Whether one celebrates Christmas as a Christian is inconsequential as Romans chapter 14 verse 5 and 6 so aptly conveys. As to the question of whether you believe in the advent of Christ and of the virgin birth, that is far more relevant and is of utmost importance. Believing in Christ and that he came to earth and through his death became sin so that we may live free from sin, is paramount to Christian theology. Througout the Old Testament the birth of Jesus, God’s son, is foretold. (Isaiah 7:14) His purpose is perhaps best summed up by quoting one the most well known passages of the Bible, John 3:16.
Reasons to celebrate
There are many reasons Christians don’t celebrate Christmas including its trappings of commercialism, pagan beginnings, Catholic traditions, or perhaps the myth of a large jolly man with flying reindeer.
There are many reasons Christians do celebrate Christmas including a poignant reminder of the gift of God to mankind, a focus on things that matter most, family, friends and perhaps most salient an opportunity to convey the story of the advent of Jesus Christ and God’s plan of salvation to those void of understanding.
It is this last point that is the focus of these remarks.
Paul and the Athenians
In Acts 17:22-28 Paul had the opportunity to preach the gospel to Athenians on Mars Hill. Paul in his comments mentions that on his way to Mars Hill he toured the Grecian altars and temples that held many of the gods that were worshipped. A inscription on one altar was TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Paul used this inscription as an opportunity to point out that this unknown God, could be known and was the one true God. “Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him I declare unto you.”
He noted that this being created the heavens and the earth and in fact wasn’t it obvious that if you had to construct houses for your gods, made with human hands to dwell in that these gods could not be the one true God. Effectively leveling the whole Grecian system of idolatry.
Further Paul quoted the academics and poets of the day as third party validators that in fact this Creator was evidenced enough for poets to pen the words, “for in him we live, and move, and have our being and are the offspring of this being.” (Grecian poets Aratus and Cleanthus).
Whether you take Christmas in it’s compntemporary form as a holiday set aside for remembering the advent of Jesus Christ or shun it for its pagan festival beginnings Paul shows us a way forward in leveraging a contrived holiday, festival or tradition as a springboard for the gospel. Just as Paul used this inscription of obligation to an unknown God, and words of the poets and scholars of his era to reveal to the people listening to his Sermon on Mars Hill the one true God, today we can can use Christmas, a day set aside and recognized as a celebration and rememberence of the birth of Jesus Christ as an opportunity to declare to others the gift of God’s son and his plan of salvation.
One-third of the world celebrates Christmas including most of the western world. Opportunity abounds to have a discussion about its denotative meaning. What is Christmas? Why is it celebrated? Why was God’s son sent? What is our individual obligation to God. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, using the opportunity to further the message of the gospel should be our ultimate goal as Christians yielded to God and his great Commission. “Merry Christmas,” or perhaps “May Christ, God’s gift to us, bring you peace and joy.”