It seems with every Christmas season there are questions about what and how Christians should celebrate the Holidays. I think about these kinds of questions often in relation to how we generally respond to culture. Perhaps these are some thoughts that you may find helpful.
It is important I think, not to become overly concerned and throw “the baby (literally in reference to Christmas) with the bathwater.” Most everything in western cultures, indeed in every culture, is influenced in some ways (large and small) by paganism or superstitions that may not be Christian in origin. Consider that our days of the week and months are named after pagan gods and goddesses. Excluding every pagan influence would only confuse ourselves and others and inconvenience our lives to the point of little to no influence, the exact opposite of what God called us to do.
As we approach culture and cultural artifacts we seek to:
1. Receive: As Christians we can comfortably embrace these traditions as reflections and tools of our Christian faith and understanding and as a means of perpetuating the gospel.
2. Reject: There are certain elements of culture that are so opposed to our faith that we must reject them out of hand and not participate. Often this can be a matter personal conscious and liberty and we shouldn’t condemn other Christians that may feel differently about it.
3. Redeem: There are aspects of culture that may be problematic to our faith but we seek to engage in ways that are redemptive utilizing the holidays and traditions to represent the deeper meaning and original intent and serve others throughout.
When I teach about culture I use the analogy of a river that is constantly flowing and we are being swept along by it, the challenge for us as Christians is to discern when we should try to “swim upstream” and or get out of the river and intentionally put things back into the river (philosophy, good works, books, films, music, art) that will influence those down river (future generations.) As Christians we never have the luxury of merely enjoying culture but we must also think about culture and when we can challenge and change culture for the better.
Also as Christians I think is time to put to bed these ridiculous assertions of a “War on Christmas” when none exist. In my estimation has been appropriated as a means of perpetuating a narrative of “us vs. them” or “Christian Nation” vs “Secular Society” which I think is a lot of hubbub over nonexistent threats specifically here in the United States.
Jesus told us that the world would always be our enemy, so seeking a favored status for a particular religion or point of view, especially when our First Amendment guarantees than none should ever exist, which also means there isn’t a real threat to any religious liberties, shouldn’t be a priority. But rather, we should go about being the salt and light as Jesus told us and infiltrating every sphere of society with the gospel instead of seeking institutional power.
As Christians we should enjoy this season and leverage the days for the enjoyment of each other, the perpetuation of the gospel and the glory of God. Merry Christmas!