Let me give you a summary of Christmas, writing completely off the top of my head, which is bald. One, we can be pretty sure that Jesus wasn't born December 25th. Two, there is no history of Christmas celebration until medieval times. Three, Christmas originated with Roman Catholicism. The pope essentially invented it to compete with, four, the revelry of pagan festivals revolving around Winter solstice. He gave an alternative to offset what he considered the damage it did, would do, and had done. Five, at the beginning actual Christians were against Christmas. After the Reformation, when Protestants could take charge, they did away with it. Six, the Plymouth colony did not observe Christmas. Seven, early Congress continued to meet on Christmas, which was a bit of a protest against England, where Anglicanism was good with it. Eight, Christmas grew in the United States, but it was influenced by secular notions like Santa Claus, sort of coming full circle to the revelry again. Nine, Christmas became an American tradition. Ten, Christmas is the only traditional observance of the birth of or the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Eleven, evangelical churches in the United States see Christmas as a time to exalt the coming of Jesus to the earth, the most important event in world history.
As I grew up in a small town in the Midwest, I never heard that Christmas was pagan or Roman Catholic. I never paralleled any of the Christmas traditions with that. I never heard of anything against Christmas until I was already a pastor (there was no internet at the time). The first I heard it was bad was when a couple who had moved from Pennsylvania and started attending our church told my wife and I they were against Christmas trees. We didn't have a Christmas tree our second Christmas in California because we thought it would be a stumbling block to this couple.
My family started going to church faithfully when I was three or four, and I never heard Christmas was bad. We attended an independent Baptist church. I never heard in school, in church, or from anyone that Christmas was bad. My family moved to Watertown, Wisconsin and my dad went to Bible college and I started into a Christian school for the first time when I was 12 years of age. For the next thirteen years in church, Christian school, Christian academy, Christian college, and Christian graduate school, no one told me Christmas was bad. Nothing I read said it was wrong. I didn't hear anything about it until this couple from Pennsylvania started attending our church. As I think about how bad Christmas was, this was a very well kept secret that it was bad.
Since all of the above, I had never had anyone oppose Christmas to and with me in our church. I had been asked about it a few times, because of something someone heard, but no one said we shouldn't celebrate it. As Christmas came around, my biggest concern was not Christmas itself, but the secularization and commercialization of it. It seemed like Christ was being taken out of Christmas. When I was young I heard that X-mas was a conspiracy, not knowing that the X was the first letter of "Christ" in the Greek alphabet, so it meant "Christ." It had never occurred to me that Christ wasn't in this season to begin with and that His being put into this season was a development. I probably wrote three or four school Christmas programs exploring the theme of Christ being taken out of Christmas.
My only challenge recently against observing Christmas has come from a few outside of our church not from our area. I have had to defend Christmas almost entirely in emails from people asking why we have anything to do with it. I don't like being an offense to these people, but I'm not convinced that we can't take this traditional time of celebrating the incarnation of Christ and use it to extol the birth of Christ. I have a long built up reservoir of Christmas good will with a lot of people to stamp out suddenly, and I don't have the conviction to do it. I'm not ready to move for the armchair quarterbacks who want me to make life easier for them.
On the other hand, in our church is an elderly lady who is raising her grand daughter, who just started in the public school. She went to the Christmas program there of her grand daughter and there wasn't one mention of Jesus or Christ in the entire program. It was all about Santa and gifts and candy canes and Rudolph and Frosty and the like. The state has removed Jesus as if it must to obey the Constitution. It celebrates Christmas now. The Congress goes home and doesn't keep working, but it can't mention Christ except in the word "Christmas," which most of you know is removed for Happy Holidays, whatever the "Holi" means.
I'm torn here. I've got to defend Christmas and I've got to fight Christmas. Both. It seems like both of these actions, the defending and the fighting, place a lot of emphasis on Christmas. Both of them are very serious about Christmas. The secularists are very serious about keeping Jesus out and the pious are very serious about keeping Jesus out. If I keep Jesus out, I'll please both of them, the former for their love for my love of tolerance and the latter for my anti-paganism and Roman Catholicism. On the other hand, I'll displease all the people who see both positions as extreme. Is it really that serious an issue? My personal take is that secularization or commercialization is easily the biggest problem here.
If I regulate my worship by scripture, can I preach and sing about the birth of Christ? Yes. That's what our church does. We do it a lot in December.