Every year around this time many people celebrate Christmas in different ways. Whether we follow Christ or not, we can see decorations up everywhere, letters for Santa, retail sales, popular phrases like “Happy Holidays,” or maybe even an elf on the shelf. How did we even arrive to these type of celebrations for Christmas and what does it mean for believers? Should Christians celebrate Christmas?
A Little History Of Christmas
Most of us consider the Christmas season a time to think about Santa or maybe something about the birth of Christ. Back in the day, December 25th actually used to be a pagan festival commemorating the birthday of a false god. The Church decided to setup a rival celebration to counteract this festival, which gives us our date.
The reason we even have a Christmas tree to begin with is because of two Christian traditions that eventually merged together over time. The first was a paradise tree that was hung with apples as a reminder of the tree of life in the garden of Eden. The second was a triangular shelf holding figurines decorated by a star. These two traditions merged in the 16th century giving us our Christmas tree today. What’s amazing about this is that you can share the Gospel with others while talking about a Christmas tree because you can discuss Adam and Eve along with sin (from the paradise tree) and what Christ has done for us (from the star).
What To Do With Santa Or Elves
While we talk about the fairy tale of Santa Claus, most people don’t realize there is a real person involved here. Not so much of someone with flying reindeer or someone who delivers presents all over the world, but more of someone named Saint Nicholas who gave gifts for needy children and supported the teaching that Jesus is God.
What an opportunity to teach our children and others about who Saint Nick really was. Not only that, but leading the conversation into how when Christ impacts us, He leads us to love and serve others including how we can give gifts to people.
What we plan to do with our children (and maybe you already do this) is teach them what Christmas is really about and share who Saint Nicholas was and what he did. On top of that, to let them know many people celebrate Christmas in many ways and not to make fun of the way they do it or correct them, but to proclaim what they personally believe and how their family celebrates it.
Today, there’s elf on the shelf. Tomorrow, it will be something else. I think we can all expect that there will always be new ways to celebrate Christmas and while some can be fun, let’s make sure we don’t forget the real meaning. For believers, I’d encourage you to be on guard against teaching your children (or others) about Christmas being about good works. As we teach about a nice or naughty list, or an elf reporting good or bad things back to the north pole, we might slip into teaching them that salvation is only available to them if they are good enough, when in reality, they (or us) will never be good enough.
What Christmas Is Really About
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” -Luke 2:8-14
Christmas is really about Christ. We celebrate the birth of Jesus. These are the factual stories worth sharing to everyone during this season. This baby really was born. This man really grew up and walked among us. This Jesus was fully man and fully God. He really did live a perfect life without sin. He actually died on the cross paying the penalty for all our past, present, and future sins. And lastly, as a recorded fact from many eyewitnesses, He rose from the grave defeating death and sin in victory!
As you celebrate Christmas this year, celebrate the coming of Christ. As you decorate the tree, be reminded of our sin and God’s love and how He made a way for us through Jesus. If you use an elf or any other way of talking about being good this season, be reminded and teach others that a relationship with Christ has nothing to do with being good, but everything to do with what Christ has done.
Celebrate that God gave us the greatest gift of all…Jesus.
“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” – Matthew 1:21
Here are other Frequently Asked Questions and how the Bible answers them.