One of the things I have noticed about the holiday seasons is that they increasingly have become a source of debate. Last year in this journal we had an article about how much more I like Thanksgiving than I do Christmas. My point was that Thanksgiving is very compatible with God's teachings that we be thankful and appreciate the blessings we have, but that Christmas has become a political football with everyone from the ACLU to various denominations pushing their own political agenda. Another reason I prefer Thanksgiving is because of the freedom from commercialism that Thanksgiving has compared to the increasingly secular nature of Christmas.

We got several negative letters and e-mails from readers who felt that it was sacrilegious to not extoll Christmas, and that somehow what we said was denigrating to Christ. It is my opinion that Christmas is a secular holiday, established by man and not ordained by God. There is no biblical command or example that shows that we should celebrate any particular day as the birthday of Jesus Christ, and there is no question that December 25 is almost surely not the day that Jesus was born.

By the same token, the Bible makes it clear that any celebration we wish to engage in that honors God and gives thanks to God is acceptable to God and should not divide us. In Romans 14:5-10 there is a discussion of this concept:

One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone ... . You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother?

This passage was written in spite of the fact the Judaizing teachers were doing great damage in the Church. Paul goes on in this passage and talks about not putting a stumbling block in one another's way and that things like this are not what the Kingdom of God is about (verse 17). "Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification" (verse 19).

Let us not engage in meaningless debate about the seasons. Thanksgiving is a time of giving thanks for all we have been blessed with. Join in being thankful, however you wish to express it. Christmas is a time of giving and enjoying a variety of traditions. The following story by an unknown author was on the web this past year and demonstrates how much fun the season can and should be.

My husband and I had been happily (most of the time) married for five years but hadn't been blessed with a baby. I decided to do some serious praying and promised God that if He would give us a child, I would be a perfect mother, love it with all my heart and raise it with His word as my guide. God answered my prayers and blessed us with a son. The next year God blessed us with another son. The following year, He blessed us with yet another son. The year after that we were blessed with a daughter. My husband thought we'd been blessed right into poverty. We now had four children, and the oldest was only four years old. I learned never to ask God for anything unless I meant it. As a minister once told me, "If you pray for rain, make sure you carry an umbrella."

I began reading a few verses of the Bible to the children each day as they lay in their cribs. I was off to a good start. God had entrusted me with four children and I didn't want to disappoint Him. I tried to be patient the day the children smashed two dozen eggs on the kitchen floor searching for baby chicks. I tried to be understanding when they started a hotel for homeless frogs in the spare bedroom, although it took me nearly two hours to catch all twenty-three frogs. When my daughter poured ketchup all over herself and rolled up in a blanket to see how it felt to be a hot dog, I tried to see the humor rather than the mess. In spite of changing over 25,000 diapers, never eating a hot meal and never sleeping for more than thirty minutes at a time, I still thank God daily for my children.

While I couldn't keep my promise to be a perfect mother--I didn't even come close--I did keep my promise to raise them in the Word of God. I knew I was missing the mark just a little when I told my daughter we were going to church to worship God, and she wanted to bring a bar of soap along to "wash up" Jesus, too. Something was lost in the translation when I explained that God gave us everlasting life, and my son thought it was generous of God to give us his "last wife."

My proudest moment came during the children's Christmas pageant. My daughter was playing Mary, two of my sons were shepherds and my youngest son was a wise man. This was their moment to shine.

My five-year-old shepherd had practiced his line, "We found the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes." But he was nervous and said, "The baby was wrapped in wrinkled clothes." My four-year-old `Mary' said, "That's not `wrinkled clothes,' silly. That's dirty, rotten clothes." A wrestling match broke out between Mary and the shepherd and was stopped by an angel, who bent her halo and lost her left wing. I slouched a little lower in my seat when Mary dropped the doll representing Baby Jesus, and it bounced down the aisle crying, "Mama-mama." Mary grabbed the doll, wrapped it back up and held it tightly as the wise men arrived.

My other son stepped forward wearing a bathrobe and a paper crown, knelt at the manger and announced, "We are the three wise men, and we are bringing gifts of cold, common sense, and fur." The audience dissolved into laughter, and the pageant got standing ovation. "I've never enjoyed a Christmas program as much as this one," laughed the pageant director, wiping tears from his eyes. "For the rest of my life, I'll never hear the Christmas story without thinking of cold, common sense, and fur."

"My children are my pride and my joy and my greatest blessing," I said as I dug through my purse for an aspirin.

Is a story like this one offensive to you? If so, I apologize but I would ask you to think about Romans 14. The Christmas pageant is not an attempt to offend God. We are not told to hold special events of this kind, but having fun with the season in a loving and respectful way is not an attempt to denigrate Christ. The cover of our journal shows a commercial presentation of Santa. We do not seem to be offended when a bookstore sells materials promoting Christian values, but some get upset when Santa is presented as the cover picture shows. My brother used to dress up as Santa and bring presents to his three children. One of my favorite memories is when he put an active Airedale puppy in his bag for the twenty foot journey into the room where the kids were waiting for Santa and the wired dog went crazy jumping around on top of every one and every thing and creating total chaos.

It is important that we teach our children the difference between fantasy and reality. We need to distinguish between the fun things of the holiday season and those things which have religious significance or irreligious significance. Let us distinguish between Scrooge and what Christians should be every day of their lives--not just the holiday season. Let us be able to laugh and love and care about others and not sit glumly in the corner and pout because the holiday is not consistent with our belief system. We should be bedfellows with those in the world who see good in the Christian system and wish to celebrate that goodness, not bedfellows with the ACLU who see everything as something to complain about or who look for a lawsuit they can find behind every bush (or Christmas tree).

--John N. Clayton

Back to Contents Does God Exist?, NovDec07.