A Season of Opportunity
John Telgren

I hear a lot of religious people give various opinions about Christmas around the holidays. Some choose to completely ignore it, rejecting time off, Christmas bonuses, and any other benefits from the season. There certainly is nothing wrong with this. Some observe it religiously, remembering the birth of Christ. Some observe it as a secular holiday. Some speak out against it because many of the practices have roots in paganism.

However, it should be obvious that one does not affirm pagan beliefs just because a practice had roots in paganism. We have many practices that originated from paganism, but over eons of time no longer have that meaning. Throwing rice, having a bridal procession, and the use of lighting of candles at weddings have roots in paganism. The names of the days of the week and months of the year originally honored pagan deities (January for “Janus “, Thursday for “Thor‘s Day“, etc.) None of this means you honor a pagan deity if you do these.

I heard on Christian radio that Jeremiah 10:3 and Galatians 4:10 are condemnations of Christmas trees and Christmas. However, a look at the context of both of these passages show that Jeremiah is about fashioning an idol, and Galatians is talking about the Judaizers trying to be justified by law instead of grace.

Let’s look at some biblical principles in dealing with this.

The discussion about meat sacrificed to idols in 1 Cor 10:25ff shows that the origin of something in itself does not defile a person. We are instructed “not to ask questions,” about the origin, which may or may not be pagan.

Romans 14:4-6 tells us that it is not a sin for a person to personally observe a special day or season to honor God. We are not to judge him who does, nor are we to judge him who does not. Paul said that if Christ was being taught, it didn’t matter what the circumstances were, whether in pretense or in truth, he would still rejoice (Phil 1:18). He wanted to be all things to all men, like them but not of them, in order to win them to Christ (I Cor 9:19-23).

There is also a parallel example from the life of Christ. The Feast of Dedication (Hanukah), like Christmas, is a man-made holiday with various embellishments. You will not find it anywhere in the Old Testament. God never gave instructions for them to observe this holiday. This holiday commemorates the re-capture and re-dedication of the temple during the Maccabean period of Jewish history. This began nearly 100 years of Jewish independence before the Romans took over. You can read about this in the Apocrypha, which is not a part of the inspired scriptures.

What did Jesus do during the Feast of Dedication (Jn 10:22-24)? He did not speak out against it. He did not boycott it. He did not condemn others for observing it. Instead, he used it as an opportunity to teach. On a day when Messianic expectations would have been at the forefront of their minds, he teaches them concerning the Messiah, the Christ.

Rather than ignoring it silently, or just "going with the flow," keep in mind that it could also be used as an opportunity to become all things to all men. A day when people are thinking about the baby Jesus is an excellent time to tell them about the risen Lord!