Let Us Eat Cake

I've been rather intrigued lately by a "friend" of mine on facebook. Without going into too much detail, this person has been outspoken (or is that outtyping?) about their conviction that Christians should withdraw themselves from "pagan" observances such as Halloween and Christmas. There have been several lenghty discussions on facebook between this person and other folks in the facebook community. I have yet to interject myself into these conversations, but they have provided for some interesting entertainment and have provoked much though. I may not agree with everything this person says or with many of the arguments presented there but these discussion have got me thinking.

So I'll ask you. Can we as Christians still be involved in holidays and observances such as Halloween, Christmas, and Easter and still "maintain a clear conscience before God and all people"? (Acts 24:16) I suspect that Halloween would be an easy on for most of us. No we shouldn't dress up as the Devil, or maybe even a ghost or vampire! No we shouldn't indulge ourselves in teeth-rotting candy! No we shouldn't make human or animal sacrifices to Satan! But is there anything really wrong with playing dress up and going to a trunk-or-treat or fall festival?

What about Christmas...with all the Santa Claus, presents, lights, and decorations? Can we involve ourselves in the so-called "pagan" side of Christmas whose origins are rooted at least in part in Nordic mythology and still honor God through the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ? Can the two co-exist?

Initially, my response is that there is nothing wrong with gift-giving. There is nothing wrong with decorating the house with lights, or putting up a Christmas tree. I think the underlying question is "what is the purpose"? In other words, I think what matters to God is the motivation of our actions. As the bible says "Man looks at the outside, but God looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7).

Truth-be-told, I equate both Christmas and Easter as celebrations of God's work of redemption. The origins based in mythology or paganism is of little thought at these times of the year. I realize that even the name "Easter" is not a biblical term. But what I celebrate at this observance we call Easter is Jesus resurrection.

So how much does our semantics or vocabulary really matter to God? Are we holding hands with both God and the world by celebrating his death, burial and resurrection by calling it Easter? Are we watering down the truth of Immanuel, God in the flesh, but silmultaneously putting up Christmas trees, talking about Santa Claus, and giving gifts to friends and loved ones? Are we trying to have our cake and eat it too? (I've never really understood that saying....I mean if I got some cake...immma eat it too...that's a blog for another day!)

So I'd love to hear your thoughts!

4 comments:

Off the subject, you were in a dream of mine the other night. Something about a gig... don't really remember.
Anyways, I agree with you. The most important point you made was God does look at the heart. It's all about intentions. Would I still put up a Christmas tree if Jesus were staying at my house? Heck yes I would! And I know that He would see it as a way that I celebrate the season that we chose to remember His birth. Would I take Jesus to a church fall festival where kids dress up as harmless characters? Yes again! Now, if I had intentions of honoring Satan, would I feel OK taking Jesus along? As a Christian, obviously I would not. You can't legislate for other people what their motives are. There may be people out there that put up a tree for pagan purposes. What the heck does that have to do with me??

December 5, 2008 at 7:04 AM  

"...and of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end." Isaiah 9:7

"...for He must reign until all enemies are put under His feet." 1 Corinthians 15:25

The Christianization of pagan rituals and secular institutions is a sign of the overcoming, ever-advancing kingdom of God. We have seen the overcoming of the Gospel in bringing us Christmas and Easter and nations (like ours) whose laws are based on Christian principles. I say, let's have more (unfortunately commercialization greatly hinders this process, but Christ is king over all)! I want to see Christianization of more aspects of life. The Christianization of the film industry and the music industry. Let's see the Christianization of the business world where Christian ethics and principles guide enterprise.

Those who fault Christians for celebrating Christmas and Easter b/c of the pagan origins of those days, in my estimation, do not want to see the Kingdom advance. They do not care to see every thought taken captive to the obediance of Christ.

The hymnist did not write "backward Christian soldiers", but

"Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war;
with the cross of Jesus going on before."

May we not retreat. And may all ideas, philosophies, and traditions come under the glorious banner of our loving God and Savior who humbly shed His blood in order that we, who through our sin had set our hearts against Him, might be saved by His sacrifice.

If I erect a Christmas tree, it will be to honor Jesus who was said to be a shoot sprung from the stump of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1). If I place lights on it, it will be for the stars that led the magi to Bethlehem. If I place gifts beneath it, it will be because I desire to freely give as I have freely received. If I celebrate Halloween (or All Saints Day) with a fall festival, it will be to thank God who has dealt bountifully with me. If I celebrate Easter with eggs, it will be to represent the new life I have in Christ. And if I decorate my house with Easter bunnies...well, I'm not sure what to do with that one...but who cares, God created rabbits!

Finally, read 1 Samuel 5:4--awesome!

December 5, 2008 at 3:04 PM  

I suppose if we're going to give up Christmas and Easter because they are "pagan" we must give up everything else that can remotely be considered pagan or secular. Throw out the tv (unless you have only Christian stations), don't watch any movies or listen to music unless its Christian (which I realize many Christians do), don't read any material unless it's Christian. What about your newspaper, is it Christian? What about the websites you read, are they ALL Christian? How about the stories you tell your children? Are they ALL Christian? (no Cinderella, Ugly Duckling, Curious George or Corduroy) What about the stores, restaurants, and other businesses that you frequent? If we are going to toss out Christmas and Easter (which are sacred holidays and the epitome of the Christian life) then we may as well put our families in bubbles so that they never see, hear, or do anything that is not Christian.

So, how are we supposed to be the salt and light of the world if we are hiding in our "non-pagan" bubbles?

Thanks for your post, Matt. Although I've never commented before, I do read your blog :)

December 6, 2008 at 9:33 AM  

This isn't a new issue at all. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul stated "Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ."

So, scripturally speaking, your "friends" should not be judging you or anyone else on this. Christmas and Easter may have begun as Pagan holidays, but that doesn't mean that they cannot be used by us as a witness to Christ. The reality is found in Christ.

The Amish are a people of great faith who have chosen to withdraw from the world. In doing so they have ceased to be salt and light as Jesus taught. They have zero ability to be a witness to anyone who doesn't drive to their farm wanting to buy produce or syrup.

We should not abandon Christmas, but we can maintain our Christian principles in dealing with the pagan elements. In our home, my children write letters to Santa. They leave cookies and milk, and get presents. They also understand that Santa is just a fun myth, not a reality. We've never lied to them about it. It's still a lot of fun!

I would encourage Christians not to turn their back on the culture, but to hit it head on with the life-changing and Holy Spirit-empowered message of Jesus Christ.

December 7, 2008 at 1:06 PM  

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