Folks, it’s that time of year again.
I know I have this rule that you should never talk about how rubbish Christmas is at Christmas time. August is best, I feel. But here we are, and August has slipped past again, and still Something Must Be Said.
1) The religious problem. As everyone knows, it’s a pagan festival, insinuated into the Christian church by way of exploiting the loose connections between heathen myths and the facts of Christian history. Whatever is the reason for this season, Jesus is not it.
2) The church angle. As everyone knows, the virgin birth actually happened. The Son of God did become man. This is immense. On the incarnation, the crucifixion, and the resurrection, all our salvation depends.
But the festivals and celebrations of the Christian church are constrained by what Christ has actually ordained. What Christ has ordained is a weekly celebration of his resurrection in the Lord’s day, a one-off symbolisation of regeneration for every believer in their baptism, and a regular symbolisation of ongoing dependence for every believer in the Lord’s supper.
Christmas isn’t in Christ’s list. Nor, for that matter, is Easter, or Lent, or any of the other days vulgarly called holy days. The Christian Church has no right to summon anyone to church services to celebrate Christ’s birth at this time of year. We have all year round to remember and worship on account of this amazing thing, that Christ Jesus came into the world, to save sinners.
3) The cultural angle. As everyone knows, this time of year is a riot of spending too much, eating too much, drinking too much, partying too much, and stressing too much. Whether it’s tacky Christmas, or sophisticated Christmas, or nostalgic Christmas, it’s synonymous with consumerism, materialism, and excess. Most people shopping for presents are not enjoying themselves. Most people preparing huge dinners are glad when it’s over. Most people listening to Christmas music on every possible radio station and in every possible shop eventually find themselves with earworm.
People who have been brought up in Christmas-free families should be deeply, madly, passionately appreciative of that fact. It means you know the gospel truth about the incarnation, untainted by sacrilegious nativity scenes. It means you can go to church all and only those times when God wants you to be in church, and not when tradition dictates. It means you don’t need to buy into an annual commercialised frenzy of tinsel, trees, turkey trimmings, Santas, stockings, sleigh bells, wreaths, crackers, carols, party hats, watch night services, work nights out, and fill in the rest of the paraphernalia for yourself. Or rather, don’t. Don’t be distracted from things that actually matter, by adopting cultural practices that are alien to your own worldview and lifestyle, and and that are in any case a burden grievous to be borne by people who don’t have the same heritage of religious liberty and freedom.
Instead, embrace and celebrate being Christmas-free. Rally your peers and support each other in your Christmas-avoidance when you get together. Let your gatherings be safe spaces where nobody needs to find excuses to get out of the Christmas party. Just think of how dispiriting it is to be struggling, isolated, in the office or at school or uni to behave with integrity and with courtesy – to walk that tightrope between violating your conscience before God and avoiding giving needless offence to colleagues and peers in all the delicate social situations that arise – only to be confronted with exactly the same dilemmas when you meet up with people who should be on exactly the same wavelength. Christmas is something you can safely stay at least a bargepole’s distance away from, without missing out on anything of religious benefit or cultural merit. And I’m putting a note in my diary to say the same again next August.