Every year at about this time, a bunch of religious zealots get on their high horses telling us how Christmas is a pagan festival and God has a special fire waiting for all those who dare to pollute true faith with these things.
There is, of course, some truth in these claims. Many of the traditions that have become enmeshed into Christmas do stem from different pagan cultures, but that doesn’t mean we have to forsake Christmas altogether. It doesn’t mean that those traditions cannot be redeemed.
The celebration of Christmas itself was a subversion of pagan customs. When people were celebrating the solstice and praying for the return of the sun, Christians were saying the true light of the world has come. When pagans were worshipping evergreen trees as gods because they seemed to be the only life in the depths of winter, Christians were pointing them to the true source of all life, the ever-living Father.
There are some cultural artefacts around Christmas I would like to exterminate, such as the veneration of snowmen which seems odd on a blazing hot summer day, or the character in a fur-trimmed red suit. I would like to see an end to the treadmill of Christmas parties and the drunkenness that our culture says should accompany them.
We overcome those things by showing people a better way, the way of the Kingdom of God, not by railing against practices which people think are good and pleasurable.
To the people who think Christians should withdraw completely from Christmas let me ask you some questions:
- When did it become wrong to celebrate the coming into the world of the Saviour?
- When did it become wrong to honour people by giving them gifts?
- When did it become wrong to redeem pagan revelry by telling people about the true God?
Christians have nothing to fear from Christmas traditions, whatever their source. What matters is that we honour our Lord in everything.