[This article has been edited and revised with new material from a couple of years ago---GLC]
The Christmas season is, for me, an enjoyable time. If for no other reason, the music is better.
The Christmas music played in malls and shoppes from November to December is generally pleasant to the ear, and inoffensive to the spirit. Biblical Christmas hymns and carols are obviously great...but even the secular Christmas music is, with exception, much more tolerable than what normally assaults our senses in stores for the other ten months of the year. I can even tolerate Mariah.
For a little while.
As Bible-readers, we know Jesus Christ was not actually born on December 25th (for example, there are no “shepherds watching their flocks by night” during a frigid December in Israel—the sheep are put up in the sheep-fold). But the fact that, during this season, the birth of Jesus Christ is inarguably the central focus of many, many people who ordinarily would not think of such things must be acknowledged as a good thing.
There are a lot of Bible-believers who become grinches this time of year because they are puffed up with so much knowledge it has turned them into pharisees. The truth is supposed to set you FREE, not put you in bondage.
I can know the truth about the pagan origins of Christmas and still enjoy Christ’s birth, Christmas carols, lights, gifts, and fellowship with family and friends. I can do this BECAUSE I know the truth, and not because of ignorance of the truth.
To take such a position is not compromise, but rather common sense. Let’s face it; with rare (and I mean rare) exception, no one is going to reject Jesus Christ, worship the devil, stumble over a spiritual “stumbling block” (Rom. 14:13), lose respect for your Christian testimony, or be hindered spiritually in any way, simply because you put up a Christmas tree or wear a green and red sweater. And don’t fall into the trap of cutting off your unsaved family members because you’ve decided to “take a stand” against Christmas. That’s really worth somebody going to hell over, is it?
Boycotting Christmas is not worth missing an opportunity to give your family the gospel. You and your convictions are not that important in the whole scheme of things. And there are many more important “hills to die on.” Frankly, many Christians do damage to the cause of Christ by turning into weirdos about things like this. Face it; to the average lost family member, it’s already weird that you go to church more than once a week. Don’t make matters worse by discussing “Eight Reasons Santa is the Antichrist” with your 16 year-old niece at Christmas dinner.
I’ll tell you what your unsaved family is going to think if you boycott Christmas. Regardless of your vast knowledge and explanations about ancient Baal worship and the winter solstice, they’re going to think, “They cheaped out this year. They just didn’t want to spend money on presents.” Either that or you joined the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Then later, when you start talking to them about the gospel, they will turn you off.
Let’s say you care nothing about Christmas and refuse to celebrate it. Fine. But you’re a fool if you don’t pass out a Christmas tract and say “Merry Christmas, here’s a present for you.” If you wouldn’t do that, you’re too religious for your own good. The biggest “Scrooge” in the world who’s a Christian should see that the opportunity for talking to the world about Jesus Christ is much greater this time of year than any other. I’m not knocking anybody for being a “Scrooge”—it’s a free country. But don’t be a fool. Get some “moderation” in your life and beliefs. (Php. 4:5)
Those who "esteem every day alike” are not to begrudge or look down upon those who “esteem one day above another” (Rom. 14:1-5). Incidentally, it’s been my experience that those who audaciously refuse to celebrate Christmas because of its origins and proceed to break fellowship, stir up strife, and criticize those who do otherwise are guilty of “esteeming” Christmas Day much more highly than anyone who celebrates it.
I don’t attend any “mass” on “Christ-mass" or any other day. I know of hundreds of thousands of others who don’t either. And many of them are Catholics! There was a time that this was an issue for a believer’s testimony, but no more. At least, not in THIS country. There are Roman Catholic countries where real believers may have to tone it down on Christmas celebration due to the association with Catholicism, but generally speaking that's not the case here.
I don’t think a Christmas tree is a "Baal-bush" (nobody else in the real world does either). If you do, you’re wrong (Rom. 14:14, 20). A tree is a tree. Just because somebody worshipped a tree as a "Baal-bush" in ancient times didn’t really make it anything more than a tree then, either (I Cor. 8:4).
Some quote Jeremiah 10:1-4 as a "proof-text" against Christmas trees: "Hear ye the word which the Lord speaketh unto you, O house of Israel: Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not."
So, some ancient heathen are cutting down a tree, putting silver and gold on it, and ascribing some type of significance to it (it is described in the context as being connected with some type of fear---"dismay"---v2). Based on this, self-righteous brethren who don't put up Christmas trees will then call anyone who DOES put up a tree a "heathen" engaged in worshipping a "Baal-bush." This is, to put it mildly, "stretching the text." First of all, it should be noted that it's not a Christmas tree described in the passage; in fact, you're not told what kind of a tree it is, what time of year it is, nor are you told the purpose the tree will serve. You're not told much of anything at all, really. Furthermore, if the heathen in the passage are, in fact, preparing to worship this tree, so what? Who cares what these pagan heathen were doing in Jeremiah's day? Nobody I've ever known, saved or lost, ever put up a tree and decorated it for the purpose of worshipping it. Certainly, no Christian has that in mind when he puts up a Christmas tree!
But aside from that, our self-righteous brethren tend to leave out THE NEXT VERSE: "They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good" (10:5). So, even if it were a Christmas tree in the passage (which remains to be seen), you're told not to be afraid of them because they are neither good or bad. In other words, it's just a tree.
But, for the sake of those who might be weak in the faith, I will give my advice. If you are tempted to worship trees, or if you think your neighbors or family members will suspect you are secretly worshipping your Christmas tree, talking to your tree, or having any type of unseemly or inappropriate relationship with your tree, or have had bad relationships with trees in the past...you probably shouldn't have a Christmas tree. Don't risk it!
I'll "speak as a fool," and tell you what I think. I think a tree is nice and green, and lights are pretty. I think the kids like decorating the tree and looking at the tree and sometimes sleeping under the tree. (Don’t show me your youtube video about “the truth behind hanging decorations on the Baal-bush”—I don’t care, and neither does anyone else in the real world.) I think December 25th is as good a day as any to open presents, take off work, get together with family and have some turkey. If they said Christmas was going to be November 25th this year, we’d do it then. Who, exactly is “esteeming one day above another”? Somebody who takes pride (there’s the problem) in “esteeming every day alike” is going to tell me what I can and can’t do on a particular day simply because of what day it is, and what some pagan heathen 4000 years ago happened to do on that day? Whoever would do such a thing has a lot more respect for a “day” than I do. I refuse to make that big a deal over it.
If anyone disagrees, they may feel free to write and publish their own articles on these matters.
And we will take pleasure in not reading them.