This is the time of year when the refrain is heard loudly: ’tis the season! The holiday season is a time of great activity and expectation for many people, but what really is it all about?
Many well-meaning religious people will declare that Jesus is the “reason for the season,” and by saying this, they mean that the reason Christmas is celebrated is because of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Many such people desire to “put the Christ back in Christmas.”
Historically, this is not true: the Scriptures never tell us the date of Jesus’ birth, and all evidence would point to the spring or fall, not the beginning of winter. The Scriptures never command or provide an example of anyone observing the day of His birth after it took place. In reality, various pagan religions held festivals commemorating the winter solstice, and they were later “Christianized” by arbitrarily fixing the date of Jesus’ birth to December 25.
Therefore, there is no Biblical basis for observing December 25 as Jesus’ birth. Nevertheless, Romans 14:5 applies, and we should take the opportunity when people speak about Jesus’ birth to direct them to the predictions of His life, death, resurrection, and lordship in the announcement of His birth (Luke 1-2) and why we need to constantly observe the memorial of the Lord’s death and proclaim His message to all mankind (1 Corinthians 11:23-26, Romans 1:16).
For all the retailers in America and for a large proportion of the population, this is the season for shopping and deals and the purchasing of gifts. This is understandable: not a few retailers depend on strong Christmas sales in order to stay in business, and many people wait for this season to make large purchases or to purchase items for others.
Retail Christmas is the secular “reason for the season,” and it seems to be starting earlier and earlier every year. While there is no sin in buying gifts or getting deals, as Christians, we must make sure that we are always reflecting Christ in our minds, attitudes, and actions (Romans 8:29). Would people in the world know that we are Christians by how we conduct ourselves while shopping on “Black Friday?” Do we make sure that we keep God as God in this season and not allow Mammon and what it can provide to come into His place (cf. Matthew 6:24)?
Perhaps the greatest benefit and blessing of this season is the ability to spend time with both our physical and spiritual families. Thanksgiving and Christmas seem to be the only times that our society truly honors, respects, and expects people to spend time with family, and that is more true with Christmas than Thanksgiving.
Even though the Scriptures do not command that we spend this time of the year with our physical and spiritual families and there is no explicit example of it, the Scriptures entirely endorse the idea (Acts 2:42, Ephesians 6:1-3, Hebrews 10:24). We should spend time with our physical and spiritual families as we have opportunity and to focus on these blessings with which God has blessed us. It has become too fashionable to make Christmas all about gifts, especially with children, and the only reason that many children seem to look forward to Christmas is all of those gifts.
We ought to stress that there is no gift that can surpass or replace the love and comfort that physical and spiritual families can provide (Ephesians 6:1-4, 1 Corinthians 12:12-28), just as there is no gift that can compare to the opportunity to have association with God and eternal life through Jesus the Son (1 John 1). Let us be thankful for all of our blessings in life and in Christ!
Ethan R. Longhenry