Now that all the annoying open registration for Medicare commercials are gone we have a new hot topic, which rolls around every December: the argument about Christmas, specifically addressing this question: “Is celebrating Christmas a sin or not?”
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Let me say, first and foremost, I will not present an answer, mainly ’cause I ain’t got one. I know what is right for me, and what is right for others, whether they agree with me or not. There are valid arguments from both sides of this debate, all of which are verifiable in the Bible.
Let’s start with some things we can all agree on (at least, I hope we can):
- We should never worship any God but the true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob;
- God knows our hearts and minds, and is a compassionate, understanding God who loves his children;
- A Holy Day is a celebration (or festival) we are commanded to observe and can be found in Leviticus Chapter 23, whereas a holiday is a man-made celebration not specifically required by God;
- Yeshua (Jesus) was not really born on December 25, but most likely sometime around Sukkot;
- Constantine created Christmas, which occurs around the same time as the pagan celebration called Saturnalia;
- Christmas, which was originally created to celebrate the arrival of the Messiah, has been corrupted and mutated into a marketing machine.
If we are all on the same page so far (which would be really good!), let’s keep going.
First off, Yeshua did not condemn all man-made traditions, only those that superseded the instructions God gave us. As far as holidays go, just because they aren’t required by God does not mean they are forbidden by God. This misuse of the Law of Contraposition is one of the main arguments put forth by those that say if it isn’t in the Bible, it is a sin. If so, then you also have to do away with Purim, Rosh Hashanah, Hanukkah, the Fast of the 9th Day of Av, Yom HaShoah, as well as the non-religious holidays of New Year’s, Fourth of July, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Labor Day….need I go on?
God said we must observe specific festivals, he also said, more than once and through different prophets that sometimes our celebration of his commanded festivals and sacrifices was an abomination to him. He said that in some cases the sacrifice wasn’t a pleasant aroma but a stench in his nostrils (look it up if you don’t believe me), and that he finds no pleasure in the blood of sheep or bulls.
Now, if God commanded us to perform these rituals, and we did, why is he saying he won’t accept them? Actually, more than that, he said not only won’t he accept them but that he hates what we are doing!
The answer is because our hearts were not in it. We were just going through the motions and not because we loved him and wanted to honor him.
In other words, God is not interested in our performance as much as he is interested in our intentions. Can we agree on that?
The Bible is clear that God doesn’t want performance, but heartfelt worship and honor; what we do in celebration of God is supposed to be done with a genuine desire to honor God. That is what he tells us he wants.
Remember how Yeshua told of the Pharisee and the tax collector both praying in the Synagogue? (Luke 18:9-14) This is a perfect example of what I am talking about, which is that God sees the heart and knows the mind, and when we come to him in supplication, with a contrite spirit and humility, he hears us and appreciates what we are doing. In this drash, Yeshua pointed out that the prayer of the “righteous” Pharisee, who was doing things as they should be done but had an improper attitude, was less acceptable then the prayer of the tax collector, who was a sinner but came before God humbly and spoke from his heart.
My wife was raised Roman Catholic, and Christmas to her represents family time together; the traditions of the tree, decorations around the house, and the gathering of family and friends are all that matters to her. Why Christmas was invented, what this time of the year used to mean, and any other reasons that Christmas is supposedly a sin, have nothing to do with her celebration. Our celebration isn’t even about the birth of Yeshua but is a non-religious activity. And I think it is that way for many Gentiles.
I also believe that God knows why she is celebrating Christmas and doesn’t have a problem with that. It is no different than Thanksgiving or New Year’s or a birthday (oh, yeah- I forgot that celebrating our birthday is also a sin to some people.)
When Constantine created Christmas, he did not just rebrand Saturnalia but used it to replace Saturnalia, a pagan holiday. Allow me to point out there is a BIG difference between rebranding and replacing. When we rebrand something, it is the same thing with a different name. When we replace something, it is a different thing, altogether.
Here is an example: In January of 2018, Coca-Cola rebranded Diet Coke to be more appealing to the Millennial demographic. According to the website, Marketwatch: “The beverage giant said Diet Coke isn’t being reformulated, but is “re-energizing” for a different consumer demographic.” This is what rebranding means- the same thing with a different name.
Now, to stay with Coca-Cola, when they came out with New Coke, that wasn’t a rebranding but a replacement of “old” Coke. And, as you may recall, it was such a dismal failure that they had to bring the original Coke back into the market. Those were two totally different things.
Christmas, whatever you may think of it, is NOT Saturnalia and it is not associated with Pagan worship. As for the Christmas tree, it is not a pagan symbol: in fact, within Judaism, the tree is very important. There is the Tree of Life (Aitz Chaim Hee), which has been an integral part of our prayers, and the Bible uses the tree symbolically to represent the grafting in of Gentiles. If anything, the tree is the one thing about Christmas that is totally biblical!
I hope we can all agree that when we do something, whatever it is, to honor God and/or honor the Messiah (not worship Messiah, but honor him), and what we do is NOT in direct violation of a given commandment, God will consider our reasons and our desires, and look to our heart to see if we are genuinely desiring to please him.
If we can agree to that, then the celebration of Christmas could be acceptable to God, if he looks at it on an individual, case-by-case basis. That means the question of celebrating Christmas being right or wrong is between God and the person celebrating.
And, being God, even with the millions who celebrate this holiday, he can know each and every person’s heart and reason for celebrating.
Thank you for being here. I welcome comments and hope you will subscribe and share this ministry with others.
Until the next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!