It’s almost Christmas, which means it’s time for the question that keeps thousands of Nativities lighted each year and as many cookies and cups of milk by the fire.
“Is Christmas pagan?”
Halloween has received a steady siege from Christians over its dubious origins for quite some time. For years I’ve responded to claims that Halloween is evil because of its pagan roots with, “Hey, the Christmas tree was once used to celebrate the Queen of Winter Solstice and no one cares. Why should we be upset about Elsa from Frozen knocking on our door with a twinkle in her eye on October 31st?”
It was a solid argument. Frozen solid.
Buoyed by the shifting foundation that I knew no one would touch Christmas.
And well, some good ole’ Christians had to go and ruin it for me. Melted it right through the heart with their act of true
love uncharitableness by calling out Christmas as the red-headed step-holiday it was seventeen hundred years ago. And it still smarts a little. Yep, a slew of skeptics have leveled their aim at Christianity’s revered holly day. And no, bunny and egg basket, you’re not safe either.
But at the root of this issue is a misunderstanding of how we should deal with our Christian faith. What exactly does it mean to be set apart, to be made holy? Does it mean distancing ourselves from traditions and cultures in which we find ourselves? Is it merely a matter of personal holiness? Or will the day come when our witness is corrupted not by a car owned by the opposite sex parked outside our house past midnight, but by a Christmas tree darkening, or rather, enlightening our front stoop?
Gosh, I hope not.
Because the religion of Christianity is based on a thing called Grace.
Grace is a Christmas tree that once honored a pagan Queen with a wreath being reclaimed for a family gathering to revere Christ with a family Bible.
Grace is a pumpkin whose crooked smile may have once been used in a pathetic attempt to scare off demons (it didn’t) being redefined as a symbol of welcome to a neighborhood kid into relationship with a family in which he will meet the Savior.
Grace is a wooden implement of humiliating destruction becoming the symbol for hope of the world, on which a God would be hung.
Grace is darkness flooded — invaded — with the light and life of the world.
Uncomprehended by it. It doesn’t fit in this world, and yet it’s the answer to every question in it.
Grace is never safe, never comfortable, quiet, or ashamed. Fit for souls of church ladies, but strangely inappropriate for their gasps. It is bold and reckless — a rugged cross — as reckless as a Father sending his Son into the hands of a race already fallen and hopeless to receive him.
Grace is a fully corrupt event that originated in sin — original sin — YOU, at your birth, becoming made new in Christ through new birth in his Spirit. Still the same. But with new meaning.
Grace is all about taking what the world and the devil call crap, refuse, and saying “This is God’s now,” and making it holy.
Raising it in the presence of sinners and blessing God the Father with it. To bring glory to his Name.
Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10.31)
Grace was never about perfect origins, but perfect redemption.
If you claim we shouldn’t celebrate Christmas, Easter, or Halloween because they originated in evil I want you to consider that we sure as heck shouldn’t celebrate you, because you did too. Much more evil. Holidays of that sort only came about from you’s like you.
And though you were created in God but fell into sin, that was true of every day, too. Day one to seven of that first week originated in God, if I recall correctly, and now we’re going to say one or two are permanently Satan’s?
Not in my God’s religion, thank you.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. (Romans 8.22)
Taking back what was originally God’s (everything in creation) is not only part of Christianity, it is the essential message of salvation. I’ll take that over what a friend said about Halloween — and I’ll probably soon hear about Christmas — that “it’s the devil’s day.”
Well, maybe if you want to play theology ’round the church playground that way, pointing fingers at everything with dubious origin. Just remember you were one.
My God’s got all the days.
However, in truth, the Bible gives you license to think this way about Christmas if you want.
One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. (Romans 14.5)
It’s okay to decide whatever you want about Christmas, as long as you believe it wholeheartedly. There really is no difference between celebrating days, eating meat, or anything beyond the heart, otherwise Paul would’ve taken a stance on it, but what matters is your faith remaining secure in your convictions.
So if that means no manger, no Magi, then that’s the way it’s gotta be. It might be a little less fun for your family if you don’t celebrate something on December 25th (All Savior’s Day?) — and I can’t think of anything better than Grace entering the world — but I understand if you have to pass.
Just don’t forget that this Grace, the one dispensed on an implement of torture with its origin in shame that became the glory of the heavens, is not one of rules, forbidden food, drink, commandments, Law, or man-imposed morality, but faith expressing itself through love. (Galations 5.6)
So whether you eat or drink (or celebrate like Ebenezer Scrooge giddy on a Christmas morning) or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
Because we have a Christianity not of beginnings but of endings, a faith story not of origins but of redemption.
And wild Grace. Beyond that, nothing much matters.