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Why Don't We Observe Christmas as a Church?
Bible study on observing Christmas as a church.

I was talking with some young people recently, and the subject of Christmas came up. One of them suggested I do a lesson on why we don't observe Christmas at church, since a lot of the kids don't understand it.

Christmas is a Man-Made Holiday
The date of Christmas has varied throughout history, since we don't know the date of Christ's birth. Finally in A.D. 440, it was set as December 25th to replace the pagan worship of sun gods during winter solstice festivals.

At first, the Catholic Church observed Christmas solely in religious church services. But as the observance spread, pagan practices originating from sun worship were mixed with Christmas traditions --- trees, lights, decorations, mistletoe, giving presents, yule logs, and merrymaking.

Ironically, many Christmas traditions predate Christianity and the birth of Christ, having roots in pagan observances.

When we consider whether we can observe Christmas in the church, we must first realize that it is a man-made holiday.

The Church is Subject to Christ
Christ has all authority in the church. Therefore, the church is subject to Him in everything.

"For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything" (Eph. 5:23-24).

As a congregation of Christ's church:

  • We obey Jesus (Heb. 5:9).
  • We don't go beyond what Christ authorized in His word (Col. 3:17; 1 Cor. 4:6; 2 Jn. 1:9).

The Church Isn't Authorized To Observe Christmas
Since the church only does the things Christ authorized, and since Christ hasn't authorized the church to observe man-made holidays, we can't observe Christmas in the church.

If we do any thing Christ hasn't authorized (such as observing man-made holidays), our worship is vain since we neglect God's commands to keep the traditions of men (Mk. 7:6-9).

So, we don't observe Christmas as a church because it's a man-made religious holiday. If we were to observe Christmas (or any other man-made religious holiday), our worship would be vain.

Individual Christians Are Authorized To Observe Man-Made Holidays
Although we're not authorized to observe secular religious days in the church, we are authorized to observe them on a personal basis.

In Romans 14, Paul gives commands regarding observing days (Rom. 14:2, 5). Concerning this liberty, he says:

  • We shouldn't judge others (vs. 1).
  • We should be fully convinced in our own minds before observing the day (vs. 5, 23).
  • It should be done for the Lord, as with all things (vs. 6-8).
  • We should observe it in a way that wouldn't be a stumbling block for other Christians (vs. 19-22).

Paul's Example: Pentecost
Paul personally observed certain religious days that weren't observed by the church.

Near the end of his third missionary journey, Paul hurried to Jerusalem so he would be there for Pentecost (Acts 20:16). The Greek text indicates that he wanted to be in Jerusalem for the "whole day" of Pentecost (Robertson).

There's only one reasonable explanation as to why Paul desired to be in Jerusalem for the "whole day" of Pentecost --- he obviously wanted to observe the day.

Jewish Christians didn't observe Pentecost in the church. Rather, they observed it personally, as a secular religious day, much like Christians observe Christmas and Easter today.

Paul's Example: Liberty to Keep Traditions of the Mosaic Law
Paul clearly taught that keeping the Mosaic Law was not a matter of salvation or work of the church. As a matter fact, he plainly stated that anyone who taught such a doctrine was accursed, and any Christian practicing such a doctrine had been severed from Christ and fallen from grace (Gal. 1:6-9; 5:4).

This said, Paul personally kept the traditions of the Mosaic Law when he was with Jews. Furthermore, he never taught Jews to forsake Moses or the traditions of the Law (Acts 21:23-24).

Regarding this matter, Paul wrote, "To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law" (1 Cor. 9:20).

Benefits of Living in a Society That Observes Christmas
Our nation recognizes the birth of important people, such as presidents. And since Jesus is the most important person to walk the earth, I personally believe it's wonderful that we recognize His birth, even though we don't know the date.

Celebrating Christ's birth as a nation reminds us of things that are truly important, while also giving us an opportunity to talk about Jesus and His gospel.

Personally, I'm thankful to live in a nation that celebrates Christ's birth, more than the birth of any other man or woman.