Recently I was asked an interesting question: “Since I do not celebrate Christmas, am I offended when someone wishes me a “Merry Christmas?”
My initial answer to that question is: No, I am not offended if someone wishes me a Merry Christmas. It is that season of the year and everyone has the liberty in this country to celebrate whatever, whenever. Most people who know me, know I don’t celebrate the holiday and don’t wish me a Merry Christmas. Others, like checkers in the grocery store or Walmart, are just being friendly this time of year and doing their job. The deeper answer to that question is a little more complicated and doesn’t involve the greeting, but how I respond to who is wishing me a “Merry Christmas’?
To my friends or family who have a minimal relationship with God or no relationship and range from atheists to agnostics, I will say, “YOU have a Merry Christmas.” For them Christmas is nothing more than a beautiful, warm cultural celebration and they are free to celebrate it. The lights, the delicious foods, the gatherings of family, the parties, the decorated trees, the snow, the gift buying, wrapping, and giving, and everything else that this time of the year entails. I call these things warm fuzzies. For them it is a happy holiday season and I wish them all a season filled with wonderfully made memories.
If it is a Christian who professes faith in Jesus Christ, I’m a little more contemplative with my response. For people who love the Lord, Christmas is ‘their’ time for celebrating the birth of Christ. It is usually these Christians who are concerned with “Jesus being the Reason for the Season” and putting “Christ back into Christmas.”
Apart from these cute clichés, the activities of most don’t seem to express what happens in their lives for weeks before the Christmas celebration. Seldom, if ever, do I hear Christians talk about Jesus as the central theme to the holiday. Rarely, if ever, does any Christian I know share their ideas about how they are bringing Jesus more profoundly into a celebration literally void of anything resembling him. They have their trite explanations for manmade, non-Biblical traditions, but nothing that actually sets the day apart and where Jesus is the central Reality. Mostly, I hear about all the shopping they have to do or have done, the gifts they are buying for their family and friends, how busy they are trying to ‘get everything done’, all of the programs at church that fill their schedules, how this year’s tree is more beautiful than last, and some Christians will shock even me by saying, “I just hate this time of year.”
These little clichés don’t resemble any Christian-themed party I have ever attended. I went to a Christmas party many years ago at a pastor’s home. The family had napkins, plates, cups, tablecloths, hanging decorations that all said, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.” Yet, no one at that party ever even mentioned Jesus. No one talked about their walk with him. No one even even mentioned God. The conversations centered on secular music concerts, the rat race that has become culturally accepted at Christmas, and the stress of the season.
I celebrated Christmas as a child and into young adulthood. I loved all the warm fuzzies that made this time of the year special. My family went to a Lutheran church and celebrated Jesus’ birth and sang “Silent Night” with candles at midnight. I took part in Christmas cantatas and helped plan Christmas cookie exchange parties. Even my youngest son, because he was an infant, had the part of baby Jesus in a Christmas program. It was all so beautiful and each year brought more precious memories. Still, all thoughts of Jesus were somehow lost by the time Christmas morning arrived with revelations of newly fallen snow and a mountain of gifts under a tree.
Entymology – Word Study
‘Christmas’ comes from two words, Christ and Mass. These are Roman Catholic terms defining a catholic holiday. Protestants, such as Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians and Penecostals will all say that they reject much, if not all, of catholic theology, yet this is where the Christ Mass originated and each denomination embraces the holiday wholeheartedly without a questionable thought.
A deeper look into the word mass is very enlightening. A mass is a re-presentation of the crucifixion and is a memorial to Christ’s death . In other words, the Christ Mass has nothing to do with the birth of Jesus, but focuses on his death. According to Scripture, Christ died once for all; and he does not offer himself over and over for sins as implied through a Catholic mass. Could this be the reason why Christ-mass was outlawed in America during the years of the Pilgrims until more modern times? Could it be the early settlers in America understood the catholic connection or that it was not a Biblical celebration? Could it be that early Christians understood the power of the resurrection and did not want a dead “Christ” always hanging on a crucifix as Jesus is depicted in catholicism?
Again, I am not offended if a Christian wishes me a Merry Christmas, but I do not know how, in good conscience, to respond. Should I be polite and wish them one back? Should I respond with “Happy Holiday to you?” Should I enlighten them to some of the truths I’ve learned? Probably not because I have learned that most, if not all Christians, have no interest in having their minds renewed (Romans12:3). They love the status quo of their religious lives.
It is sad to me that they have no clue what they are saying – Merry Death to Christ! If they do know, then they deny the very holiday they claim to celebrate. How unfortunate it is they do not realize the catholic history they reject as Protestants is the same theology they embrace on Christmas. If they do know, they compromise their own faith. How tragic it is they are ignorant to the idolatrous roots of the holiday and have succumbed to the ancient cultural trappings that keep the ‘other gods’ alive. If they aren’t ignorant, they justify themselves with personal platitudes, not Biblical views. If they know and understand all of these truths and still choose to celebrate, then it’s depressing and heartbreaking.
There is a third group of people to whom I have to respond. These are the Christians who have asked at one time or another why I do not celebrate Christmas. I try to answer politely, but they respond to my answers rudely with a condescending attitude and comments like “You have fallen from grace!” “You have put yourself back under the law!” or “You are Judaizing!” These comments are very offensive and lack the grace, grace, grace, they preach in my face and shout in my ears. It takes an enormous amount of God’s grace and mercy for me to remain polite:
“You don’t celebrate Christmas?”
No, I don’t. It’s not in the Bible.
“If you don’t celebrate Christmas, what DO you celebrate?
I celebrate Hanukkah. Hanukkah is not a substitute for Christmas because they are very different celebrations. One is about a confused date of birth; the other is about the Jews fighting the Syrians for religious freedom.
“Well I’m not Jewish.”
Jesus was Jewish and I have put my faith in the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua.
“You don’t celebrate the birth of Christ?”
Yes. I just don’t honor his birthday at Christmas. The gospel of Luke explains the timing of events and so I remember Jesus’ birth according to this account.
“I know Christmas isn’t Jesus’ birthday, but that’s when the church has decided to celebrate it.”
What if the church has been deceived? I have never seen anywhere in the Bible that the majority is right.
“I know Christmas isn’t Jesus’ birthday, but it doesn’t matter to God. He knows my heart.”
God is a jealous God and He wants your heart – your whole heart. This is why He gave you a new one so you would not follow after ‘other gods’ and their holidays.
“I understand there are pagan roots, but that’s not how I celebrate it. I focus on Jesus’ birthday.”
There is no record that the Jews, the early Church or even Jesus celebrated Christmas as his birthday in the Bible or historically.
“Yes, but we don’t exactly when he was born so I celebrate it at the time the church has decided to celebrate his birthday.”
It is outlined in the Gospel of Luke, Chapters 1 and 2.
The conversation list could go on indefinitely about Biblical commands (other gods), manmade traditions that nullify God’s word (cutting down trees), and historical background (Saturnalia) that all negate honest dialogue. Christmas with all of its glitter, commerce, sleighs, elves and Santa is not in the Bible.
In the Scriptures, the birth of Jesus is a season of joy blended with tranquility. In Bethlehem, Jewish women and children fill rooms in the overflowing inns because of a census taken near the harvest time. They catch up with family and friends who have gathered for the Feast of Tabernacles near Jerusalem. Somewhere outside the murmuring city, in a sukkah, a young woman moans in labor until the cries of a newborn are muffled as she brings him to her breast to nurse. On a hillside near Bethlehem called the Midgal Eder, there are shepherds quietly watching sheep in the deep hours of the night. These were the shepherds who raised the sheep for the Temple sacrifices in Jerusalem. The serenity is broken only by a message from angelic beings who break into the natural world and speak a message: “In the highest heaven, glory to God! And on earth, peace among people of good will!”
This time of year, like any time of year, is perfect for sharing the message of peace and good will that comes only through Jesus/Yeshua, the Messiah of Israel. Without his birth in Bethlehem, he would have had no childhood in Nazareth, become a Jewish rabbi teaching the Word of God throughout Israel, died on Passover in Jerusalem as the King of the Jews or risen from the dead on Feast of Firstfruits to show us there is life after death. Without his birth, we would not have the hope this world needs today – hope of salvation, hope of peace, hope of fullness of life here and eternally.
If this is what Christmas is all about, then there should be no rat race, no stress, no credit card debt, no mascots, but peace and tranquility as we fellowship with the family of God and make Jesus central to the season apart from paper plates and cups. If this is what the Christmas story truly is then we should see Yeshua being embraced by millions around the world at this time of the year. We should see hope in the world; we should see lives changing. Words like joy, peace, love and hope should bring revelation of divine intervention into a lost and dying world instead of being catch phrases used by humanists who seek world peace without the One who brings peace. Yet, every year the holiday period grows longer and longer, multi-colored light shows at homes and church buildings become brighter and more intricate with sounds and music; evergreen trees become more elaborately adorned. Every year I see less and less of the religious aspect of the holiday not only in the world, but especially among those who embrace Jesus.
Why does ‘the Reason for the Season’ continue to disappear – now behind the limelight of elves sitting on shelves? If “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”, why has Christmas decayed into a cultural celebration rather than a growing spiritual powerhouse holy day? Has Christianity become so culturally religious that it can no longer be a spiritual expression of God’s true salvation? Could all of the manmade traditions be pointless and have no connection with Christ at all? Why are people who claim love Jesus blending the birth of the divine with a cultural holiday mixing the holy with the profane as was the golden calf? Why do Christians vainly cry out for putting Christ back into Christ-mas while they involve themselves in the cultural trappings of Christmas and neglect the ‘reason for the season?” Could God be tiring of the ignorance and trying to reveal the real ‘reason for the season’ in these last days?
I am not offended when I’m wished a ‘Merry Christmas’, but I have had to think seriously and deeply about my response. In light of the understanding that I have been given, I have to keep a clear conscience between myself, God, and men.
Yeshua, my salvation, my Messiah, the King of the Jews was not catholic. He did not celebrate this holiday culturally nor did he institute it Biblically. There is no ‘shadow’ of him as the substance; he’s just not ‘in it’. There are no references in the Scriptures and there are no outlines for its celebration. Consequently, I have concluded that I must respond the same way Yeshua did, individually, to those who did not know him, accept him, understand him, follow him, learn from him, and even to those who overtly reject him:
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other … and over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Messiah rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace…. Let the word of Messiah dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom…. (Colossians 3:12-16).
For those who celebrate Christmas with a cultural focus, ‘May the snow fall, the elves dance, and your stockings be more stuffed than you (with delicious desserts). As you spend your holiday with family – children and grandchildren – and friends, may your gatherings be blessed with new and fun moments that become cherished memories.”
For those who celebrate the Christ-mas as the birth day of Jesus, I am going to quote from an article about Christmas written by Marcello M. Guimaraés a Messianic Jewish Rabbi in Brazil:
“Fique, portanto, no coração de cada um esta mensagem. Ore a D’us, peça para entendê-la bem. Julgue também a palavra. Mas, tenho certeza que grande libertação virá na sua vida e com certeza você se sentirá mais livre das tradições mundanas, não sendo cúmplice e nem comungando com outros “espíritos” os quais não testemunham da verdade, que é o próprio YESHUA ! Seja sábio! Não saia agora por aí condenando tudo e todos. Você nasceu para ser luz onde há trevas.
No Verdadeiro Shalom do Messias, Yeshua HaMashiach. Amém.”
“Stand therefore, each of you in the heart of this message. Pray to God, ask to understand it well. Judge also the word. But I’m sure that great deliverance will come into your life and certainly you will feel freer from worldly traditions, and not be complicit or communing with other “spirits” which do not testify to the truth, which is itself YESHUA! Be wise! Do not go out there now condemning everyone and everything. You were born to be light where there is darkness. In the true Shalom of Messiah, Yeshua HaMashiach. Amen”
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