Is This the Way to Honor Jesus Christ?
“HE THAT does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” (John 5:23) These words of Jesus Christ make it clear that an approved relationship with God depends upon honoring his Son.
If we want this approved relationship, we have reason to be concerned about whether we are giving the Son the honor his position deserves. And just what is his position? Of the authority entrusted to him by his Father, Jesus Christ said: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth.” (Matt. 28:18) Centuries earlier it had been foretold about him: “There has been a child born to us, there has been a son given to us; and the princely rule will come to be upon his shoulder. And his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”—Isa. 9:6.
Do you view Jesus Christ as God’s appointed King, with heavenly and earthly authority? That is quite different from thinking of him as merely a babe lying in a manger. Only when we regard Jesus Christ as a king whose commands we should obey can we really honor him.
WHAT ABOUT OBSERVING JESUS’ BIRTH?
In view of Jesus’ position and authority, might honoring him also include commemorating the date of his birth as a man? Many professed Christians would say, Yes. Throughout the earth, on December 25, they celebrate “Christmas,” the claimed anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ. But does observing Christmas really honor Christ? Is it in harmony with his commands and the spirit of his teachings?
For the celebration to honor Jesus Christ, should it not present matters as factually as possible? That should be expected, for Jesus himself said: “I am . . . the truth.” (John 14:6) Anything to which his name is attached should therefore be truthful, factual. Is that the case regarding the Christmas celebration?
Consider the date itself—December 25. The Bible does not give the exact date of Jesus’ birth. But it clearly shows when it could not have taken place. Jesus was born in Bethlehem at a time when shepherds were “living out of doors and keeping watches in the night over their flocks.” (Luke 2:8) Does this circumstance fit the month of December? No. In the Bethlehem area, during that month there are frequent frosts at night. Why, already with the start of the rainy season in the latter part of October, shepherds do not continue to live outdoors at night. So the December 25 date actually misrepresents the facts about Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem. Did you realize that?
That, however, is by no means all. Even the festivities held on December 25 do not find their origin in Christianity. Says the Encyclopædia Britannica: “The Christmas festival is the Christian revision of the Roman day of the winter solstice—the festival of Dies Invicti Solis (the Day of the Invincible Sun) on December 25.” (Macropædia, Vol. 4, p. 499, 1974 edition) Similarly, religious writer Louis Cassels observed: “Modern Christians who deplore the intrusions of secular customs upon the religious meaning of Christmas should bear in mind Christmas is not a Christian holiday that has been partially paganized. It was from the start a pagan holiday, partly Christianized.”—Detroit Free Press, March 10, 1974.
Do you think that Jesus Christ would consider it an honor to have his name attached to a “pagan holiday, partly Christianized”? How could this be so when his faithful disciples recognized that there should be no mixing of the darkness of paganism with the light of Christianity? The apostle Paul, for example, reminded fellow Christians at Corinth: “What sharing does light have with darkness? Further, what harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what portion does a faithful person have with an unbeliever? And what agreement does God’s temple have with idols? . . . ‘Therefore get out from among them, and separate yourselves,’ says Jehovah, ‘and quit touching the unclean thing.’”—2 Cor. 6:14-17.
WHY SEPARATENESS NOT MAINTAINED
That was certainly strong admonition against involvement with paganism. How, then, was it possible for a pagan holiday to be celebrated as the birth of Jesus Christ? Does this not reveal that there must have been some weakening in the position of Christians toward paganism? What might have caused this? Pointing to one strong factor, the Encyclopædia Britannica states: “Christmas, the festival of the birth of Jesus Christ, was established in connection with a fading of the expectation of Christ’s imminent return.”—Macropædia, Vol. 4, p. 499, 1974 edition.
Such losing sight of the imminence of Christ’s return was contrary to Jesus’ admonition that his followers be awake and watchful at all times. They were not to become so concerned about the daily cares of life that spiritual interests would be crowded out of their lives. They were to live in a way that demonstrated faith in his return to execute judgment against the ungodly and to bring relief from suffering to them as his true followers. Only by maintaining a proper position before Jesus Christ as their Lord could they hope to survive the execution of divine judgment.—Luke 21:34-36; 2 Thess. 1:6-9.
From the second century onward, however, many professed Christians failed to heed Jesus’ counsel. His coming in Kingdom power with angelic hosts ceased to be of immediate concern to them. So the time came when they no longer appreciated the vital need to maintain a clean and unblemished appearance before their Lord. This “fading of the expectation of Christ’s imminent return” weakened their resistance to involvement with paganism, resulting in the adoption of pagan holidays, which were then given a “Christian” label.
WHAT WILL YOU DO?
In view of all of this, is it not clear that the Christmas celebration does not honor Jesus Christ? So, then, what do you think about observing Christmas? Would it be right to continue celebrating it for the sake of tradition? Is it proper to perpetuate a holiday that came into acceptance among professed Christians when the fact of Christ’s return faded into the background? Should you not, rather, seek to honor Jesus Christ by living each day in full recognition of his being God’s appointed King and Executioner? It is urgent that you do not put off making a decision on this, because what you do gives evidence of your attitude toward God himself as well as toward his Son.
Should you decide to stop celebrating Christmas, you will doubtless want to explain this to relatives and acquaintances. Kindly help them to see the reasons for your decision. Make it clear that you do not object to their doing what they desire and that you would therefore appreciate their being considerate of your feelings. Strive to aid them to understand that you do not wish to offend them but that you are concerned about not dishonoring Jesus Christ, even in what to others might appear to be little things. You might even point out that you are sure that they would not want you to do something just for their sake if doing it would make you feel guilty.
If you are a parent, your not sharing in the Christmas celebration does not have to mean that your children will be missing out on an enjoyable vacation period. Since the children will be at home from school, the whole family can participate in upbuilding and relaxing activities. Your going out of your way to spend time with your children can make their vacation period far more memorable than would one revolving primarily around gifts.
As for gifts—you can give these to your children anytime during the year, and gifts are often more appreciated when they come at unexpected times. You will be giving, not under compulsion or pressure from the commercial world when prices are high, but when your heart moves you to do it. Such giving—for which your children thank, not “Santa Claus,” but their parents—does much more to strengthen family ties.
A decision not to celebrate Christmas may also require explanations at one’s place of work or at school. Special holiday parties may be planned there. In that case, what could you do? Perhaps you might speak with your foreman, employer or teacher, explaining why your beliefs about what really honors Jesus require that you do not share in the party this year. You could ask for suggestions as to what you could do so that your wishes might be respected without interfering with the planned festivities. Might it be advisable and possible to leave earlier that day? Could you do something else in another location so that you would not be giving the appearance of spoiling others’ enjoyment of the celebration? What does the foreman, employer or teacher recommend?
Even in chance contacts your not celebrating Christmas may give rise to questions as to how to handle a particular situation. Others may wish you “Merry Christmas.” Rather than making an issue about your not observing Christmas, you may simply wish to thank them. If some really do want to know your position, you can let the circumstances guide you as to whether an explanation would be appropriate then or at another time.
Of course, unexpected situations may arise. In coping with them, be kind and remain firm in your conviction to act in a way that will truly honor Jesus Christ. If you do, you can rest assured of God’s approval and blessing.