16th December 2012


“It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defence of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.”
Philippians 1:15-18 (NIV UK) 

Early in my Christian walk, I found the Christmas season annoying and irritating rather than inspiring and enjoyable. That’s because I believed Christmas was really a pagan holiday masquerading as Christian and, as such, God must hate it. I thought people who call themselves Christian but participate in such pagan revelry must disgust God. 

But something the apostle Paul wrote gave me pause to reflect on my assumptions about Christmas, as well as Easter, another holiday I took for pagan debauchery. In the passage above Paul is referring to the way some were responding to his imprisonment. Some taking advantage of Paul’s being out of the way by preaching Christ to set themselves up in Paul’s place; others preaching out of pure motives, just to proclaim the gospel. 

So what does that have to do with Christmas? It showed me that when Christ is preached, it’s a good thing, regardless of the reasons or setting for it. And that led me to take a closer look at what believers actually do during Christmas, rather than just assuming they were joining in pagan revelry. 

I found that for believers, Christmas is about Jesus. The Christmas tree, an evergreen, symbolises the everlasting life we have in Jesus. The lights point to Jesus, the Light of the world. The gifts reflect God’s unconditional love, given simply because he is God and not because we deserved it. And the day itself is a commemoration of the birth of Jesus, God in the flesh, who became one of us to draw us into the love and intimate communion he shares with the Father. 

When I saw what Christmas is really about, all my fear and distaste disappeared. God is not some curmudgeon who made human beings so he’d have somebody to keep his rules. God loves us and wants us to enter his joy, and part of his joy is celebration. To celebrate Jesus is the best kind of celebration there is, because in celebrating Jesus we are celebrating all of humanity, to whom Jesus has given worth, meaning and dignity by taking humanity into himself. 

You know, pagans lived in houses, wore clothes, ate food, went to work and reared families. We don’t avoid those things. And pagans prayed, assembled for worship, sang hymns and gave offerings. We don’t even avoid most of the things pagans did in worshipping their false gods, nor does God expect us to. Pagans don’t own December 25. That day belongs to God as does every other day. 

If you are afraid to celebrate Christmas because you think God hates both it and the people who keep it, I hope you’ll consider giving it some more thought and prayer. It really is a time of great cheer, joy and hope for those who trust in Christ. And God approves of that. 

Holy Father, we seek in our walk with you to put Jesus to the centre in every way as often as we can. Every day is suitable for that, with no day to be excepted. Whatever Christmas meant in olden times, from wherever it came in its origins, today, all around the world, it is commemorated as the day honouring Jesus’ birth. We give thanks and honour you for the birth. In Jesus’ name we pray.

Study by Joseph Tkach

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