December 8, 2014

The Best Gift I Can Give Christian Christmas Haters

by Clint Archer

starbucks xmas 1It isn’t wrong to have a fern on my porch or a cactus in my office (chosen for its resilience to neglect, a prerequisite for any plant life under my supervision). But apparently having a fir tree, imitation or genuine, is considered by some to be morally repugnant; though only in December.

I’m not going to launch a crusade to promote the observance of Christmas with all its tiresome trappings and requisite redundancies; what I am going to do is call for some reasonableness by those believers who vociferously object to their brothers and sisters in Christ enjoying seasonal festivities.

First, let us just concede that Christians do not have to celebrate or even acknowledge Christmas…or Easter, or Pentecost, or St Ledger’s Day, or MLK’s birthday, or Sabbath (Col 2:16), or Thursdays (named for the Nordic god of thunder).

Rom 14:4-6 “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.”

Christians are not obligated to revere any day above another including their own birthdays, though for some reason several Christmas haters I know circle on their calendars the day of the year that they are celebrated by getting presents without having to give them.

But conversely, it needs to be acknowledged that Christians are free to esteem one day better than another if they are convinced in their own mind. I am convinced in my own mind that Christmas is a thoroughly enjoyable time of family traditions and themed parties and eggnog lattes at Starbucks. You need not be as convinced, and that is perfectly okay. Just please don’t equate my appreciation of cheap tinsel with pagan idolatry. Jeremiah 10:3-4 is NOT referring to Christmas trees, but hand-crafted idols, hewn for the express purpose of worshipping as a god.tinsel

I love Jesus. I worship him with every breath, and I give him all the glory for each gift I get or am able to give, and I am thankful for particular seasons that remind me to contemplate various aspects of his life, birth, death, resurrection, and ascension. I do not worship my fake plastic tree, nor do I feed subliminal pagan doctrine to my kids through the metallic orbs I hang on it. And any believer who suggests what I am doing is sub-Christian is behaving in an unloving and misinformed way, and should repent.

Yes, there is much of Christmas seasonality that should be shunned—greed, materialism, shallowness, lying to kids about Santa. We are not to use our liberty as a cloak for evil (1 Peter 2:16).

But there is much of the yuletide spirit that is neither godly nor ungodly. Celebrate it or ignore it, that is your liberty in Christ. If I judge or look down on abstainers then I am missing the point that liberty to forgo celebration is a blood-bought right of my Christmas-shunning brothers and sisters.

All I ask in return is that they recognize that the Bible permits me to don a cheesy red and green sweater while playing Yankee swap to the glory of God.

That mutual respect is the best gift we can give each other this year.

Clint Archer

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Clint has been the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church since 2005. He lives in Durban, South Africa with his wife and four kids.
  • Mr. Mike

    I don’t know, brother. All this reasonable and clear headed thinking…this dogmatic adherence to the Scripture, I hope you’re aware that you are going down the road less traveled. As I’m sure you have noticed, it’s not as wide or as well worn but on the up side there is no danger of losing your way. Merry Christmas. Happy New Year. And just in case I don’t a chance to speak to you this coming February, Happy MLK Jr. Birthday as well.

    • Thanks for the warning Mister.

    • Hannah

      Mr. Mike: MLK’s birthday is in January. (Probably the only reason I know this is that I work in a bank and have it off every year.) =)

  • Gregory Baus

    Holiday decorations, food and song, and all the yuletide accoutrements are great. It’s just the actual observance of Christmas as some kind of religious holiday that is the problem.
    More power to your Puritan neighbors.

    • Yeah, I see it more like Purim. The other feasts in the OT were instituted by God; but the people in Exile established Purim to commemorate God’s deliverance from Haman. God not only allowed that but included the record in the canon (Esther). I reckon if a person wants to celebrate the birth, life, death, resurrection or 40 day fast of Jesus, let them. Just don’t force others to do it.

      • Gregory Baus

        It all depends on how one understands the Biblical “regulative principle.” Are we to worship God as He appointed, or are we to worship Him as we see fit.

        • hey Gregory, I’m pretty sure there is some good material on this blog somewhere about our view on the regulative principle. Personally, I love to worship God in different ways at different times, and Christmas is one of my favorite ways. I drink Starbucks eggnog lattes to the glory of God and listen to cheesy Jingle Bell music I usually wouldn’t give the time of day. Why? Because it’s good clean fun, that’s why. But that said, our church doesn’t have a Christmas tree or mistletoe. (Though we don’t discourage presents for the pastor!)

          • I’m pretty sure God appointed us to worship him all the time through thanksgiving and whether we eat or drink to do all to the glory of God.

            Seems to me it is pretty well regulated by a Spirit filled believer giving glory to God in all things, even his work, as an act of worship because of Christ’s intercession.

            Sounds awfully non-legalistic though, so it goes against our fleshly desires.

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  • Samuel

    What about the aspect of church unity, Clint? “Celebrate it or ignore it, that is your liberty in Christ.” I would say, no, if my church is celebrating Christmas, it is no longer my liberty not to celebrate it, at least not in corporate worship services, as then I would be disturbing the unity of the church, and perhaps unreasonably refusing to submit to the wisdom and leadership of the elders, where they had decided that our church fellowship should celebrate Christmas. What do you think?

    • Submission to the leadership is the answer to that question, but most leaders who are mature and wise would not enforce a Christmas celebration.

      • Samuel

        I mean a Christmas (Eve) celebration in the church, say services on 24 and 25 December. I’m not talking about leaders enforcing Christmas celebrations in private homes!

        • Right, I’d say that Christmas services should not be touted as a regular gathering of the assembly, but as an optional extra function, like a pot luck: open to all but not considered “missing church.”

          • Samuel

            Interesting, thanks for your answer Clint. I guess that’s where we part company though; it is unthinkable to me that a church would not celebrate the birth of our Saviour. I agree: Christmas services should not be touted as a regular gathering; they are one of the high points of the year, certainly not an optional extra!
            Have a merry (optional) Christmas!

  • You almost convince me to be postmillenial Clint as you’re writing just keeps getting better. Well said and thanks for your link to lying about Santa.

    • You’re funny. For a seminoid.

      • My apologies as I just looked up the word seminoid (having no idea what that was) and if that is how I sounded I am sorry. I was just making a bit of a premil joke and trying to encourage you that your writing is continuously improving.

        If you were just joking, too, then I am sorry I took it too seriously, but I didn’t find a real positive connotation to being a seminoid.

        • I agree Michael, not sure what Clint meant by that? I thought you were actually joking as well as complimentary. 🙂 For the record.

        • anneline

          FYI, Clints Blog page is called Cafe Seminoid and on it he discribes the word as…A “seminoid” is jargon for someone who is obsessed with theological studies.
          Dont think he meant it as an insult brother:)

          • Thanks for explaining that anneline. 🙂

            And Melissa thanks for your message, too. Hopefully, I didn’t reveal my hypersensitivity.

          • So, irrespective of all dictionary definitions, “seminoid” is a high compliment to fellow seminoids. I love inside eschatology jokes. I think whoever wrote the dictionary needs to go check out clintarcher.com

          • Thank, Clint. I feel very blessed to have you refer to me that way and I apologize for derailing the comments momentarily.

            Hopefully, everyone will see my concern was whether I had acted ungodly and my remorse if that was the case.

            Merry Christmas!

        • 4Commencefiring4

          Seminoid, n: Half a solenoid.

      • Lyndon Unger

        As a seminoid, and likely a seminerd, and likely a straight-up dork, this thread made me laugh. One day I hope to run into Clint somewhere and unleash some tear inducing eschatology jokes.

        • I’ve been waiting 1000 years to meet you Lyndon. As it were.

  • Nicholas Brown

    I’m new to this sight and have enjoyed reading some of the articles shared here. I believe it is always a good and profitable thing for believers to humbly go after God through their faith in Jesus Christ. To this end we can be assured of all things and regularly grow in our knowledge of Him who has called us to Himself through His Son. One thing I would like to expound on is a definite need for more Spirit lead, Spirit yielding, Spirit taught, and truly Spirit filled leaders in this modern day society in which we’re living in. It would appear to me that much of our beliefs are carried over by strong convictions but at times lack the revelation of God’s Word through the Holy Spirit. If we believe in Him than let’s start being accountable to that. That means a striving after, a dying to self will and personal aims. If you’re going to preach or teach something than you need to be a student of the Word with the Holy Spirit as your teacher otherwise how can you be certain of what so many countless Christians are certain of in their own doctrinal, denominational circles. I guess what I mean is that if something is sin to one based on their faith and conviction to do good in the eyes of the Lord concerning James 4:17, let us not categorize this person if they’re sincerely regenerate people of God looking to do good and find approval from Him. The Spirit who indwells within us conforming us to the image and likeness of Christ knows very well how to chasten, prune, mature, and develop us individually as well as corporately. Just as well, Romans 14:5 tells us that one man considers one day more important than others where some see them all alike. Let each one be fully convinced in his own mind. Recently my wife and I had to take the whole matter of Christmas before the Lord for help in understanding what His will was. The Holy Spirit gave me the peace of God’s Word and the embrace of His presence to affirm where we should stand on this. Based off of His Word and our own upbringing we decided to continue celebrating this time of the year for the beautiful memories and experiencesee we shared in growing up here in America with this holiday. Obviously we don’t recognize Santa Claus or affirm any particular Roman Catholic doctrine except to expose their falsehood and counterfeit claims. Nevertheless we hope to now with our own child be all the more passionate and zealous to covey what gift of God really does matter. And so for me, that’s every day alike but to another maybe you will choose to revere it more holy or sacred. As long as we aren’t impressing our views as a basis for sound doctrine a part from clear and concise passages such as these, and operating in the unity and fellowship of the Spirit and God’s revelation of His Word we need not stir up any controversy. pertaining to this particular holiday celebration. If you feel like you would rather honor God through Christ to commemorate it, you do well, and if not due to your own learning or understanding of it and it’s history based on your studies and revelation you do well. Let each man be convinced in his own mind and God’s Spirit with our exercise of faith and obedience to Christ Jesus will fashion us into His own mold for what’s most pleasing to Him. Let’s keep growing up in Him because there is still lots more to experience as His Church, Bride, and elect before His return.. Amen

  • David

    Just a different take: http://www.homemakerscorner.com/christmas-why-not.htm
    Both several of the Reformers, Anabaptists, and Puritans were opposed as well !

    • Yeah but they didn’t have blogs in those days so they hadn’t heard it’s ok.

      • Pope of Geneva

        Clint – you would have survived in Old Geneva!

        John Calvin expressed his view on the celebration of “Christ’s birth-day” in two of his letters concerning this controversial subject in his day….

        “Before I ever entered the city, there were no festivals but
        the Lord’s day. Those celebrated by you were approved of by the
        same public decree by which Farel and I were expelled; and it was
        rather extorted by the tumultuous violence of the ungodly, than
        decreed according to the order of law. Since my recall, I have
        pursued the moderate course of keeping Christ’s birth-day as
        you are wont to do.”

        (John Calvin, Selected Works of John Calvin, Tracts and Letters,
        Jules Bonnet, Ed., David Constable, Trans., Vol. 5, Letters, Part 2,
        1545-1553, pp. 299, 300.)

        “Respecting ceremonies, because they are things indifferent, the
        churches have a certain latitude of diversity. And when one has
        well weighed the matter, it may be sometimes considered useful
        not to have too rigid a uniformity respecting them, in order to
        show that faith and Christianity do not consist in that. . .
        As to festival days, they were abolished at Geneva before I left
        France . . . though for the innovation I am personally irresponsible.
        For the rest, my writings bear witness to my sentiments on these
        points, for in them I declare that a church is not to be despised or
        condemned, because it observes more festival days than the
        others. From this recent abolition of feast days, here is what has
        resulted. Not a year has passed without some quarrel and
        bickering, because the people were divided, and to such a degree as to draw their swords. . .
        Meanwhile we have done what we ought, to appease these
        troubles. The most feasible means that could be devised for that
        purpose, seemed to be to keep the holy day in the morning, and
        open the shops in the afternoon, though this plan did not much
        remedy the evil. For several thoughtless persons failed not to fall
        foul of one another.”

        (John Calvin, Selected Works of John Calvin, Tracts and Letters,
        Henry Beveridge and Jules Bonnet, ed., Vol. 6, Letters, Part 3,
        1554-1558, pp. pp. 162-169.)

        Merry Christmas

        • Wow. Didn’t know Calvin was right about so much!

  • MR

    H8ters gonna hate. Have a Merry Christmas!

  • Karl Heitman

    Good for you, Clint. Go git dem fundies! BTW, what’s Yankee swap?

    • Jeff Schlottmann

      If you’re not bothered by it…Watch the office Christmas episode from season 2. It will explain yankee swap.

    • A game sometimes called “Nasty Santa” where you steal each other’s gifts as they are opened. Google the rules. It can be fun, but can test your sanctification if you loe a good gift and end up with a dud!

  • Grace

    I appreciated your article and then went back to last week’s article on the Christmas questions. I just can’t understand all the heat about Christmas. Any way here are some things to consider. I find it interesting when ever anyone talks about Constantine and Christmas no one ever challenges that. Dec. 25th, the feast of the Nativity was celebrated BEFORE Constantine by Christians (gasp). St Clement of Alexandria, in the second century, indicated the Nativity of Christ as December 25, among other fathers. In 302, during the persecution of Christians by Maximian (before Constantine) 20,000 Christians of Nicomedia were burned in the church on the very Feast of the Nativity. In 385 St John Chrysostom points out that the Feast of the Nativity of Christ is ancient. Any way there is much more behind this date than what people think.

    • Good info, thanks for contributing.

  • Heather

    “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” -Phil 4:8

    This perfectly sums up what Christmas is to me and my family. I grew up in the Baptist church and then eventually came to a non-denominational church that had some anti-Christmas Christians. Man, was that a shock to my system. I don’t get it. Never have, never will. With all the overwhelming darkness and spiritual warfare we face year round, the month of December is one month in the year when the light of Christ is constantly exposed and people’s hearts are merrily turned towards God, His love, and His goodness. What’s wrong with embracing that and celebrating it, even at the least taking advantage of it to further the gospel? I’m totally with you on this, Clint, and I only wish this would be the one time of year when the saints would have mutual respect for one another on this issue and there would be true harmony and unity in the churches as a testimony to the world of what Christ came to do. Satan would love nothing more than to ruin that testimony…it’s a shame we fall so easily for his schemes. To the Lord Jesus Christ be all glory and praise this Christmas season!!! 🙂

    • Great point about unity. Thanks.

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  • Andrew Silva

    While you are correct there is some Christian liberty regarding the celebration of Christmas, you err when you state: “Christians are not obligated to revere any day above another…”. The Christian Sabbath, which is the Lord’s Day, is set apart by God as holy and therefore it alone should be revered as such. This is my main problem as a “Christmas hater” – Christians attempt to make Christmas a Christian holiday when it is not. The only holiday (holy day) which God gives to His church is the Lord’s Day.

    • Karl Heitman

      As a preacher, I certainly believe Sunday is a big deal, but it is not a sabbath. Please study Colossians 2:16.

      • Andrew Silva

        Okay, I will do that. Now you please study the 4th commandment.

        • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

          Study Hebrews 4.

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