…and other such holidays.

(Written in the tone of a father holding his two combating sons apart with his bare hands)

Put down your swords, your pitchforks and torches. Silence your outrage and reserve your judgment. Engage both the brain that God gave you, and the Spirit within you, and let’s get some discernment going.

Neither of you are wrong. The apostle Paul, writing by inspiration of the Holy Ghost, told us in his letter to the Roman church:

“Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.

“One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.

“But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” (Romans 14.1–10)

Buried within these three paragraphs (and not very deeply) are clear instructions to people in both camps (the “liberty to do anything I want in Christ” camp, and the “thou shalt not do anything that’s not expressly endorsed by scripture” camp). It distills nicely thus:

  1. To the one that doeth, do it unto God.
  2. To the one that doeth not, unto God refrain thyself.
  3. To the both of you, don’t judge each other about it. If “Unto God”, then your motives are identical, and your actions equally acceptable to God.

So when the antiquated debate arises (and always in the ranks of hardline fundamentalists) about whether or not Christians should observe/celebrate Christmas, the usual incendiary rhetoric gets deployed by both sides.

Against:

“It was a pagan holiday, originally.”
“‘Ye observe times… I am afraid of you.’”
“It’s based on Catholic mythology.”
“The dates are all wrong. Jesus wasn’t born on December 25.”

For:

“I’m in Christ, and therefore have liberty in this matter.”
“It’s our cultural custom and doesn’t hurt anyone.”
“If you forbid it, you’re a legalist.”

Please stop, both of you. The brother who celebrates Christmas celebrates it unto the Lord. He has that “authority” under the liberty which Christ died to give him. The brother who eschews Christmas eschews it unto the Lord. He also has that “authority” under the liberty which Christ died to give him.

The brother who celebrates Christmas is free to do so. It is no sin. He is not worshipping his Christmas tree, succumbing to the greed of materialism, praying to Santa and his elves, or partaking in any pagan or unclean thing, for every day of the year is made by God and every day is therefore good. The pagans don’t own it. It was thoroughly Christianized, if a bit imperfectly by some, more centuries ago than in living memory, and I personally count it a victory to have snatched a day of pagan worship and turned it about to the glory of the one true and living God, Who is blessed forever, Amen. No sin, no foul. However: for love of your brother who abstains from the holiday on the basis of his conscience, remember to love your neighbor. For thy holiday destroy not thy brother for whom Christ died. You have liberty, yes, but you have a responsibility to restrain yourself if and when his conscience is at stake. That’s not hypocrisy. It’s charity.

The brother who abstains from celebrating Christmas is certainly free to abstain, and should not be condemned as a legalist for doing so. It’s a matter of conscience for him, and that’s huge. It’s also something that many modern Believers (who seemed to be more obsessed with their liberty in Christ than with their responsibility in Christ, both to God and their fellow Believers) should be more mindful of. Conscience is crucial. It can mean the difference between committing a sin (by lack of faith in a matter) and committing righteousness (through confidence in the same). That said, abstaining Believer, for love of your brother, you are warned not to judge him for his liberty.

So you see, boys, just from three short paragraphs in Romans, that neither of you is wrong, until you start judging one another or disregarding one another’s conscience. There’s much more to be said on the subject of judgment (“Judge not”, “Judge righteous judgment”) but that is for another time.

Love one another. “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”

God bless you.

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R. A. Snider

Christ in me, my hope of glory. Colossians 1.27. Essays long and short. Mostly short.