who have the real agenda but rather it is a small group within Christianity itself who are so against it. And I have to say that I understand where they are coming from, the roots of the holiday are undeniably pagan. There is even that passage in Jeremiah 10 which paints an eerily familiar image to the trees that people put in their homes over Christmas:-
This is what the LORD says:
2“Do not act like the other nations,
who try to read their future in the stars.
Do not be afraid of their predictions,
even though other nations are terrified by them.
3 Their ways are futile and foolish.
They cut down a tree, and a craftsman carves an idol.
4 They decorate it with gold and silver
and then fasten it securely with hammer and nails
so it won’t fall over.
But my own personal issue is not so much with the ‘touch not, taste not’ rules that people try to make Christianity about. There is nothing inherently wrong with reminding one another of the birth of Christ on the 25th of December, the issue is not with the trees, candles or the date but rather, I believe, the problem in our day (which is also expressed in the message of Jeremiah which is actually about idolatry) is that people are worshiping the god of mammon. The consumerist spirit behind the holiday reveals a more real and dangerous problem in Christianity.
But I am off on a tangent because this is not actually a post about Christmas at all. Rather, it is about the call to abstain from anything in Christianity which has its roots in Paganism which I find so ironic. Consider the picture below which has appeared in my Facebook news feed countless times over the last couple of weeks.
Where is Santa in the Bible? More than once I was tempted to write something very sarcastic, like, “Why it’s right next to the verses about church buildings, worship bands, appeasement of a deity’s wrath via child sacrifice, the philosophy of the immortal soul and the need for professional orators in church meetings”. Let's consider just how far we really want to take the syncretism argument regarding pagan influences in the church. That would be a far more constructive conversation for us to be having. What is redeemable and what is useful when it comes to the Kingdom? Certainly when Paganism influences our ideas regarding the atonement or afterlife or any other theology we would be wise to stay far away from it. But can a church building or a Sunday sermon (both having Pagan origins) be used for the extension of the Kingdom of God? Of course! Can Christmas be used for the extension of the Kingdom of God? Of course! In Acts 17, Paul uses an ‘altar to an unknown god’ to reveal the God of heaven and earth to the people of Athens. Their idols were not redeemable, they were nothing more than useless carvings made by human hands, yet Paul used them as a tool for introducing the people of that culture to Christ. So it is with buildings dedicated to religious ceremonies, sermons and Christmas, while all have Pagan origins, all can be good and useful insomuch as they are used as tools for witnessing or serving the body. The second any of them replace Jesus and become our focal point, where we start serving the building, the meeting or the holiday rather than the other way around they should be cast away.
So if your conscience is troubled by celebrating Christmas, then by all means abstain. In fact, Paul says as much in Romans 14; but before posting that next anti-Christmas meme on Facebook. Consider some of the Pagan traditions that you may have adopted and participate in on a weekly basis and consider Paul’s warnings about your motivations for doing so (see Colossians 2:20-23, Galatians 5:1-15). I am not asking anyone to go against their own convictions, nor am I asking anyone to water anything down but let's at the very least try to be gracious toward one another and exercise a bit more humility in how we think others should be following Christ when expressing ourselves.