When people hear I don’t celebrate Christmas, they often assume it’s because I’m Jewish.
Which is kind of interesting, considering I’m perfectly ok with doing stuff that Jewish people are known for not doing: worshipping Jesus, for example… or being part of a local church… or eating cheeseburgers… (not bacon though. I draw the line at pig consumption, which God actually told us not to do. He didn’t tell us to refrain from mixing meat and dairy products – that’s stuff the rabbis invented. And he definitely didn’t tell us not to worship Jesus – on the contrary! but that’s probably for another post, or I’ll never get to the subject…) (Also probably for another post: the reason I refrain from pig consumption isn’t actually because God told us not to. It’s because out of the freedom I have in Christ, I choose this way of expressing my Jewish identity.)
So, where was I? Christmas – the reason I don’t celebrate it has absolutely zero to do with the fact that I’m Jewish. I actually used to celebrate it, and used to really enjoy it. Then I started gradually wrestling with questions to do with whether it’s right for Christians – and eventually, after several years, came to the point of being totally convinced that it isn’t.
But I’m not here to open all that up, I’m not here to try and persuade anyone else that they shouldn’t, and I won’t judge anyone for celebrating the incarnation of Christ on 25 December. I haven’t had Romans 14 torn out of my Bible, nor that bit where Jesus told us how people are supposed to be able to recognise that we are his disciples…
So, if you’re reading this and you’re a follower of Jesus – which makes you one of my brothers or sisters – and you do celebrate Christmas, I wish you a very joyous celebration of the incarnation of our Lord.
And if you’re reading this and you’re not a follower of Jesus and you celebrate Christmas as a fun family time/a time to eat and drink and be merry/whatever, I hope you have a nice time. I’m not going to tell you that you’re doing Christmas all wrong, that you should be putting Christ at the centre of your celebration – it won’t make any sense until you know him and put him at the centre of your life! and that’s the really important bit – not what you do on one particular day of the year. Once you get to know Jesus and love him, you’re going to naturally want to put him at the centre. Because he is awesome and amazing and wow, did you know he actually chose to go to a horrible, agonising death for us so that we can escape God’s judgement and get to heaven when we die?!!!
Yes, I know that’s not what you see in nativity scenes or on Christmas cards with pictures of baby Jesus – but he didn’t stay a baby in a manger, he grew up and became a man and did the thing which he had come to this earth to do: dying on the cross as a once-and-for-all atoning sacrifice for the sins of all mankind!
The presents you may be getting for Christmas – they may bring you some joy for a limited time, but that’s all. The people who you may be spending a nice time with over the festive season – they may love you but they’re only human and mortal and none of them will be around forever. The one really important gift you can get, the gift that you really need more than anything, the gift that matters not just for now but for eternity – that’s the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Put your faith in him, repent of your sins and accept God’s forgiveness, and you get to start a new life, free from all your guilt and shame and knowing the love of God for you personally, free from the fear of death because you’ll have the assurance of eternal life, free from slavery to sin – life in Christ is the best, not because he suddenly magics all your problems away (he doesn’t) but because he’s with you through it all, and he promises to take you to a better place when you die. And he is totally faithful and trustworthy. He is the one who has been through death and is alive forever, and he can take you where he’s gone.
Jesus is not just for Christmas – he’s for life, and more: he’s for eternal life!