“Let’s get back to the reason for the season.” I have heard this statement dozens of times over the past few weeks, from casual conversations to television and radio advertisements by religious institutions. It’s debated and discussed by various media personalities and politicians. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, but I’m sure you have, some people want to put Christ back into Christmas while others couldn’t care less.
Much of the debate is between liberals and conservatives or religious progressives and traditionalists. Secularists and atheists want nothing to do with Christ in any national holiday. While most people don’t mind a little time off from work, there is a real divide in our country over Christmas.
Various religious bodies plan special services to celebrate Christ’s birth. They produce pageants and nativity scenes to remind people of God’s great love in sending His Son. Any Christian opposing ―the true meaning of Christmas‖ is judged a heretic and blasphemer. People just don’t understand why anyone confessing Christ would have a problem celebrating the religious and spiritual meaning of Christmas.
Birthdays are important to us culturally and socially because they remind us of our beginning and mark milestones in life. We also celebrate birthdays of important people long after they’re gone. It’s a way of paying honor and remembering the way they touched our lives. So I can understand why some would want to commemorate Christ’s date of birth, but the question is, does it honor God and Christ when we do so? We need to answer the question, “what is the reason for the season”.
The Bible rarely speaks of birthday parties and celebrations. In fact, only on two occasions do we find them cited. Pharaoh threw his own party in Genesis forty and King Herod did the same in Mark six. According to historians, most common people could not afford these annual festivals and they did not celebrate them as we do today. The nobles often threw their own parties out of pride and for self-glory. We’re also told that before calendars and a more precise way of tracking time and seasons, people did not commemorate their birthdays.
You never read in scripture about Jews or Christians honoring their “special day”. Jewish scholars also confirm that their ancestors did not celebrate their own birthdays nor did they know or honor the date of Abraham or Moses’ birth. We don’t know the date of Christ’s birth and there’s no suggestion that most of the early Christians did. We don’t even know the year of His birth for sure. There is no sign that they ever celebrated a Christmas holiday. In fact, the earliest evidence we have of an official Christmas celebration is the fourth century. Some even believe it was the answer to a pagan holiday associated with the winter solstice.
So the reason behind the season is not difficult to see. Man came up with the idea all on his own, without any guidance from God. It is human wisdom plain and simple because there is nothing in the Bible about the date of His birth or a Christmas celebration. (Prov. 14:12) Is that okay with you, and more importantly is God happy with man’s initiative? (Isa. 31:1)
You may respond, “Surely we please God by celebrating His Son’s birth.” The answer is yes and no. Christians rejoice because Jesus was born of a virgin, He was ―God with us‖, the Son of God, and the Messiah. Matt. 1:20-23) His birth gave an opportunity for His life, death, and resurrection. (1 Cor. 15:1-3) We teach what the Bible says about His birth because it is God’s revelation and critical to our faith. He’s pleased with us when we do right by such acts.
However, God is not happy when we devise and launch a holyday without His authority. Man selected an arbitrary date to celebrate a holiday of his own creation. (1 Cor. 2:1-5) There is a big difference between teaching and honoring what God has said about Christ’s birth and supplanting His Will on worship. In fact, the two “major” religious holidays of our time originated in man’s wisdom, Christmas and Easter. They supersede Divine guidance on worship and service, what God has said about the first day of the week and the Lord’s Supper. People go to Christmas and Easter services but abandon the approved worship from the Bible. The guilty need do to respond in two ways, give up man’s holidays and be faithful to God’s arrangement for worship.
Today is Sunday, and it happens to be December 25th. The saints have gathered, not because it’s Christmas but because we come together every Sunday to worship and commemorate the Lord’s death. (Acts 20:7) There are no “special” services or programs planned. We will sing, pray and study together as always. We will share the Lord’s Supper, and give according to our prosperity. What a wonderful day it is!