O Worship the King: Evaluating Our Christmas Traditions
Written by Beth Corcoran, Contributing Writer
It is finally Christmas time again! Oh how I love this time of year! I love the sights and smells and the time with family. I love how people seem more neighborly at Christmas, and I love to see how my little ones’ eyes light up when they see Christmas lights.
But one thing my husband and I have grown increasingly aware of over the past few years is that our love for Christmas traditions should pale in comparison to our love for the Reason for Christmas—Jesus Christ.
I have seen many good ways to add meaningful worship into our Christmas traditions. The Jesse Tree is a great example of this. However, our family became convicted that we needed to evaluate the worth of traditions we currently had in place before we added new ones. It has, undoubtedly, been a very interesting journey for us. I’d like to share some of what we have learned. (Disclaimer: I’d like to note that this is not meant to be prescriptive, but rather just a description of what we have done. It is meant only as encouragement and edification.)
We want to intentionally point all of our Christmas celebration to Christ, and not to worldy traditions with no value.
Our journey began with a homeschooling assignment. My children love to make lapbooks, and when I saw an offer for a free Christmas lapbook, I jumped on it. The purpose of the lapbook was to learn the history behind many different Christmas symbols and traditions and to document them for future reference.
However, in preparing the lessons, I gained a new awareness of just how many of our common Christmas traditions were deeply rooted in paganism. (By paganism, I am referring to pagan cultures—mainly the Druids and Celts.)
After much thought and prayer, my husband and I decided to move forward with the lapbook assignment, but to tweak it a bit. As our family discussed each tradition or symbol of Christmas, our kids were to evaluate them and put them into one of three categories. The traditions could be classified as being rooted in Christianity, as being rooted in paganism but redeemable, or as being rooted in paganism and not redeemable.
You may be wondering at this point what I mean by redeemable. The word “redeem” stirs my soul like no other word. It means to buy back or to give value to something previously worthless.
It was God’s plan for redemptive sacrifice that makes Christmas worth celebrating. What a lovely word!! When I refer to a Christmas symbol as being redeemable, I am meaning that it came out of pagan celebrations, but it can be “bought back” by Christians to make it point to Christ.
Photo credit vl8189
How to Evaluate a Tradition
I was amazed at how our family pursued learning about Christmas traditions with such vigor. My children, though small, were able to firmly grasp whether something was worthless or could point to the Lord. Let me give you a few examples.
Many Christmas traditions have a deeply Christian and biblical background.
A great example of a Christmas symbol that has roots in Christianity is the candy cane. Its colors, shape and flavor are great ways to share Christ at Christmas. If you are unfamiliar with the story of the candy cane, there are many great resources. Click here for a cute children’s book about the candy cane.
Many, if not most of the Christmas symbols, for us, have fallen into the “pagan but redeemable” category.
This just means that we have to create a new meaning for them as we explain them to others. A great example of this is the Christmas tree. The use of the Christmas tree started in Druid ceremonies. But now we can use this evergreen to point to the everlasting nature of Christ. The triangular shape of the tree also reminds us of the Trinity. We think of Jesus at Christmas, but really all three persons of the Trinity were intimately involved. Other examples of “redeemable” symbols for us have included items such as stockings and ornaments.
The last category included symbols that were rooted in pagan rituals and really had never been adapted to point to Christ.
We were amazed to find how many of these things we had incorporated into our home at Christmas without even thinking about it. Now that we are thinking intentionally about Christmas, we have eliminated these symbols and traditions from our home. A great example for us is mistletoe. Who doesn’t love a good kiss as they enter the house?! But we learned that mistletoe had been a symbol of fertility in pagan worship and kissing under the mistletoe was a Celtic tradition. Hanging mistletoe in the entryway of the home came from the belief that it warded off evil spirits. Honestly, our family couldn’t really find a way to make this fit with our worship of Jesus, so we eliminated it.
I won’t lie. Sometimes purging some of our traditions has been a bit sad because we had fond memories from childhood. Sometimes, however, we haven’t even noticed something was missing in our home (like the mistletoe!). But it has been so freeing for us to evaluate our beliefs and traditions at Christmas, rather than blindly conforming to the world.
We were amazed at how many traditions we followed just because that’s what our parents had done. But when asking our parents why they did them, they didn’t know either. What freedom comes from being intentional with our worship and celebration! You may choose to categorize traditions differently than we did. That’s fine! Really, in the end, it all comes down to bringing God the most glory possible.
Have you ever intentionally thought through your Christmas celebration? What have you done to redeem your traditions?
**This was originally posted on Nov.30, 2010. I think it’s such a wonderful post for helping us to be intentional as we examine and plan for our family’s Christmas traditions. The season gets to busy, so this is a perfect time to consider how your family will celebrate Christ’s birth this year!**
Wow! This was so neat to read this morning, now my curiousity is up to find out about other things we do at Christmas that have no spiritual value to them. This was a great post, and I am so thankful I took the time to read it!
I think this is a great article and would like to know more about which traditions you eliminated, which you kept, which you adopted and why. This was a great generalization, but I would love to know more details! 🙂
@Jennifer P, I wanted the article to be a bit generalized because I feel it is very important for each family to do as they are led by the Lord. There is a lot of information on the internet about Christmas traditions and how to focus them to the Lord. Also, if you would like to take a look, here is the lapbook resource that we used: http://www.currclick.com/product_info.php?products_id=2201&it=1
Thank you for this thoughtful post. I actually grew up without Christmas traditions at all because my parents disliked the pagan origins that lay behind many of them. It was rather tough sometimes as a kid to be excluded from all that was going on around us, and as a mother now, I feel led to create a holiday time that is meaningful to us and focused on Christ, not just a secular time to give “winter presents.” It’s taken a lot of talking to the Lord each year as to how to proceed and which traditions to incorporate or to create. Do you have a source for that lapbook? I’d like to learn more.
@Hannah, I have posted the link on the comment above. I should point out that the lapbooking kit is now around $10. It was a free offer when I received it. 🙂
Very thought provoking article. About 3 years ago, my husband and I made the choice to stop celebrating Christmas and Easter because of their pagan origins. We are now attempting to celebrate the holidays that were outlined in the Old Testament (and that our Lord Jesus himself celebrated). Our decision to do this was reached after much prayer and study of the Word. It is what we feel the Lord has directed for our family, and we understand that not all believers will reach the same conclusion. However, I do have one sincere question which I have not been able to answer with a yes: Is there any scriptural example where the Lord God told his people to take a pagan holiday or custom and change it to honor Him?
I don’t think there is a specific verse that says to do so, but I feel that this verse explains that we should follow our hearts unless the Lord directs us to do otherwise.
Romans 14: 5-8
In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. Each person should have a personal conviction about this matter. Those who have a special day for worshipping the Lord are trying to honor him. Those who eat all kinds of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who won’t eat everything also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. For we are not our own masters when we live or when we die, we go to be with the Lord. So in life and in death, we belong to the Lord.
I’m with you 100% My husband and I, afer much study and prayer, decided 15 years ago to cease celebrating Xmas, easter, and halloween because of the pagan traditions involved. Like you, I cannot answer yes to the question you posed. I don’t believe there are any pagan traditions that God calls us to turn into something that honors Him. He specifically says, “Do not do as the heathen do.” It has been a hard road to travel because our extended families cannot understand our decision. However, I can say after 15 years, I feel free and blessed by the decision we have made. God bless you all as you search out God’s truth on this matter!
But doesn’t it matter where your heart is and where your family’s heart is? What do you make of 1 Corinthians 10:23-31? Just curious…
@KathleenK, God does not command us to redeem pagan holidays/rituals for our use, but He does permit us to do so. E.g., see Romans 14 and 15 or 1 Corinthians 8. Scripture tells us to consult the Holy Spirit on such matters and follow His leading, realizing that His leading may be different for each person. These passages say we should also be sensitive to our fellow believers, to make sure that our freedom (or legalism) doesn’t somehow impair their relationships with God.
Well put and very appropriate, Kathryn.
Freedom and legalism can be different sides to the same coin. We must take care that our “exhortations” are not subtly disguised judgments.
I agree with you Kathleen. My husband and I discovered that the 7 holidays given in the Old Testament were the Lord’s holidays. God only called them the Jews’ holidays when they were disobeying God in the way they were living or the way they were keeping the holidays. It is true that God knows what is in our hearts and appreciates our love for Him. However the early church did celebrate God’s holidays for the first few centuries and Scripture says we will be celebrating them in the Millennium. He told the Israelites they were perpetual holidays.
The Old Testament clearly says that God was not to be worshiped the same way any other supposed deity was worshiped. In the book of Judges there were Israelites using an idol to worship God and He was very displeased with it. You find the kings in Judah who honored God tearing down the idols that had been put up by someone during their predecessor’s administration.
Christians in the Roman empire began celebrating Christmas on December 25th because the new emperor, Constantine, who also had evidence of continuing afterward to worship Mithra, the sun god, declared Christianity a legal religion and made himself pope. He hated Jews, so he made all the Jewish holidays and weekly Sabbaths illegal and punishable by death. Unfortunately, since Constantine most denominations and groups of believers, even if they rejected other Catholic beliefs and traditions, accepted Constantine’s holidays as Christian holidays.
There are rich things to learn about what God is doing in the world from the holidays He established. Of course He loves everyone who celebrates other holidays in sincere love of Him, but someday it will become apparent that He wishes us to follow His holidays.
A very thoughtful article. Thanks for sharing. My husband and I have gradually changed our “traditions” for similar reasons. I find it interesting to see what others find “acceptable” or not. I now see my children, who are grown, going through the same process with their families. 😀 Keep up the good work!
I love the idea of researching the different traditions associated with Christmas! Our family started with not acknowledgine Christmas to now giving small gifts in remembrance of the gift of Christ. I want our children to understand why our family does Christmas and Easter very differently than most others, and so the lapbook idea sounds great! I think it is incredibly important to understand the pagan traditions associated with many of our Christian holidays, and then make prayerful decisions based on the Bible on how to handle them. Thank you for sharing… this gives me some great ideas for future homeschool lessons!
Kathleen – For some reason I can’t reply to your post specificly (sp?) so I’m trying it this way. While we haven’t stopped celebrating Christmas or Easter, simply because we don’t feel that is what the Lord is leading us to do, I want to say that I commend you for what you are doing. The Holy Spirit convicts us of things individually all the time and while other Believers may not share that same conviction it would be wrong for us not to follow his prompting. While some things are non-negotiable….such as what’s necessary for salvation, who Christ is, ect….other matters are left up to us to discern and obey as He leads us.
So, while I do not share your conviction, I am greatly encouraged by your decision that, while probably not understood by many, is an example of obedience to Him no matter how “strange” His leading may seem! 🙂
Anyways, your question about any reference in Scripture got me curious and this is the first verse I found and thought it quite fitting.
Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human traditions and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. (NIV)
(NKJV) Beware lest anyone cheats you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.
It is interesting to note that the following verses also go on to talk about “legalism” as well as what the character of a Believer should be and the focus of our life in Christ. So, like any verse quoted individually, it is also important (as I’m sure you know) to read it in context and with prayer. 🙂
Please pass on anything else you find. It is not something I have looked into greatly although I am sure there are many more verses that address the issue as we are called to live lives that do not conform to this world (Romans 12:2). The manner/extent to which we believe that extends is one that I believe the Lord will convict us of when we truley seek His will in our lives. 🙂
We looked at Christmas traditions a few years ago and have fluctuated on the issue. This year we’re celebrating Hanukkah (which Christ also celebrated!) and enjoying a break from the expectations, commercialism, and busyness of Christmas. For us it’s not a legalistic thing- I don’t think that Christmas is *wrong* but it just seemed easier for us to focus on God through Hanukkah, rather than on a perhaps-pagan-influenced-date is loaded with commercialism.
Very thoughtful. The youth group at our church put on a Christmas program that was similar to this, where they explained many traditions and how they are Christ-centered. For example, they also told how the Christmas tree was a symbol of everlasting life through Christ and how Christmas lights represent Jesus as the light of the world (John 8:12) and so on.
Refreshing post. And like with Halloween (which I dont celebrate) I love the verses from Romans on convictions.
We love christmas around here…and try to make it very christ centered.
Love it! I love when my kids know why we do what we do and can share with others when questioned. Thanks for a very encouraging read. It’s nice to know we aren’t the only ones making some hard choices – but once done God blesses with peace.
Thank you each for your thought-provoking Scripture references. I do not attempt to persuade anyone to my way of thinking. Nor do I condemn anyone who does not agree with me. God alone is the Judge, and only He can see into our heart and truly know us. My husband and I have decided this route based on revelations the Lord gave to us.
The origins of Christmas can be easily researched, so I won’t go into any detail. Pagan celebrations were altered by early church leaders as a substitute for non-believers’ pagan celebrations. This did nothing to change the heart of the non-believers. They continued their pagan traditions but called it something different. Many of those traditions have continued today.
When the Israelites were commanded to possess the land of Canaan, they were commanded to destroy and/or drive out the people living in that land. They were to destroy their high places, tear down the altars and idols. They were told to have nothing to do with them and their heathen customs. God outlined feasts and holy days for his people. He did not tell them to adapt the Canaanites’ customs. Those who did indulge in pagan revelry and sexual immorality were put to death. God told them to flee from idolatry. Paul, in I Corinthians 10:14, also warns believers to flee from idolatry.
If then, the origins of Christmas are pagan, for the worship of a false god, how can we, as believers, argue it is permissible to continue those celebrations? I still do not find a single example of God taking a pagan holiday or custom and changing it to glorify him. It was decision of people, not the Lord, to change the customs from His appointed Holy Days, to “Christianize” pagan holidays.
Again, I do not condemn fellow believers for their choices. There are many Christians today who have absolutely no idea of the origins of Christmas and Easter. However, in the case of those who do know the pagan roots, I genuinely do not understand how they can continue to choose to follow other gods while claiming to worship Christ. Jesus clearly stated in the Gospels that one cannot serve two masters. I repeat: it is not a judgment on my part. Rather, it is a lack of understanding.
@KathleenK, I think this issue is very similar to one faced by the early church: eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. It must have been a big issue, because Paul addresses it several times. The dates on which Christmas and Easter take place, and the trappings of those holidays, were once essentially offered in sacrifice to idols. However, as with the meat of Paul’s day, there is nothing intrinsically evil about December 25, evergreen trees, etc. So there is freedom to take those things and use them for our own, God-honoring purposes–as long as our consciences allow us to do that.
I think it’s also helpful to keep in mind that the early Christians didn’t just appropriate pagan winter and spring festivals as-is. They actually created new holidays but held them at the same time as the pagan festivals so believers would have something constructive and God-honoring to do while the society around them was engaged in collective idol-worship. This is similar to what God did for the Hebrews–some of the festivals and holy-days He ordained for them coincided with Canaanite religious festivals.
27 years ago, just after our first son was born, we considered our observance of holidays. It all started because we overheard a comment by my brother, who is of a different religion. “What does this ‘Born Again Christian’ mean anyway? They look and act just like the rest of the world,” he said.
Ooof! It was like a blow to the gut. We prayed and considered.
We decided that to eliminate observance of the holidays smacked of legalism and alienated us from our un-believing family and friends, so that was out. We also had experience with the ‘forbidden fruit’ aspect of taking all the ‘fun stuff’ away from kids; it breeds dissatisfaction and as soon as they are able, they will run toward the ‘evil’ — didn’t want that! So much to consider.
We finally decided that we wanted to set some standards that were observable by others and would draw questions so we could share the true meaning of the holiday.
For Christmas, we have eliminated the tree and Santa. However, we hang ornaments from a wreath that is suspended along the cornice-work in our living room. This connects us with our past and family gatherings so that we are not denying or condemning the ways our family have celebrated in innocence. We also have several nativity sets and observe an Advent calendar with readings and lighting of candles. Early in December, we have a fun day with friends sharing about the true story of St. Nicolas and preparing little kits for gifts to the homeless. At the family Christmas party, we usually bring a “Happy Birthday Jesus” cake – since we often celebrate our children’s birthdays with a gang-party all on the same day, we have no problem with 12/25 not being the actual birthday of Jesus.
For Easter, we focus on the Resurrection and what it means. At our big extended family & friends party, we bring a cross shaped cake, share stickers with Christian sentiments (He is Risen!, Praise the Lamb Who was slain, etc), and share the object lesson on how the egg is a picture of the Trinity.
As a family, with church friends, we observe some of the Jewish holidays: Passover, Feast of Booths, Purim (the story of Ester) and this year, we are adding Hanuka (but without the gifts).
Correction: I meant we hang our ornaments from a garland that is hung around the cornice of the living room.
And one holiday we eliminated was Halloween. Don’t even do harvest parties.
@Jenny in CG,
I really like the way you looked at the holidays. We still have a tree as we have never been convicted about the decorations in our home, but I am working at making Christmas about Jesus and not about presents. We are tight on money this year and it is odd how presured I feel to give gifts even though I have grown up and married into a very conservative Christian family. I love Christmas, it has always been my favorite holiday, but I hate the stress and spending that come with it. So we are trying to cut back on all that now. I am simply baking and crocheting thoughtful gifts for my family. My son is receiving a Patch the Pirate CD that teaches Christian Character (from Majesty Music if anyone is interested).
We don’t celebrate Halloween either. And though we have harvest parties they are never on Oct 31 and they really do celebrate the bounty of the harvest season 🙂 Lots and Lots of food!
Great post! We researched and learned a lot about Santa Claus and a few other Christmas symbols last year, but I’d really love to learn more about the rest. The lapbook and sorting is a great idea. We’ve been edifying and refining our Christmas traditions for years. Like you I think it’s important to seek the scripture for wisdom and pray and come to a decision led by the Holy Spirit. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with redeeming some symbols and/or celebrating Christmas (and/or Easter) because whereas the bible does not command us to celebrate these things, we ARE to worship and praise and glorify God in everything — how can we not celebrate and praise the birth and sacrifice of the Messiah?!
THANK YOU for this post!!
i am encouraged to hear from others who have examined their participation in certain holidays. it’s been a really rough road for me – continues to be! my husband has strong spiritual convictions about *not* participating in many holidays and as i’ve researched and studied, and come to understand history and meanings, it’s been a tough process of letting go. oh, how much i cherish some traditions – but i want to seek truth first, not my temporal and culturally-influenced enjoyment.
to that end, we *mostly* don’t “do” christmas – no tree or santa, for sure. we do have lights, stocking for my daughter, music … and baking 😉 .
we’ve really enjoyed exploring and participating in the holidays that our Savior participated in … and are looking forward to hanukkah dinner with friends this weekend.
Let me begin with thanks to Beth for the great post. Next up are kudos to all the commentors for the love and grace in which you have all written about a topic in which there is much potential for disagreements quickly turning into misbehavior. 🙂
I would like to offer another perspective. We too know several people who have cast off Christmas, Easter, etc. to embrace Jewish holidays. Unfortunately, in those cases it looks more like “We’re to spiritual to celebrate the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus” than trying to embrace Him more fully. Although there can be much value in observing the various feasts and such laid out in the Old Testament, we need to remember that those were instituted before the Messiah came.
Our family’s take on it is this: Celebrating Easter and Christmas can and should be a big deal in Christian homes. Our celebrations shouldn’t be about keeping up with the Joneses, they should be about exceeding the Joneses, because the Joneses aren’t believers and we are – we actually have something big to celebrate! This, of course, doesn’t mean we literally work to make our celebrations more materialistic than those of others. It does mean that it should be filled with joy and laughter and, yes, presents! God’s grace and love to us are abundant – this is a great time to show that to our children. They should remember Christmas and Easter as abundant celebrations, not as the time of the year when all those other people who don’t have anything real to celebrate got to have a better time than they did.
Yes, we need to make sure the focus is on our Lord.
Yes, we need to be wise in establishing and practicing our traditions.
Yes, we need to stay in our budgets.
Yes, yes, yes, we need to PARTY!!!!
And now I’ll get off of my soapbox.
@Jenn, Jenn, I Like that approach. Thanks for sharing. I love the perspective of making our celebrations more abundant and more joyful. 🙂
@Jenn, I love your take on this. I think bypassing all celebration means missing out on a wonderful opportunity to praise God. But the wonderful thing is that, because of our freedom in Christ (and unlike the Hebrews), we don’t have to celebrate at certain times or in certain ways. When I was a kid, we had friends who basically ignored Christmas and instead celebrated Jesus with a big party in June, closer to what was probably his actual birthday.
I also think celebrating Jewish festivals can be a wonderful thing, if we do it in the spirit of Hebrews 9-10. Those festivals were ordained to prepare people’s hearts for Christ–they attain their fullness only in him and are just a shadow of what we really have to celebrate.
I’m curious as to what you found redeemable about stockings and ornaments. While I “know” all the Christian emphasis on the tree, we are bypassing the tree for the first time this year. I never found anything redeemable about stockings or ornaments, but maybe I missed something.
@Darcy, As for stockings, the legend has it that stockings were started because the real St. Nicholas tossed some gold into the window of a poor man who had three daughters. He couldn’t provide a dowry for them, so St. Nicholas secretly gave them the gold and it was tossed into the stockings hung to dry by the fire. The real St. Nicholas loved the Lord and sought to serve Him by helping others. In that spirit, we do stockings and throughout the Christmas season, we fill them with things that our family then gives to a needy family.
For ornaments, we go to the store together each year (this is a tradition from my husband’s family) and each person picks out an ornament that they feel best reflects the past year of their life. On the bottom of each ornament we write down what happened and why we chose the ornament. Then, as we are hanging up the ornaments as a family, we spend time discussing all the good and bad times we have gone through as a family and how the Lord has been so gracious to us. We also view ornaments as symbols of our life–hung on a tree that represents our Lord. We see it as one big symbol that God has our life–and can have our life–thanks to the work of salvation Jesus did on earth.
Hope that helps!
I love this post, thank you! We really try to keep everything Christ centered also. The children, we have 4 now, love to make a birthday cake for Jesus. We have a life size Jesus in a crib, and we present the cake to Jesus and sing happy birthday. We also get straw at the begining of Advent, and during that time, everyone tries to work really hard at growing in virtue. So, for every extra virtue, or good deed, (done in secret and without asking for acknowledgement) we place a piece of straw in the crib, that we will place baby Jesus in Christmas eve night. Then, when they wake up Christmas morning, they can see what comfort they brought baby Jesus with him in the manger of all the straw, representing their good deeds. 🙂 I also love teaching the children to give to others less fortunate. Christmas for us has been a great way to teach the children to love Jesus more, through various activities and celebrations, so that is a blessing to us! 🙂
Thanks for this great informative post!! I have a post coming up here on Friday (here at KOTH) about ways to celebrate Christ this Christmas. It’s SO easy to get wrapped up in traditions and leave out Christ!
Do you mind naming some of the other things you avoid besides mistletoe? I loved how you mentioned the Trinity and eternalness of Christ w/ the evergreen tree! I had never thought of that!!!
My husband and I had been convicted about the worldly celebration of Christmas, that we as Christians, had been following for the last couple of years. We are finally making changes this year. So, here’s what we are NOT doing this year and what we are replacing it with:
1) We are not putting up a Christmas tree – We are putting up nativity sets around the house instead.
2) We are not stringing lights. – We are going to celebrate with the advent (finally) beginning November 27th and any lighting will be due to the candles
3) We are not buying any gifts from non-Christian companies and not participating in Black Friday – We are going to purchase all items from a Christian store or website. These gifts will be mainly related to Christ and his birth and that celebration
4) We are letting the children have 3 gifts each. One they would like, one we would like for them and one they need. (But the gifts cannot be just anything. It can be fun, but educational and must not be something that dishonors God. i.e. my 3 year old wants Bob books. Love it!)
5) We are going to focus on giving – We let each of our children pick a child to sponsor from World Vision. We have a 6, 5, 3 and 1 year old. No, the 1 year old didn’t pick. 🙂
6) We let the children choose from a World vision magazine a gift to give to those in need. They chose a gift of 10 ducks to a village
7) We are getting props for frankincense, myrrh and gold to display on the fireplace and will have a daily Bible reading in front of the fireplace
8) We are going to visit an elderly friend from our Church during the Christmas time and bring them a meal and visit
9) We will bake cookies, but all shapes will be something related to the Nativity
10) We are going to give a special gift to our Pastor
11) We are going to play Christmas music (that focuses on Christ) beginning right after Thanksgiving through to the New Year
12) Oh and for the advent we are getting a special calendar that has an activity to do each day related to the impending birth of Christ
I hope this is helpful to someone. Hmn, I should probably do this as a post on my blog. LOL!
i would also love to know more about the lapbook you were using. also, what traditions you evaluated. I would love to take time to research these with my husband as well. I’m sure we could come up with a list but I’m sure we would forget something. also, what resources (besides the bible of course) did you use in your research?
We have done similar things in our house the past two years. I have never been one for tradition. Not that traditions are bad, but I have always needed to know why, and the answer “because that’s what we do” was never sufficient. Last year my husband and I talked about what we want this season to look like. Our son is 20 months now, and I feel so blessed that all of his Christmas’ will be focused on Christ.
Does anyone have helpful tips on celebrating Christmas with extended family who are not Christian. My family celebrates the commercial Christmas, and although we have asked for limits on gifts, and that the focus (for our son especially) reflect Jesus, we struggle each year. They push materialims and santa despite our best efforts. Our family is out of town, so we stay with them and want to be gracious guests. However, we also want our decisions on how to celebrate this Holy time of year respected. Anyone have any ideas? It would be greatly appreciated! A note, we cannot afford to stay somewhere else since that would involve boarding our two dogs, so if we don’t stay with them, we do not spend Christmas with them either. Thanks, and many blessings to all of you!!
What a great exchange of ideas and understanding is going on in these comments! I love that so many believers can interact with this potentially divisive topic in love and respect!
Like several other commentators here, I too, fall into the category of a lover of the Savior who does not celebrate Christmas. It’s been a long, complex journey that has led to an ever-deepening love for our God and Savior.
Here are a couple of responses to the post and the comments I’d like to offer:
1) In the post, Beth says some symbols are “rooted in paganism but redeemable.” I have agreed with this idea in the past, but recently, I have been unable to reconcile this idea with what God said to His people Israel when he led them into the promised land. Speaking of the people whom they will be dispossessing, God says:
“Take care that you be not ensnared to follow them. . .Do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? -that I also may do the same.’ You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way.”
The point of this verse is not that His people will follow after other gods, though God did warn them about that in other scriptures. His point here is that they may be tempted to adapt the methods the pagans used in order to worship HIM. God had already prescribed the way He wants to be loved and worshipped. And He asked them over and over to be careful to do all He had commanded, not adding to it or taking from it.
2) Commentator, Jenn, speaking of those who do not celebrate Christmas and Easter says:
“Unfortunately, in those cases it looks more like ‘We’re to spiritual to celebrate the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus’ than trying to embrace Him more fully. Although there can be much value in observing the various feasts and such laid out in the Old Testament, we need to remember that those were instituted before the Messiah came.”
While I can see her point that many believers who do not “do” Christmas and Easter seem to be missing joy in Him and intimacy with Him, I have found that I am able to embrace Jesus more fully because of the feasts of the Lord, not in spite of them.
Also, I agree that they were instituted before the Messiah came. But they continued to be celebrated by Christians long after He was resurrected. (See explicit mentions of the days in Acts 2:1, Acts 20:6, Acts 20:16, 1 Cor 5:8)
Our Lord was intimately engaged with God’s prophetic calendar. Understanding this has led me to a deeper understanding for just how awesome and perfect He is!
Consider the following ways He precisely lined up with the Feast Days of the Lord:
* Jesus died as our Passover lamb at exactly the time the Jews sacrificed the Passover lamb. (Lev 23:5)
* He was buried at exactly the time the Feast of Unleavened Bread began. (Lev 23:6)
* He became the first fruits of those raised from the dead exactly in conjuncion with the Feast of Firstfruits. (Lev 23:9-11 – the day after the Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread)
* And He poured out the Spirit on His people on the Feast of Weeks, which was also known as Pentecost. (Lev 23:15-16)
On top of that, though it is not explicity said in scripture, many scholars have used the details in the gospel accounts (like the scheduled service of Zechariah in the temple and the pregnancy of Elizabeth) to show that Jesus was likely born during the Feast of Tabernacles. Like the other Holy Days mentioned above, how incredibly perfect would that have lined up? “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14) during the Feast of that celebrated God dwelling among His people.
He perfectly filled up the holy days with meaning. There is so much richness to enjoy and celebrate!
I would like to know what Lap book spurred you to all the research. It is something we are barely scratching the surface of and could use some suggestions. Great post…….makes a person really stop and think. I agree, it would be really hard to give up some traditions but others would go unnoticed.
Just for what it’s worth, I would like to point out that scholars say that neither baptism nor circumcision were new or unique to the worship of our Creator God, but He redeemed those customs and used them to good effect in training His people.
I’m not sure how I feel about the redemption of past pagan customs for the worship of Jesus by His people now, however. My family has not kept Christmas for more than 20 years, since I do not feel convicted that it is all right. This is a fascinating discussion.
Any suggestions for a wife on how to approach the santa clause, easter bunny, pagan subjects with a husband that is not very mature in his Christian walk and wants to be a peacemaker and just go with the flow (meaning the wordly flow)?
I have enjoyed reading all this. erika you summed up alot for us. My husband is always undecided but I have felt torn as we have been celbrating biblical feasts the past 2 years. My husband use to love Christmas as I too, but now i have learned that Christ would not want all this stress in Heaven so why should we want it here. We are celebratimg Hanakkah this year for the first time because it is the festival of light we will have lots of candle lights. I have read about a bush so uncertain there but because all our families still do Christmas we are still participating to honor them with family meal and giving gifts more so not to disappoint them. we are doing gifts for our children but only 2 each and that is to honor my husband but we are trying to walk the way Christ would want us to. this it what hits me that I feel.. Leagalism is only bonding if we make our selves feel bound. it is joyful to celebrate the biblical feasts and to honor the lord in them. We have fun with it just like people do with Christmas but we do it all year at all the feast, but we do not feel leagal about it or judge we just find it fun to seek Christ this way and to know all the true meaning of them all. As for christmas , Christ would have been concieved in December and born in the fall so while doing hanakkah this year and celebrating christmas with other we are celebrating chrits being concieved because that is a great thing. We then celebrate his birth during Sukkot whhile my children build a silly hut and have fun in it.. I hope you all have a great Holiday season how ever you celebrate just keep your eyes to the Lord and do as He instructs you read your bible and make sure you listen to him through the scriptures. I believe he wants us ALL to celebrate the same things at the same time We just need to listen fully to him to find out instead of making it our own..
I would also like to add I am a peacemaker too. that is why I am still celebrating with family because they all condemn me for everything. But giving is great. I am instructing my children in what the word says and showing them how the world does things and they actually prefer to just do what the bible says and honor the lord. They love all the biblical feast. So hoping this year with Hanakkah and celebrating the fact of Jesus being concieved goes well and We honor Christ the right way.
This is interesting. Something that we’ve been trying to figure out, but not in the same way. I actually really don’t even like Christmas in the first place- I know, strong statement- but it seems no matter how I try to do it, its focused on commercialism too much. I also have very negative, bad memories of Christmas from my childhood. As for the commercialism, its not for us, but its all around us. We’re considering not doing it at all, but I also don’t want my kids to be alienated. They already are in some ways eg. we homeschool, we don’t do Halloween, we eat a bit “different”, etc….I don’t want the stress the holiday brings in any form and I don’t think that stress helps us focus on Christ if that is what we are supposed to do with this holiday.
Anyways I keep thinking about it and trying to figure it all out. I just wish there was a seperate time to have a holiday to focus on Christ and that it wasn’t during the same time as the commericial holiday.
Beautiful post… thank you for sharing. Your adaptation to the lapbook lesson is EXACTLY why I love homeschooling!
Just wanted to add one note as it relates to Kathleen’s comments. I appreciate your humility in all your posts, first of all. Your question about “christianizing” (sometimes referred to as redeeming) pagan holidays did bring a particular scripture to mind. It is not a specific example as you may have been looking for but I do believe it effectively addresses the issue.
Romans 14:5-7 “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it as to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”
Paul was instructing believers from very different holiday and feast “traditions” (Jew/Greek). The origin of the particular day being esteemed seems to be overlooked in light of each persons choice to give honor to the Lord in that day. So, those who choose to celebrate out of love and devotion to Christ in the midst of the holiday are right. And those who choose not to celebrate out of love and devotion to Christ are also right. God’s very gracious with us that way. And the non-judgemental tone of these conversations is a reflection of His grace and that’s awesome! =)
I learned this year that I need to eliminate everything pagan from my life, even if I thought I was redeeming it for Christ. The reason is that in the Scriptures God asked His people to completely eliminate idols and pagan symbols. We are not to use pagan symbols to worship Him because it offends Him.
He has given us traditions that do please Him and most of them are found in the Old Testament. He has given us a day of rest. He has given us Passover, representing Christ’s death on the cross, the feast of Unleavened bread, representing Christ’s sinless life, His burial, and His desire for us to have a sinless life. In the New Testament, He re-purposed these holidays by offering us the bread and wine for communion to remember His death until He comes. He gave us the first of the first fruits, representing His Resurrection and presenting Himself to the Father as the Firstfruits of many brethren. He gave us the counting of 7 Sabbaths plus 1 day, or 50 days to Pentecost. He fulfilled this in Acts when he poured out His Holy Spirit on the believers and formed His church. He also gave us Trumpets to get our attention for the last days, Yom Kippur as a day of repentance and to represent the restoration of Israel, and Tabernacles to represent His dwelling among us during the life of Jesus on earth and His coming Millennial kingdom when He will dwell among us physically again. It is also believed that the first day of Tabernacles was Jesus’ real birthday and that the 8th day was the day of His circumcision. There are several reasons this is believed, including the calculation of when John the Baptist was born from when Zacharias’ turn to serve in the temple was and the fact that the angel to Mary said Elizabeth was 6 months’ pregnant. Also, I am told that the week of Tabernacles was the only week the sheep were out in the fields all night and the song the angels sang was a song the Jews had been singing on the first day of Tabernacles for many years.
The feast of Purim was established during Queen Esther’s time to commemorate God’s saving His people and Hanukkah is celebrated by many and was apparently celebrated by Jesus as a reminder of being saved in another incident in which they rededicated the temple and God is said to have performed the 8-day miracle of the oil.
I do, however, believe from someone’s calculations that looked into the Star of Bethlehem and made a DVD about it that the wise men came to visit Jesus on or around December 25th.
For the first time this year my husband and I are not going to put up a Christmas tree, but we do have a manger scene up in our home that we put up during Tabernacles and will keep up through December.
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