Question: I am a strict biblicist. There is not one single verse in the Bible that commands us to observe the birth of Christ as a special holiday and most modern Christmas observances are based on nothing but the traditions of men. Knowing this – and yes, it can be proven – why would any Bible-believing Christian even want to participate?
Answer: First of all, let it be acknowledged that most of our readers have probably never heard such an objection to observing Christmas before. Their natural tendency will therefore be to disregard your concerns as nothing but the humbuggish grumblings of a proverbial scrooge.
This is somewhat unfortunate, because your stated objections to Christmas observance are technically valid. The Bible does not institute Christmas as a holiday and most of our modern observances are based on the traditions of men.
I would even add that many of our traditions can be traced back to pre-Christian (i.e., pagan) origins and that Jesus sternly warned his disciples about the dangers of blindly following the vain traditions of men (Matthew 15:8-9).
So now that I have sufficiently offended the ninety-and-nine by agreeing with your technical objections to Christmas, let me now proceed (potentially) to offend you by disagreeing with your proposed conclusion that Christians should adopt a policy of absolute non-participation when it comes to Christmas.
Because you are a strict biblicist, I will spare you the typical anecdotal arguments and point you straight to Scripture. More specifically, I would ask you to consider the infallible example of Jesus found in John 10:22-23, “Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch…”
These verses indicates that Jesus “observed” the extra-biblical-based-only-on-man’s-tradition holiday called Hanukkah or the Festival of Lights.
I placed the word “observed” in quotation marks because we do not know exactly how or to what extent Jesus observed it. Did he light a menorah? Did he give gifts? Did he bake sufganiyot? Did he sing Hanerot Halalu? We will never know.
This much, however, we do know: Jesus wanted to be right in the middle of all the seasonal activities related to the “Festival of Lights” so he could there shine as the true Light of the World.
If we read on in John chapter 10, we see that his presence caused the conversation to shift from the things people normally discussed during that man-made holiday (e.g., the Maccabean Revolt and re-dedication of the Jewish Temple) to his identity as the Messiah.
If we continue to read on, we will also discover that Jesus’ holiday-occasioned evangelism nearly got him stoned to death. This, by the way, probably comes as no surprise to those who have personally tried to share their Christian faith with family and friends while they are interested only in Christmas festivities.
To conclude, let me answer your question more directly: “Why would a Christian even want to participate?” Because the Christian – like Christ – is always looking for opportunities to share the good news of the gospel with people.
Furthermore, the Christian – like Christ – should always be quick to recognize and then redeem opportunities for evangelism which make the task somewhat easier.
The people in Jesus’ day just happened to be in a more generally “religious” mood during the season of Hanukkah, so Jesus considered it a good opportunity to engage them evangelistically.
The same kind of increased in general religiosity is seen during our modern season of Christmas and I would therefore encourage you to imitate your Master by making good use of the opportunity.
– Pastor McShaffrey