Advent III Esteeming one day over another

Do you celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday? Cool… me too. Do you know anyone who doesn’t? Sure. But how does one reconcile divisions over celebrating some days as “holy” and not others?

I received a well-intentioned—though somewhat overwrought—letter on this topic earlier this week. The author seemed in earnest that I “repent of the sin” of “blessing” the “pagan festival” of Christmas with orthodox Christian doctrine. Appealing to select Scripture excerpts, this individual wrote I was guilty of “worshiping the created” rather than the creator.

Perhaps I am. I submit it’s wholly possible. But before I mount a defense of my own views, a word about the principle of “Christian liberty.”

Christian liberty is derived from numerous teachings from Apostle Paul which state that we are free from being bound to the sacrificial system of the Old Covenant for our atonement for the forgiveness of sin as well as a strict adherence to the Law of Moses to live a holy life. It is the freedom of conscience.  By the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our law is thus: 1.) love God, 2.) love your neighbor.

Understanding the principle of Christian liberty is vital to a robust understanding of our religion. While certain modes and particulars of Christianity might be “a given” in some areas, that’s not necessarily the case in every location with every believer. This is not a bad thing.

Now, as to the claim that Christmas was originally a pagan festival. Well, I’ve already dealt with this issue at length elsewhere—so I’m not going to belabor the point—but let me again invoke the teachings of Apostle Paul (specifically in I Corinthians 10, Romans 14-15). With regard to meat sacrificed to idols (which I certainly would consider a heathen practice) Paul correctly points out that the idol is nothing. It has no power to “corrupt” the food itself. Indeed, the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it—therefore whatever I do, I do to glorify Him. So too is it with Christmas.

I sympathize with those who want to be rigorously and distinctly Christian, who want to be disentangled from the world and any pagan roots that might lie beneath our celebration of Christmas, but I don’t go that route on this matter because I think there comes a point where the roots are so far gone that the present meaning doesn’t carry the pagan connotation anymore.

For example, take a look at how we mark time. Our months come from pagan gods and Roman emperors (sometimes hard to tell which is which), as are our days of the week. Even our numerals are Arabic in origin. I don’t see any Christians abstaining from using calendars—not any gainfully employed Christians anyways.

Whatever you think of the origin of the holiday, it’s “ours” now—and it’s been ours for hundreds of years. Despite the creeping onset of a “new paganism” (one based on consumerist avarice), I don’t think we should turn it loose just yet.

Christmas affords us the opportunity to mark—in distinctly Christian ways with our various traditions and observances—the birth of Jesus Christ. I think the birth, death and resurrection of Christ are the most important events in human history. Not to mark them in some way, by way of special celebration, would be a grievous and needless oversight.

To suggest by skipping the one day on our calendar which most of our populace at least grants a begrudging concession as the “arbitrary” birthdate of the historical Jesus of Nazareth somehow strengthens our faith before a watching worlds is a separatism that seems more a law unto itself than any reasoned consequence from the teaching of Scripture.

If every day is “special,” then no day is.  No, some days are special.

I say, if the world wants to let us feast and toast the “silent night, holy night” when Christ was born in Bethlehem, then let us do so with vigor. O, holy night!

However, even if you’re not persuaded by my meandering ruminations—guess what—you don’t have to follow them! Yes, you are free to read these ramblings, shake your head in annoyance, and go on not celebrating Christmas. I wish you health and good cheer in doing so.

But this I do command you: “whatever you do, whether you eat or whether you drink, do all to the glory of Christ.” For me, that means I wish you all a very merry Christmas!

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