Courteous Christians and Christmas

By: Elder Bill McCarthy
(re-post from 2010)

Christmas – On the premise that most people in our society have long ago accepted Christmas as a holiday meriting wide celebration, why does the question continue to bother us: is this the appropriate way to honor God and His Son? Acknowledging that there are serious voices over the years arguing against the concept of Christmas, I will leave that as a discussion beyond the scope of this present article, as I desire to address another matter.

With countless numbers of songs, movies, books and stage plays bearing the Christmas message, during this last month of the year it seems that the world about us is magically transformed by a wonderful air of friendship and cheerfulness that sets a mood unique to this time of year. Indeed, the traditional music, communities aglow with bright lights illuminating homes and store fronts, and tree lighted streets create the sounds, smells and feelings of this special season. Even the weather, usually cold and perhaps snowing, add to the charm, and oh, what wonders and mysteries lie in those brightly wrapped and bowed Christmas gifts!

From what I have observed, it would seem that most Americans presume that God surely must approve how the world, moved by a spirit of joy and good will, celebrates the birth of His Son. The near universal acceptance of Christmas in this present age must surely please God, for what could He find to fault?

Admittedly, there is Biblical support for treating friends and strangers with charity and good will. Matthew 25 tells us that “inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” v 40. Much of the giving during the Christmas season – that directed to the needy – would seem to meet the standard of this Biblical lesson, but the giving of gifts to each other is believed to have been a Dutch tradition that was brought to this Country in the 1600’s and was forbidden in some places under penalty of law (mid 1600s in the city of Boston).

My point is simply this: our American Christmas traditions were invented by blending together customs over a couple of hundred years until Christmas was made a National holiday in 1870. Taken as such, an American National holiday, it has become part of our culture and would appear to be with us for the foreseeable future, in spite of its hostile treatment of late by such civil rights groups as the American Civil Liberties Union (ALCU).

Christians – How should we as Christians deal with Christmas? This question is raised often, usually by sincere, zealous disciples eager to serve their Lord in ways pleasing to Him. I believe there is a manner in which we can deal with Christmas that I would like to place before you for consideration.

It is found in the apostle Paul’s life, a life lived with zeal in a dark world in which the light of Christ had begun with the birth of Jesus Christ but had yet to be widely spread. One can get a feel for Paul’s world in his second letter to the church at Corinth, and more specifically, in 2 Cor. 11:23-33. As one reads the harshness he faced, one soon realizes the extreme dangers and hostilities faced as he preached the gospel throughout. Suffice it to acknowledge that Paul did not enjoy the comfort and safety afforded our church families today, and what matters might be irksome to us would not have risen to be an afternoon’s annoyance for this great laboring saint of the Lord. In a word, we today probably should prayerfully ask the Lord’s forgiveness for our often being unreasonably agitated by mostly minor diversions from His path; in short, we have become expert at making mountains out of molehills.

Paul on the other hand, with the patience of Job, said,

“To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.” 1 Cor 9:22-23.

Furthermore, he made great efforts to see things in the broader mission of the gospel, writing:

The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? Notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.” Philippians 1:16-18.

It appears to me that Paul would find great delight in much of our Christmas celebrations, as the name of Christ is proclaimed and preached widely, the very purpose for which he served his Lord.

Courteous – The very fact that Christianity is at center stage of attention during the days of the Christmas season, our obligation as disciples of our Lord is to show forth our Christianity in ways and manners that honor our Lord and that avoid reproach being brought upon His name.

The apostle Peter wrote,

“Be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.” 1st Pet 3:8-11. Paul echoes this with, “The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient.” 2 Tim 2:24.

To be courteous is to show forth polite, kind speech and behavior with excellence of social manners. In short, be nice, for this is a Biblical mandate for Christians; we as disciples bear the grace of our Lord, so we must reflect God’s character. We should, as Paul would write, have the mind of Jesus Christ in all things we say, do or think. Philippians 2:5.

In sum, let us commit ourselves this Christmas season to do all in the name of, and to the glory of, our Lord.

Published: 2010-12-12 by BDM