A Fresh Perspective on the Holidays

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Continued study on controversial holidays has long been overdue. As the momentum leading up to Christmas gathers force, I felt it time to get a start. I opened up my browser this morning feeling all the weight of this ponderous subject pressing down upon me. Certainly this study will end up spanning several years! However, as I scanned some articles on the Answers in Genesis website (for starters), I felt a sense of relief. This subject is indeed a solemn one, and it certainly does deserve a thorough study which might take a long time; but, I was reminded of something today which promises freedom from condemnation and gives hope for me as I seek to honor God in this area. Let me explain.

One of the first articles I read this morning was regarding whether the angels sang to announce Jesus’ birth to the shepherds, or simply proclaimed it. What’s true? This, of course, is a peripheral subject, but it demonstrates how long-held traditions may sometimes not be accurate. The AiG article points out:

This example provides a good opportunity to discuss traditions. In and of themselves, traditions are not wrong, but they must be based on and consistent with Scripture. If they contradict Scripture, then they must be rejected.

Now. This is what got me about that simple statement: traditions can be rejected! We are not slaves to what other people want us to do; we have the freedom, in Christ, to read the Bible for ourselves, and to reject whatever does not fit with what the Word of God says. Adversely, if anything is not strictly forbidden, neither are we forced to abstain. Certainly, we must be sensitive to how our actions affect others. But, we are slaves to no one, nor to any holiday.

That is the hope! As I study the holidays, I sincerely want to understand what God’s will is, and what is consistent with Scripture, and what is not; I want to live according to God’s safe and healthy prescription for life. So, if I find that celebrating Christ’s birth on December 25 is morally acceptable, then I can do so, no matter what other Christians think who don’t choose to celebrate it on that date (or at all), and I can feel at peace with that decision. Not only that, but I have the freedom to thoroughly enjoy that season!

On the other hand, if I find that celebrating Christ’s birth on that date is morally unacceptable; or, if I find that some of the customs associated with that holiday are not consistent with Scripture, then no matter what other Christians think who do choose to celebrate that holiday in those ways, I don’t need to feel pressured to do exactly as they do, and I can feel at peace with that decision, and can enjoy the beauty of worshiping Christ in spirit and in truth.

Instead of approaching a study of the holidays with nervous trepidation, wouldn’t it be better to embrace it as another exciting journey in the pursuit of truth? What might we find along the way? What mysteries will be solved? What spots of blindness stripped away? What joyful new discoveries will we make? What unique family traditions invented? What old traditions cherished? There is no need to create a monster out of this! I choose to treat it as an adventure.

I have used the expression, “I” a lot. Please know, however, that whatever choices are made concerning the way we celebrate, or don’t celebrate, the holidays, will of course be a joint decision between my husband and I. In fact, as the head of our home, my husband will be the one to make the ultimate decision. But, since I have a bit more time than he, it seems to work out nicely for me to do most of the research, which I share with him later, and which we discuss peacefully together.

Here’s my plan for continuing to study the holidays (I have already watched some videos about Christmas with my husband, and I have read several articles online, too):

  • Choose one website at a time to browse. I will start first with Answers in Genesis, then move on to Biblical Archaeology. After that, I will look for more sites. Once I’ve done that, I can also search using a slightly different method:
  • Choose one subject at a time to research. I can start with, “The Origin of Christmas Trees,” then move on to, “Why do We Celebrate Christmas on December 25th?” Other great questions to investigate might be:
    • Why do we use boughs of holly, Christmas wreaths, and mistletoe?
    • Why do we eat ham?
    • Where did the tradition of the Yule log come from?
    • Where does the story of Frosty the Snowman come from?
    • Where does the story of Santa Claus come from?
    • Why do we call this holiday “Christ-mas“?

Expect more articles to follow (sporadically). I want to research this topic more thoroughly, and will publish interesting findings as I go. I will also keep adding posts on my “staple” topics: the Blessing of Children, Modesty, and Headcovering.

For now, I’d love to hear what you think about these things: What do you use as a rule to determine how to celebrate the holidays–any guiding principles you apply? What sort of questions have you found answers to, and what sort of questions are you still asking? What family traditions (related specifically to Christmas ) have you and your husband established in your home? What made you decide to start (or continue) those traditions? Do you have any ideas for making the holidays a special time?

Thanks for reading, and for all your helpful comments! I love to read your responses!

~Jessica  

 

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14 thoughts on “A Fresh Perspective on the Holidays

  1. We,my husband and I are both not people who are much into celebrating holydays. We rarely feel christmasy or passionate or easterly or pentecostal ,you name it. Yet we feel that these holydays are part of our culture and we therefore use them to point out the related bible events to our family. We are also pointing out that most of the dates go back to pagan ‘holydays’ and tell them what we know about the symbols that go along with it and have become christianised. Most of them we leave out alltogether.We celebrate very ‘modest’but we want to glorify Jesus and we want that always he is the center not the actual custom. I personally would readyly drop it without missing it. Rejoicing in Christs birth is not connected to December 24/25 in my book. This is an all year round joy for me. 😄

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  2. Hi Jessica

    I agree with what you say, and could easily not celebrate it, but instead I hold it lightly. From a spiritual perspective, I see it as a chance for softer hearts in others, if only for a season.

    A lot of the traditions – trees, Santa – I struggle with, but again, I hold them lightly and give my worries to the Lord. There is much of blessing in this tradition and I don’t now want to take that from those who have no hope in so many other ways. It would be easy to reject it all, as academically not Christian, but I feel that would be ‘hindering the little ones’, both little in age and little in faith.

    Let’s cling to what is good, wherever the Holy Spirit tells us that is.

    Again, such a great topic to encourage each other in!

    In Christ, Jacqueline

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    • Thanks, Jacqueline! Glad that this is a topic that other people are interested in, too!
      One thought I had, is that if we stop celebrating Christmas (at least in the way we are used to), are we hindering the little ones, or are we giving them a chance to see Jesus more clearly? Maybe much of what comes with the holidays is a cause of stumbling for them, because it creates confusion about what is true, and what is not. So, my question is this: is there a way we can separate the true from the false, and help our children to see the difference, and to celebrate just the non-pagan elements? I wonder, is that even possible? What do you think?
      Jessica

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      • Hi Jessica

        I have been pondering what to say on this, and have come to a Tozer devotional saying:

        “Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight.” But Christmas either means more than is popularly supposed or it means nothing. We had better decide.

        Verse
        It is written: ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.’
        Romans 14:11

        Thought
        As we accept or reject the Christ who came, we personally determine the meaning of Christmas. We may see Him as the baby in the manger or the great I AM before whom every knee shall bow. He is our Lord and Savior or just a Christmas symbol.

        Prayer
        Lord, You came as a baby in a lowly manger. But You were and are God. I bow before You.

        I run into all the research that you are doing a while back, and have hung back on Christmas (and Easter) since then; however, the Lord has shown me not to knee-jerk everything away. I do think we could rush in like a bull in a china shop and pull Christmas apart, but I wonder how that may seem to our children, family etc? I wonder if it would be better to refrain from certain elements so far as possible, and either to just see it as a time to remember Christ’s birth and to remind others of it, hopefully; or maybe even, as Tozer says, we could make it mean even more and really get down to bowing before our Lord rather than to tinsel and trappings?

        Perhaps this may have to be just be a heart issue to those who are in certain situations, but I’m sure it can outwork through God’s Spirit wherever we are/with whomever we share our lives with.

        What do you think of the idea of making even more of Christmas with our knees bowed (literally and spiritually?), rather than just casting it off with its pagan cloak?

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      • Thanks, Jacqueline, for responding so thoroughly and kindly to my question!

        I understand what you’re saying. It seems that we have several choices:
        1) Intentionally focus on Christ at Christmas, and refrain from those elements that impede, distract, or mar our worship of Him as Lord. But, keep those element that seem to encourage a proper view of Christ, and aid in our worship of Him.
        2) Throw out Christmas altogether as not consistent with pure worship of Jesus. We can worship Him each and every day just as well as we can on Christmas. There will be other opportunities to celebrate Him at other special times. We can even make up our own new traditions.
        3) Keep on observing this holiday the way most others do, with all the usual traditions, but make it mean what we want it to.

        As far as I’ve observed, those are the three types of responses we could have. I do agree with you–completely–that we shouldn’t just rush in recklessly and tear everything apart in a knee-jerk reaction.

        Actually, my husband and I have been discussing this matter over the past several years. We have watched videos and read some articles in an informal, sporadic sort of discovering. I have been wanting to do a more in-depth, “formal,” study for some time now, though. So, even though this stuff is not completely new to me, I do continue to wonder what the best approach should be to its observance, and that’s why I feel it necessary to do more study, both of the origins of this holiday (and others, too), and of what the Bible may have to say that could form a guiding principle.

        I do certainly share my research with my children, at least with the older ones. I feel it’s important for them to know the truth. I don’t think that their knowing some things about the true origins of this holiday damages their faith in Jesus. In fact, I think it helps it to become more solid. They need to know the answers to these things, because people will try to attack Christianity by tearing apart “our” holidays. They will say things like, “You know that Christmas is pagan, right? How can we ‘keep Christ in Christmas’ if He was never there to begin with?” Or, “You know that Mithra was born on Dec. 25th, and Christians just copied that, right?” Etc. So, I think it’s important for us to have answers to those questions, and to separate fact from fiction, and truth from myth. This may seem like “tearing apart” Christmas. I don’t know. I kind of see it as “purifying” our traditions.

        Your thoughts have been very helpful to me. We currently celebrate Christmas, but in a much more moderate way than we used to (not that we were ever super crazy before, though). We don’t have a tree or many decorations, though we do have a few. The children participated in a Christmas program at a nearby church just a few days ago. We do sing Christmas hymns. We get together with family and exchange presents. We even have a Frosty the Snowman book I sometimes read to my 3-year-old. So, we are currently in the process of defining for our family how we will be celebrating or not celebrating this holiday. I definitely look forward to more research, and more feedback from my online friends!

        Thanks so much!
        Jessica

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  3. In Japan.most churches keep on having Christmas service.I think that the reasons are

    1.reminder of naitivety,to celebrate that Jesus was born for us.
    Off course,this is first reason.when I was a child,Christmas was said ‘birthday of Jesus’.But nowadays Christmas is regarded as the day celebrating birth of Him in churches.Many people know Christmas roots,and that the day when Jesus was born is unknown.
    One male pastor told us that it seemed to be the day of September.

    2.Regarding the day and season as good opportunity
    to spread gospel,invite our non-christian family members and friends to churches.

    Japan is non-christian country which accept Christmas as a seasonal event.So for many churches this is important reason.My first church service attendance was christmas mass at cathoric church.When I was 12years old,one of my classmates invited me.

    3.church tradition

    As you say,some christmas tradition contains pagan elements,or no relation with Jesus.We may need pondering about it.Tradition should be kept-this is a way of thinking of this world.
    If God ask us to be away from some tradition,we should obey.

    4.As a opportunity for giving and sharing,gathering.

    Same as christian countries.One Korean missionary told me how she was blessed by this in her church when she was a little girl.Including me,many christians have this kind of blessed memory,I think.

    I still do not know what our God think about Christmas.May His will be done in this field!
    Attending christmas service of my church,exchanging cards and little gifts with gratitute,sharing something.Sometimes I play christmal carols by my piano and sing them.These are what I do in this season.

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  4. Christmas is hugely important in the U.K. Of course it is mostly a secular and commercial thing but combining with New Year the country largely shuts down for 10 days with lots of social events parties etc.

    We do celebrate Christmas with all the trimmings but we also attend Mass on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and make sure that the children understand that we are celebrating the ‘symbolic’ birth of Christ not just waiting for Father Christmas.

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    • Thanks, Susanne!
      I would imagine that Christmas in the UK must be similar to how it is celebrated here in the US. However, very few places shut down business except for the very day of the 25th. I’ve never been to Christmas Mass (only candlelight services at the churches I’ve attended), and I wonder, what is it like?
      Jessica

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  5. We have a lot of Nativity Plays in schools for younger children etc. Most shops etc open from 27th to 31st but certainly among our friends and family and for most businesses it all stops from midday on the 24th until 2nd.

    A traditional Midnight Mass is very beautiful although I haven’t been for some years as the children are too young at present.

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  6. As my husband and I age, we have come to realize that the Christmas season is a lot like a walk in a wintry forest. The snow drifts seem to symbolize the chaos of the materialisticness around us.

    We choose to take each other’s hand and walk around the snow drifts and follow along with Jesus through the stillness and calmness of that forest.

    To us, an evening at home with my husband reading passages out of the Bible to me, is a wonderful way to celebrate.

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