Is Christmas a Pagan Holiday? by R.C. Sproul | Ligonier Ministries Blog. While R. C. Sproul makes some valid points, I strongly object to his statement “I can’t think of anything more pleasing to Christ than the church celebrating his birthday every year.”
What is most pleasing to Christ is obeying Him and becoming like Him.
I was going to write my own article about whether Christians should celebrate Christmas, but I’ll let my comments here be the substitute for that.
I don’t celebrate holidays (holidays being a corruption of the phrase holy days). I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with celebrating them, I just choose not to. Like those Paul wrote about in Romans 14:5-6 (ESV) (“One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God”), I “[esteem] all days alike.” I will never tell any brother or sister in Christ that it’s wrong to celebrate holidays, but if asked why I don’t, I’ll simply reply that I don’t place value on special days, that I “[esteem] all days alike.”
The Puritans who settled New England prior to America becoming a nation didn’t celebrate Christmas. A common saying among them was “They for whom all days are holy can have no holiday.” The Puritan preacher Cotton Mather expressed his objection to Christmas this way: “the feast of Christ’s nativity is spent in reveling, dicing, carding, masking, and in all licentious liberty…by mad mirth, by long eating, by hard drinking, by lewd gaming, by rude reveling!” Worth reading: http://theweek.com/article/index/222676/when-americans-banned-christmas
So, the Puritan objection to Christmas seemed to be two-fold. First, in what I think is contrary to Romans 14:5-6, they seemed to believe that it was wrong for any Christian to celebrate any holiday because, for Christians, every day was to be treated as holy. The Apostle Paul, in the aforementioned passage, seemed to suggest that this was a matter of Christian liberty – though he did write elsewhere that whatever we do we were to do it for the glory of God (see, for example, 1 Corinthians 10:31 and Colossians 3:17).
Second, the Puritans seemed to object to how Christmas was celebrated. Again, in the words of Cotton Mather, “the feast of Christ’s nativity is spent in reveling, dicing, carding, masking, and in all licentious liberty…by mad mirth, by long eating, by hard drinking, by lewd gaming, by rude reveling!” Especially in America, Christmas is often celebrated with unbridled greed and consumerism, with pagan symbols such as decorated Christmas trees and other evergreens, and with a graven image of the Christ child in manger scenes. Do you see the parallel here?
Here in Kazakhstan, where I live and work in the country’s capital and attend a local church that has been lighting Advent candles each Sunday this month, they don’t celebrate Christmas, they celebrate New Year’s. Yes, you’ll see Christmas trees and Santa Claus, but everything is focused on the coming New Year.
The school where I teach will likely have a holiday party for our teens and younger students. Because I have been told (on several occasions by various people in and outside of school) I look like Santa, I will probably dress in a Santa costume for the party (or, at the very least, I might wear one in class on December 25th, which is not a holiday here). Let me offer a brief anecdote.
Over a month ago, I was in Artem (pronounced similar to Artiom), a local bazaar. I was there getting a tear in my coat pocket repaired, getting a haircut and otherwise running errands. A boy around five or six years old was looking at me with awe and wonder. It’s as if he was thinking (in Russian, not English) “Wow! It’s him! He’s here!” I saw him with his mother in a restaurant and she explained (in very broken English) that her son thought I was Santa Claus. Since then, a few other children – and even a taxi driver – thought I looked like Santa.
So, I’m going to go with the resemblance and have some fun with my students. It’ll give me an opening to tell them about the real reason for Christmas, the birth of Christ. Perhaps I’ll even tell the story about the real Saint Nicholas and use that as an opening to tell them about the gift God gave us in the form of a baby born in a stable, a baby who would grow up to give His life for His people.
Should Christians celebrate Christmas? I might personally want to see Christmas disappear as a federal holiday in America (on constitutional grounds), but I must defer to the Apostle Paul in Romans 14:5-6 (ESV): “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God”