Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Deconstructing Christmas?

We recently received an email from a reader (or visitor perhaps) warning us about the "dangers" that are associated with Christmas. Here is an excerpt from that email:

I would just like to warn you in the Holy Ghost that this so-called Christmas season is not of God. In fact it is an abomination unto Him and as a child of the Most High God I must warn you of this . . If it were really of God the world would have nothing to do with it. They hate Jesus. Jesus was not born on Dec. 25th. He was born around October and not only that but there is no date given in the Holy Word of God . . . There is not one scripture in the Bible admonishing us to celebrate his birth. We are told to celebrate his death, burial and resurrection which we do when we have the Lord's supper. There are lots of good websites which have all the information re this idolatrous false worship . . I admonish you to take heed to God's Word regarding this abomination and flee this idolatry for that is what is.
I would like to publicly applaud this person for being gracious enough to sign her real name to the email. This person should be commended for her willingness to identify herself to me. Too often people claim to have strong convictions, but those convictions apparently aren't worth attaching their names to them, and they hide behind the title of "anonymous." Kudos to this sister for openly standing by her convictions.

I also want to thank this person for simply taking the time to write this email and send it. It is obvious that this person is very passionate about this issue and wants to alert as many people as possible to the reasons why she views Christmas as an abomination. That being said, I am sure she will not object to me sharing a few "warnings" of my own.

Before I do, I want to make it clear that the writer of this email is correct when she states that there is no mention of Christmas in the Bible, and that much of what we know regarding the Christmas holiday is intermingled with pagan practices. Many years ago, I received a pamphlet written by Russell Tardo entitled, "The Shocking Truth about Christmas." You can read that pamphlet here. The argument set forth in this pamphlet were further solidified by my good friend and brother in Christ, Jim Jones of Grants Pass, Oregon. Jim, a former wiccan and Druid Priest-turned-evangelist, went to be with the Lord just last month. This past year, Jim granted my friends three interviews explaining the pagan origins of Halloween, Easter and Christmas. You can to those radio interviews by clicking here.

In any case, my objections to this perspective are as follows:

I am not making an argument for Christmas, rather I am making a stern warning against speaking for God where He has not spoken. If the Bible is silent on the issue of Christmas, we cannot claim to know how He feels about it.1) Speaking for God.
My first concern regarding this email is that statements are twice made to assert the idea that God views Christmas as an abomination: "In fact it is an abomination to Him," and then later, "I admonish you to take heed to God's Word regarding this abomination." This email makes it clear that there is no mention of Christmas or the date of Christ's birth in the Bible. This is true! However, if God makes no mention of it in the Bible, then how does one know that He views it as an abomination? Please note, I am not making an argument for Christmas, rather I am making a stern warning against speaking for God where He has not spoken. If the Bible is silent on the issue of Christmas, we cannot claim to know how He feels about it.

Some may respond that this is a deconstructive argument. In other words, I am totally destroying the original intent of the text by questioning its subtext (that which is not openly stated, but implied). A popular deconstructive argument that we've all made in childhood is this:

A: Mom didn't say you could do that!
B: Yeah, but she didn't say I couldn't, either.

Clearly, B has deconstructed A's position by tossing out that which Mom has implied, simply because Mom technically didn't say so. In like fashion, we have the following situation:

Email: The Bible doesn't say we should celebrate Christmas.
Jennifer: The Bible doesn't say we shouldn't, either.

Normally, we could stop here and say that my argument is a deconstructive one. But in order for this to be considered deconstruction, I'd have to be intentionally undermining what Scripture implies. In this case, I am not destroying what scripture implies, because the forbidding of Christmas is not what scripture implies. In fact, I can go a step further and demonstrate that the Bible literally says the opposite:
One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. (Romans 14:5-6)

So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ . . .Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? (Colossians 2:16-17, 20-22)

If God has convicted you of some sin involving the celebration or observance of Christmas, then praise God and obey what He has said. However, if a sister in Christ has not had the same conviction, you are not to impose those regulations meant for you upon someone else:
I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. . . .Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin. (Romans 14:14, 19-23)

Just as the writer of the email felt compelled to "admonish" us regarding this "abomination," I feel just as compelled to share this perspective, because this is what the Bible actually says. It warns us against enforcing regulations upon one another which God did not intend.

My other objections to the above perspective are not as complex, but still warrant attention:

2) Reference to "World involvement". The writer of the email states that if Christmas was of God, then the world would not be so involved in it. I do not think this is a strong argument when you consider the many ways in which the world opposes Christmas due to its connection with Jesus. For instance, at the workplace we are told to say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas". In many cases, the world views Christmas as highly offensive and has even taken legal action to suppress it. Most recently, a parent tried to sue her child's school over the song Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer because she felt it was too religious. The reason? The song makes reference to "Christmas." While some feel the world participates in Christmas, others would have good reason to say that the world is offended by it.

3) Use of websites as "proof" texts. The email recommends typing "Christmas Idolatry" into a search engine, and then presupposes that the vast number of people who hold to this view are 1) correct; and 2) true believers. First, a consensus of opinion does not prove that something is true. Secondly, a consensus of opinion among men does not reflect the opinion of God. If there are Christians who view Christmas as an abomination, again I say, praise God and let's encourage them to live out their faith by abstaining from that which is offensive to them. But again, an abomination to a group of Christians does not necessarily equal an abomination in the view of God.

The other day I heard that gold-medalist Michael Phelps eats something like 20,000 calories a day. For me, that would be a gluttonous sin. But for Michael, it is not sinful at all. His heart does not condemn him. In fact, he needs to eat that many calories in order to maintain his strength. Celebrating Christmas, or even merely observing it may be a sin for you, as it was for my friend, Jim Jones. As a former wiccan and aspiring Druid priest, Jim could not celebrate any of these festivals upon becoming a Christian. But for the rest of us, Christmas may simply be another expression of worship. Some may find that hard to swallow. Some might say, "But how can you celebrate Christmas when you consider its origins? The origin of a thing may or may not reflect how that thing is perceived in the present. The Swastika was a symbol of goodness for thousands of years. Today, it is offensive to us because it has come to represent evil. As the Bible says, everything is pure unless we personally consider it unclean. (*Please note: I am not taking a postmodern position by making this statement. I strongly believe in moral absolutes. I just believe, based on Romans 14 and Colossians 2, that celebrating Christmas is not one of them.) We should not spend so much time and energy on moons, festivals, and holidays, for these are merely a shadow of things to come.

Again, I am not trying to make a case for or against Christmas. Instead, I am encouraging each to be convinced in her own mind as to what she wants to do about this issue.

Father, I thank You for the woman who had the courage to write to us as strangers and give us what she viewed as a warning from You. I pray You will bless her for her compassion toward us. I also pray You will give her and others the freedom to worship you not from a set of rules and regulations, but from an agreement between You and each sister, based upon Your unique relationship with them. We do not know the day You came, but we are grateful that You came. In like fashion, we do not know the day or hour when You will return, but we wait for You with hopeful expectation. You are our hope, You are our peace, You are our life. May all that we do be done for Your glory. In Christ's name, Amen.

7 comments:

Betsy Markman said...

Thank you for making this very balanced and well-presented case. I consider Christmas a definite "Romans 14 issue." It should never be allowed to be divisive, and I'm glad you had the courage to address what can be a "touchy" issue in such a compassionate and biblical manner.

So, for those who don't mind, Merry Christmas!

Puritan said...

Merry Christmas Jennifer and Geraldine.

Rita Martinez said...

Jen, amen!
this is one issue I struggled with for quite a while, but my thoughts in regards to this are in agreement with what you just posted.
God bless you sis!
and Merry Christmas!

LisaM at ThoseHeadcoverings said...

Well said. The arguments for and against and everything in between are not modern or post modern, but ancient, as you have shown what Paul himself wrote from inspiration. May God bless us everyone, with wisdom, joy and peace, now and always.

Faithful Servant said...

I agree with a majority of what the commentor has posted, and I too agree with what you have responded. The guilt by association fallacy seems to be a favorite amongst Christians and is often pulled out of the hat a little to quickly. Honestly, the American, Worldly celebration of Christmas, is definitely an abomination, the Word clarifies God's stance on this in the commandments, you shall have no other god's before me, bow down not to any graven images (etc., so on and so forth). There is plenty biblical merit that would support what we see the world celebrating Christmas as being idolatry and an abomination.

But, it is also a day in which we reflect on the coming of the Savior to make His way to the cross for our sin. Every day should be equally holy for us Christians, just so happens that this one tends to get more attention.

I would encourage everyone to read this article by Alan Knox, it would do us all well to heed these words!

http://www.alanknox.net/2008/12/jesus-is-reason.html

Puritan Lad said...

Good Article.

Actually, the writer was correct in pointing out that Christmas is not really a Christian Holiday. We Christians really don't celebrate "Christ's Mass" anyway, for that would be gross idolatry (not to mention "cannabalism".) But keeping a traditional holiday where I can honor the Incarnate Savior falls under the category of Liberty of Conscience.

Jennifer said...

Hi James and Scott, Yes, the writer is correct. In addition to what you've noted regarding Liberty of Conscience, there are many practices in our culture that are not Biblical, yet still have historical value to the Christian because of its ability to further prove the existence of Christ without the use of the Bible.

Take, for example, the calendar distinctions of B.C. and A.D. These distinctions are not found in the Bible, but they are additional proof that Jesus Christ was a real, historical figure. These extra-Biblical examples are essential in proving to those who deny the validity of the Scriptures that Jesus was really here. I think a similar argument can be used for the "traditional holiday" that you describe. However, for those like the writer of this email, their conscience does not allow them to partake in any Christmas festivities. As you both indicated, this is just as pleasing to God as those who do see it as another opportunity to give Him glory.

Thanks for your input!