I love Christmas. I get to spend time with my family, listen to Christmas music, eat good food, and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Why do you celebrate Christmas? As a Christian, have you ever wondered if Christmas is biblical?
Should Christians celebrate Christmas? The Bible doesn’t tell us whether we are to celebrate Christmas or not. Christmas is not found anywhere in the Bible because it came into existence in early Church history. Many of the traditions that surround Christmas are from pagan roots. However, Christians can redeem many of these celebrations by intentionally celebrating Jesus’ birth and the significance of His first coming. Celebrating Christmas is a personal conviction that must be decided between you and the Lord.
In this blog post, we will discover whether or not Christmas is biblical and if Christians should celebrate Christmas.
Is Christmas Biblical?
The word Christmas and setting aside a specific day to celebrate Jesus Christ’s birth is not found anywhere in the Bible. There is no biblical mandate that tells you about whether or not you should celebrate Christmas as a Christian.
However, there are many Christians who do celebrate Christmas. Their reason for celebrating is found in the Bible in Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 1:26-38, 2:1-21.
This story tells of how the angel Gabriel told Mary that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and she would conceive and bear a son and call Him Jesus. The Lord also reveals this message to Joseph, the man Mary was engaged to. They then travel to Bethlehem due to a worldwide census and Mary gives birth in a stable. After this, the Lord sends an angel to tell shepherds herding sheep that the Savior of the world has been born, and a multitude of angels start praising God. The shepherds then go see Jesus lying in a manger and afterward tell everyone around them about this great news.
Another part of the story is of men traveling from the East coming with precious gifts to give Jesus two years after He was born. This is found in Matthew 2:1-12.
This is the story that Christians celebrate during the season of Christmas because they recognize the incredible truths that are in this special birth.
While Christmas is not in the Bible, we see different characters in the events of Christ’s birth praising God and celebrating the birth of the newborn King:
- An angel of the Lord appears before shepherds at night and announces Jesus’s birth to them
- A multitude of angels appear in the sky after the angel’s announcement praising God and giving Him glory
- The shepherds leave their sheep to go to see Jesus lying in a manger, and afterward, they run to tell people that the Messiah had been born
- The shepherds glorified God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them by the angel of the Lord
- Two years later, wise men from the East come with gifts to celebrate the birth of the King of Kings
While this is not “Christmas” as we know it, the Bible shows us that Christ’s birth was recognized as an important event and that both angels and men celebrated God sending down His one and only Son in the form of a baby. Should it not be true for us as Christians to celebrate the truth that God came to live among us?
When you read through the New Testament, you do not see any of the apostles or early church leaders in the Bible celebrating Christ’s birth. Instead, you see them celebrating the Lord’s Supper and Jesus’s death and resurrection. This is because historically and culturally, celebrating deaths was much more common than births.
Although Christmas is not mentioned in the Bible, it is biblical to celebrate the first coming of Christ and His birth. When the shepherds found out about the birth of Jesus, they worshipped God and then told everyone around them that the Savior of the world had come.
We are to do the same.
Many of the traditions that surround Christmas are indeed from pagan backgrounds, however, many of the Christmas traditions that Christians have used have been redeemed through celebrating the significance of Christ’s birth.
As Christians, we are to be mindful of how much we participate in the Christmas season yet that does not mean that Christmas cannot be celebrated.
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
As Paul wrote in Romans 14:5, it is the personal conviction of one person to make a day more special while another person believes that all days are special. This implies that celebrating Christmas is a personal preference.
The History of Christmas
If Christmas is not found in the Bible, there where did it come from?
In the Roman days, people used to celebrate the winter solstice with a feast and lots of wine. This festival celebrated the resurgence of the sun after the long days of winter. The holiday also symbolized birth and light.
Later, Christians related the birth of Christ, the Son of God, to be celebrated during this time. Churches now hold candlelight services to help followers of Jesus to remember that He is the Light who came into a dark world.
In Rome, the Romans also had a festival called Saturnalia during December, which celebrated the Roman god Saturn, who was their god of agriculture. During this time, businesses and schools would close and Roman society would be turned upside down as those in lower societal positions got to be honored and treated with respect and kindness by the rich.
During Saturnalia, families, friends, and neighbors would give gifts to one another and their gods. The rich would also give generously to the poor and do kind deeds to undo all of their bad deeds throughout the year. It was supposedly called “the best of times” by a Roman poet, which Charles Dickens later used in his story called “The Christmas Carol” to describe Christmas and introduce Santa Clause as a jolly character.
The Romans also celebrated another festival in the winter months which fell on December 25th called Juvenalia. This festival celebrated the Persian god Mithra, the god of the sun, who used to be a Hindu god. It was considered to be the most sacred day of the year by the Romans. Many Hellenistic Jews and Christians would also participate in the Roman holidays and traditions.
Christmas was not a known holiday until the third century when Pope Julius I picked December 25th as the annual date to celebrate Christ’s birth on the Georgian calendar. Supposedly, having Jesus’ birthday on December 25th would allow Christians to still participate in the Roman festivals celebrating Saturnalia and Mithra and help convince the Romans to accept Christianity.
While the Bible does not tell us exactly when Jesus was born, we do know that it could not have been in the winter months because the shepherds were out in the fields watching over their sheep. December 25th has, however, become the widely accepted date of celebrating Jesus’s birthday.
After the Roman period, European people started burning yule logs in the fire during the winter months to keep their families warm. Yule logs burn three times longer than regular logs and thus were very inexpensive for low-income households. This became a tradition that lasted for about 12 days of the year, between December 21st and January 1st. Later, this tradition was introduced into Christmas where families would burn a small yule log on Christmas Eve.
People also believed that burning the yule logs cleansed the air and that the ashes could guard against evil spirits. Today, although no one today in America keeps these scented items in their house to keep away evil spirits, retail stores all over America sell scented pinecones, holly, and ivy garlands to help people get into the Christmas spirit.
By the end of the sixth century, the holiday and its traditions had spread to England. However, when the Puritan pilgrims came to New England, they made Christmas illegal because many of the traditions were from Roman and Celtic cultures which honored other gods. It was not until 1870 that Christmas was declared a federal holiday in the United States and many people started to associate it with Christ’s birth.
How Christmas is Viewed Today
Since Christmas was made a national holiday, it has become one of the most important and biggest days of the year for Christians, specifically American Christians, all around the world.
Interestingly, Christmas is considered by people in other cultures as a Christian holiday. In India and Nepal, Hindus have a festival called Tihar or Deepawali which is called the Festival of lights. Celebrating this festival is part of being a Hindu. Christians will not celebrate Hindu festivals because of the meaning behind the practices. Likewise, Hindus will also do not celebrate Christmas because it is for the Christian God and part of being a Christian.
In many other cultures, to be Christian is to celebrate Christmas. However, today, the message of the gospel that is meant to be presented at Christmas time in many countries including America has been traded for presents, stockings, and Santa Clause resulting in consumerism, materialism, individualism, and nationalism.
You should be careful that you do not borrow from other cultures to change the gospel message or encourage new believers in other countries to follow our Christmas traditions because it is part of being a Christian. You must also be careful that you do not lose the gospel message while presenting Christ to others in both your own culture and the cultures you are living and serving in around the world because our culture today has created many traditions to fit into the context of what we want to celebrate.
If you were to ask a person what they think Christmas is about, their response may include delicious food, family get-togethers, snow, Christmas trees, presents, and Christmas carols instead of Jesus coming to earth in human flesh to live among His creation, die on the cross for their sins, and rise again so that they could live in a right relationship with God the Father through Him forever and forever.
Sadly, only 57% of Americans believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, laid in a manger, visited by wise men who brought Him gifts and were led by a star and that angels announced His birth to shepherds.
Many Americans may not realize this, but during the Christmas season, they also tend to buy more, give more, volunteer more, and do actions of kindness for people that they normally never would. This is very similar to the mindset and practices of the Romans, who would give generously and exalt the poor.
Although we as Christians are to give generously to people and share what we have (Deuteronomy 15:10-12), we cannot earn the right favor with God or undo our actions for the whole year by doing kind actions towards others. Adopting this mindset as a Christian can be dangerous, as we can start believing that doing good works will earn us favor with God so that we may receive salvation and get into heaven.
However, the true message of the gospel is that we are saved not through our works but by the finished work of Christ on the cross and His grace (Eph. 2:8-9).
In sharing all of this with you, I want to emphasize that celebrating Christmas is not bad. As a Christian, you are free in Christ to celebrate Christmas or not celebrate it if you want to. But, you do need to make sure that celebrating Christmas is not the pinnacle of your faith.
Concerns with Celebrating Christmas
After reading about the history of Christmas and how it is celebrated today, you may wonder, is it okay as a Christian to participate in celebrating Christmas?
There are valid reasons for being concerned about celebrating Christmas in the way that the world does.
Participating in Pagan Traditions
Some Christians are concerned with taking part in traditions that have pagan roots.
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.Colossians 2:8 ESV
Indeed, a lot of the ways we celebrate Christmas are not from the bible, but as Christians who have been set free to follow Christ, we can find creative ways to celebrate what God has done for us by setting up reminders in our homes and our hearts.
As a Christian, you should be careful not to celebrate tradition rather than Jesus Christ. We are not to be part of the world, but rather to be a light in the world for Christ. You are to fix your eyes on the things above and not on the things of this world.
Some Christians can get too caught up in celebrating Christmas traditions, buying presents, and planning vacations that they forget to celebrate the miracle of Christ’s birth. As a Christian, you are a witness for Christ, and thus your actions and behaviors should reflect the desire for Christ to be known in this season.
Participating in Commercialization
As a Christian, you should be careful not to get caught up in consumerism and materialism.
Christmas has become majorly commercialized in America and parts of Europe. The significance of the birth of Christ has become lost as people celebrate the season rather than celebrate the coming of Christ into the world.
Satan has distorted our world and of course does not want us to celebrate the first coming of Christ. However, even though there is no command to celebrate Christ’s birth, we can still thank God for the gift of His Son for us.
If you are giving presents out during Christmas time, it should be a representation of the gift God gave us. Thus, buying gifts for someone you love because you want to show them how much you appreciate them for who they are is not wrong. Instead, you are to have the mindset that giving gifts represents the love that God the Father has for you and the reminder that He sent His one and only Son down to earth to live and die so that you may receive the free gift of salvation.
Christmas Trees and Idolatry
Another concern is that Christmas trees are not biblical. People take the passage in Jeremiah 10:1-16 where the prophet writes about not cutting down a tree and then carving it into an idol, decorating it with silver and gold, and bowing down to worship before it. Isaiah 44:9-18 also speaks on this same issue.
People may take delight in looking at Christmas trees, but Christians do not bow down to their Christmas trees to worship them. We worship only Jesus. Putting up a Christmas tree in your home and placing ornaments on it and putting presents under the tree is not idolatry. This is not what your life centers around. This passage is not a logical argument against Christmas trees. We must be careful not to take a passage out of context from the bible.
Not a Biblical Festival
Another concern some Christians have is that in the Old Testament, God gave very specific commands for how to celebrate festivals and not take part in other cultures. In the Old Testament, God did indeed command them to keep certain festivals and to abstain from other cultural worship.
However, the festivals that God commanded the Israelites to keep no longer need to be kept because they were a shadow of the coming of Jesus Christ. If we continued keeping those festivals in awaiting the first coming of the Messiah, then we have missed it. Now we get to celebrate the coming of Christ by remembering His birth, death, and resurrection.
Some Christians also quote Colossians 2:16-17 to prove that as Christians, we should not celebrate a festival that is not biblical.
So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.Colossians 2:16-17 NKJV
However, this passage of scripture does not command believers from celebrating the birth of Christ if it is done in a way that honors God. Celebrating Christmas is not a duty that you have to do as a Christian, but is a time where you get to celebrate the first coming of Christ with joy and hope, looking forward to His second coming when we shall all be with Him forever.
Jesus Was Not Born on December 25th
Another concern is that Christ was probably not born in December. Thus, why should we celebrate His birth on December 25th?
The answer is that it’s important to set aside a day to intentionally and purposely focus on celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas can be a day where you remember to honor the birth of Christ and praise God for sending His one and only Son down to earth in the form of a baby.
Reasons Why Christians Can Celebrate Christmas
As Christians, we are no longer under the law of sin and death and thus are free to live in Christ. We can celebrate Christmas with our eyes on Jesus and our gaze on eternal things rather than the material things of this world.
These are some reasons that Christians can celebrate Christmas.
Remembering God’s Promise
Since the very beginning, when sin entered the world and man was separated from God, God has promised to save and redeem those who trust in Him. This has been His promise over and over again until Jesus was born in Bethlehem. His promise was fulfilled when Jesus died on the cross and rose again.
And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”Genesis 3:15 NKJV
This is something that we as Christians can celebrate! Without the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we would be lost to sin and death forever. But, because Jesus came, lived, died, rose again, and ascended back to His Father, we who put our trust in Him will be saved and can lived forever with Him!
The Miracle of the Virgin Birth
During Christmas, we can remember the miracle of the virgin birth (Luke 1:26-38). Jesus Christ is God incarnate, both fully God and fully man at the same time. Through the Holy Spirit, a young virgin girl named Mary conceived and had a son, who is the Son of God.
By coming to earth, He left His glory, throne, and home behind so that one day we could be reconciled with the Father. Through His death, resurrection, and ascension, we now are restored to a perfect relationship with God the Father.
This is incredible news! This was a miraculous move of God that was promised generations beforehand but has now happened. This is a cause for great celebration! This is one of the reasons why we as Christians can celebrate Christmas.
Jesus is Lord of lords, King of kings, and Savior of the World
During Christmas, we can also celebrate Jesus as our Lord of lords and King of kings. His first coming was the promise that God has given to generations before us, and He was born to reign and rule over this world and our hearts.
Not only is Jesus Lord of lords and King of kings, but He is the Savior of the world. Jesus’s name means Savior. At Christmas, we get to celebrate this great truth, that Jesus came to save us from our sins so that we can live forever with Him and escape sin’s penalty, which is death.
Jesus is the Light of the World
As Christians, we can also celebrate during Christmas that Jesus is the Light of the world. In His is no darkness at all, and in Him is the light of life (1 John 1:5-2:2). When we light candles or plug in stringed lights during Christmas time, we can remember that Christ is the light that pierces that darkness.
How You Can Celebrate Christmas
I love celebrating Christmas with my family. Every Christmas, we have always made it a priority to read the story of Christ’s birth before we open any presents or stockings. This tradition has helped us focus our hearts and minds on Jesus and remind us of the reason why we celebrate Christmas.
Here are some ways that you can celebrate Christmas as a Christian in a God-honoring way:
- Thank God for the gift of His Son!
- Praise and worship Jesus for who He is
- Glorify God by celebrating Christmas traditions that are focused on Jesus Christ
- Read the story of Jesus’s birth by yourself or with your family before you start the day
- Share the story of Jesus’ birth with a non-believer. Remember that God has not given you a spirit of fear. Do not be afraid to share your faith with the people around you during Christmas time. People are more open to hearing the gospel during this season.
- Find opportunities to serve your community nearby. This could be volunteering at a camp, with a homeless ministry, helping with an event, or serving at your church.
- Give your time and/or money. God’s greatest gift that He has given to us is His Son, who purchased the free gift of salvation through His death and resurrection. Give back what God has provided for you out of thanksgiving for what He has done for you.
- Instead of saying “Happy Holidays”, say “Merry Christmas”, which recognizes that on this one day of the year we focus our hearts and minds on the person of Jesus Christ.
Finally, celebrating Christmas is a personal conviction. You get to choose whether or not you want to celebrate Christmas. Remember that although Christmas is not in the Bible, there are still countless reasons to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and His first coming into this world!
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.John 3:16-17 NKJV