Holidays - We take them for granted now, don't we? We just automatically know that early in the year there is Easter, and later in the year you have Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, with loads of smaller and less popular holidays dotting the calendar from January to December. So what is the big deal about Holidays? Why do them at all? Is there a biblical reason for them? Should Christians do them? If so, what holidays are kosher and what are contraband?
I never even considered this massive debate until recently, when some friends of ours went out of state and discovered some friends of theirs didn't celebrate Christmas. Then, I found another friend of mine didn't celebrate Christmas. Another doesn't open presents until after New Years so as not to associate Christmas with materialism for their kids. Others, like me, celebrate Christmas, but with much less typical decorations than most, no trees, with lots of nativity scenes and greenery. Some, do tree, presents, greenery and the whole sheebang, but are no less Christians for doing so. So where's the line? Or is there a line at all?
I had to do some long, hard thinking about this topic to even found my own beliefs in anything more than tradition and "just cause". I will lay out, or try to, the arguments from both sides of this spectrum, show where I draw the line, and let you make the decision on your own celebration yourself.
So far, the best, and most sound argument against Christmas (which is the only holiday that people argue about, I will talk about that later) is that celebrating Christmas is syncretism. Anyway, the argument goes like this, and let me tell you, its a good one, and takes some serious thinking to wade through.
#1. Not mandated in scripture.
#2. Totally centered (in the world) around materialism.
Also, if you say this is a day we set aside so remember Christ's birth, why aren't you remembering him just as much on other days? Why one in particular to remember him and then forget about him till Easter? (If you get past the bunny and eggs and remember what it's really about.)
Also, since Christmas started out as a pagan holiday, and you participate in it with a "Christianized" flavor, you are being sycretistic.
That, as far as I can tell, is the basic argument. There may be more points or angles I am not aware of, but that is the gist.
I will address those arguments point by point.
#1. Not mandated in scripture.
True, but saying something isn't mandated in scripture and therefore not doing it has problems. Now, before I get into this, let me make this clear. JUST BECAUSE IT IS NOT MANDATED OR FORBIDDEN IN SCRIPTURE, DOESN'T JUSTIFY YOU DOING WHATEVER YOU PLEASE. I AM NEVER MAKING THAT CASE.
Now that we are clear on that, we can move on. ;)
That being said, if you are making the argument that what ever is not mandated or mentioned in scripture is not allowed, then you can't have cars, iPods, guns, or fried chicken, or anythings else for that matter, that is not SPECIFICALLY mentioned in scripture. But hold on, before you take that and run with it, let me state again. JUST BECAUSE IT IS NOT FORBIDDEN IN SCRIPTURE DOES NOT MEAN YOU CAN DO WHAT YOU PLEASE BECAUSE THE BIBLE DOESN'T TALK ABOUT IT.
Are we clear?
What it does mean, is that you must exercise extreme caution in anything that isn't mentioned one way or the other in scripture, but just saying that it isn't mentioned or commanded by scripture and therefore we shouldn't, doesn't hold up.
That being said, let's move on.
#2. Totally centered around materialism.
VERY good point. The argument goes like this. Since is centered around materialism, if you celebrate it, you are being materialistic, and not celebrating what you say it's for anyway.
Not bad, but let's analyse that even more. They are saying that if you do something, for good reasons, that somebody else does for definite bad reasons, you are being like them and shouldn't do it.
That argument falls apart as well. How many things can we do for good, biblical reasons, that other people do for bad reasons? Let's take something utterly Christian, and make the point. Going to Church. Going to Church is mandated by scripture, and therefore "good" Christians go to church. Well, how many people do you know that go to church just because it makes them feel good, or just to hang out with friends, or to appease their guilty conscience by making them feel like they are doing their duty towards God? Or lets use preaching. Expositing the word to the saved and unsaved alike. But again, how many stories have you heard of PASTORS who have been PREACHING THE WORD for YEARS and aren't even saved. So again, that argument falls apart, because if you can't do anything that bad people do for bad reasons, you can't even exist. You can't live, because people live for wrong reasons. You can't even die, because people do that for bad reasons as well.
So, that arguments out.
How about the next one.
"If you set aside one day to remember something then you aren't remembering that thing as much the rest of the year."
Ok, not bad, but this one has problems as well. If you take this to its logical ending, you would never celebrate anything for any reason, ever. If you are going to make the case, that Biblically, we shouldn't celebrate anything, then you are saying that the feasts and days of celebrations and partying in the Old Testament are unbiblical. That's what it comes down to. Obviously, we can't make that statement. God commanded us to set aside certain days to celebrate certain things. For instance, Passover. That was a feast and holiday mandated by God for them to celebrate Gods redeeming grace, saving them from the Egyptians.
What is Christmas but celebrating Gods redeeming grace, saving us from our sin?
Anyway, that argument fell apart at the seams.
Next, is that by celebrating and participating in a pagan holiday with a Christian flavor, is syncretistic, and therefore not allowed.
Again, not bad on the surface, but lets dig deeper. This argument is saying that you can never use, participate in, or do anything that wasn't started for distinctly Christian purposes. This falls apart in two ways. One, isn't really an argument, but is merely a point back at the person saying it. If you want to say that you can never participate in anything that wasn't started for Christian purposes, then you must grow your own food, make your own clothes, and make your own cars, electronics, etc. The reason that isn't an argument, is because if you use it as one, you are being pragmatic. So therefore, I don't use it as one, just merely saying that if you want to go down that path, you have to take it to the end.
The real argument is that Paul himself said it was OK to eat meat sacrificed to idols! In 1st Corinthians 8, Paul makes it clear that it is OK to eat meat sacrificed to idols, since we know there is only one God and idols are baloney. Now granted, it also says that if a brother stumbles at it, he would rather not do it and help him than exercise his right and make him stumble. So, if one wants to make the case that they do not do it as to not make anyone stumble, that might be a legit argument.
So, after all that theorizing, I had to come down to why we do what we do.
A. Since we know it is OK, under certain times and for certain reasons, to celebrate, we do.
B. Since a tree meant materialism for us, we ditched it, and now nativity's take the lead role as decorations.
For us growing up, we didn't know any better, and we had the trees and Santa on top of the tree, and stockings, etc, and celebrated Christ alongside. When we realized what it meant to us, and what it should mean to us, we ditched it and made a different set of traditions and decoration that pointed us to Christ, not Santa and Christmas Trees. Now, I am not making the statement that trees are bad, I am merely saying it was bad for us. If you can have a tree and have a right heart before God, after diligent prayer and study, more power to you. Get more while your at it and plant a forest in your backyard.
C. We do give presents, as a sign of the Wise-men's gift, and Christs gift to us, but we do it on Christmas eve, not Christmas day. That day is set apart of Worshiping Christ and what he did for us.
So. I've put a lot on your mental plate, I can be sure of that. Take some time, chew it up, and examine your own beliefs and practices, and see what doesn't line up.
As for me, I'm gonna celebrate, and enjoy it. :)