So, we have passed Halloween and we are now entering the real meat of the holiday season. Autumn will close out with a celebration of Thanksgiving, and winter will debut with silver bells, tinsel, and frustrated shoppers ushering in the Christmas season. It’s this time of year when we as Christians are confronted with a bevy of questions about the proper way to approach holidays, particularly Halloween and Christmas. What is the proper response we should give for holidays? Are we supposed to avoid them? Celebrate them? Somewhere in between? It’s enough to drive a person mad!
It’s helpful at first to remember this: The Bible never speaks of a need to celebrate or not to celebrate these holidays. First, neither existed at the time of the writing of scripture, so we don’t have any real references. What we have are a few references that require some inductive reasoning into what we should do. First, let’s look at the value of the Jewish holidays in light of the advent of Christ. We can gain a lot of insight on how we are to look at holidays by what Paul says in his letter to the church in Rome:
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.
(Romans 14:1-6 ESV)
Paul is writing here in order to bring further clarification on a point he was making in Chapter 13, which was essentially, the Law of God is fulfilled through love. To paraphrase Paul, he is saying that both the person who believes in celebrating a day (the Sabbath here, most likely, in this particular case, but applicable nonetheless by the basic principles at work) as well as the person who does not believe should welcome one another in love. So, I think Paul’s point is this: We don’t fulfill God’s law with our own piety towards a holiday or event. God’s law is fulfilled only by our love for one another. Now, let that sink in.
Should we celebrate Halloween? Does it matter?
Should we celebrate Thanksgiving? Does it matter? (Ultimately, I’m going with celebrating this one just because of the twin celebration of turkey and football)
Should we celebrate Christmas? Does it matter?
I think you probably get where I’m going with this. You can come up with all of the reasons you want to celebrate or avoid the holidays, but are you doing so out of love for one another? You can choose alternative celebrations such as Reformation Day, but are you doing so out of love for one another? I feel that our motivations for doing what we do should be to fulfill God’s ultimate law for us, which is to love. And yes, certainly there are some traditions and missteps in holidays that drive me mad. I cringe when I see some parent that thinks there should be no problem dressing their six year old as a bar maid. I hate to see people utterly RUIN Christmas by acting like fools on Black Friday, so much so that I believe Jesus will one day judge those who participate in Black Friday as pagans and heathens (I’m mostly just kidding there). So, as a Christian, how do I respond to that? Simple. I tend to not do those stupid things, and tend to explain openly why I don’t.
Personally, I view the holidays like this, and please, don’t take my word as law. One of the beautiful things about our faith, and one of the tenets we hold at Church of Monroe, is that if we haven’t figured it out in 2000 years of church history, we aren’t gonna suddenly stumble on it now. I look at holidays as a wonderful opportunity to spread the Gospel, to bring together a community of people, and to rejoice in the fact that we have a Creator that is so enamored with us that He even allows us to have celebrations like these. I live in a small city that is burdened with spiritual hardness. I have neighbors across the street that are skeptical of the Gospel but seem like they want to hear more. I think that we, as Christians, can maturely celebrate holidays, or we can maturely decline to celebrate. But, most importantly, it’s not our job to cram our views down someone else’s throat, or to lord it over someone that we believe the way we do. That’s the meat of what Paul is trying to say. These are peripheral issues that are absolutely impertinent to our salvation. So, celebrate Halloween! Eat candy, take your kids trick-or-treating in an innocuously cute costume (Our little daughter was the cupcake princess). Celebrate Christmas! Eat yummy foods, sit by the fire in the glow of a Christmas tree, give gifts. Or, don’t celebrate Halloween. Spend that night with your family. Spend time witnessing to scores of children that come to your door. You may be the only Christian witness they ever meet. Make the most of it! And whatever you do, look inside your heart. Are you doing it out of love? If not, you need to rethink your positions.