Is Christmas just another pagan celebration
A Catholic priest has called for Christians to stop using the word “Christmas”. He claims it has no sacred meaning, but denotes what is essentially a pagan festival.
I think many Christians can understand what he means. Each year the Christmas narrative becomes less and less about the birth of Christ. Adverts, Christmas cards and songs on the radio all focus on the festival itself: the food, the family, the presents – and the remote possibility of snow.
At the same time, ignorance about the key elements of the real story grows. Recognising this, Scripture Union has simplified its version of the Nativity. They now assume children know very little about the birth of Jesus and excludes explicit references to the Bible to “take that barrier away… and make it more of a simple story”. They point to one survey carried out in 2014 showing that one in three children between the age of 10 and 13 do not know that Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus and another, that one in ten children believe 25 December is the birthday of Santa Claus.
Whether we believe ignorance is quite that widespread, or agree with the decision to disconnect the story from the Bible, we can appreciate the desire to make the narrative comprehensible for those with no Scripture knowledge.
All this raises the annual dilemma for Christians: is Christmas a good thing? Shall we fully embrace it as a celebration that is part of our culture which we can use for some gospel profit? Or should we avoid it completely as something almost blasphemous? Perhaps most of us are somewhere in between those two extremes – uncomfortable about some aspects of the way we do Christmas, but still seeking to use it as a special time to give thanks together as families for the birth of Jesus Christ.
If you decide that you are going to celebrate Christmas, I want to encourage you to be godly about it. Don’t make Christmas a time when you abandon normal Christian behaviour as though God is giving you a day off; drunkenness, selfishness and greed – the idolatry of good food, possessions or experience – can spoil your witness and relationships.
Also, be clear in your own mind and explain to your friends and family what is true and what is mythology. Stick with the historical accounts in the Gospels. If you are going to do the Father Christmas thing, do it in a way that your kids know deep down that this is a just a game.
Above all, whether you use the word “Christmas” or not, and whether you celebrate the season or not, take every opportunity to point people to the astounding reality that God was “incomprehensibly made man”, not to give us some public holidays but for the purpose of saving his people from their sins. That is definitely a good reason for a party.