In Luke 2:10-11, an angel of God describes the birth of Jesus as “good tidings of great joy for all the people.” Since it was appropriate for angels to rejoice at the birth of Jesus (verses 13-14), we believe it is certainly in keeping with the message of Scripture for Christians to do so.
Following the apostle Paul’s instruction in Romans 14, it is important that Christians respect one another’s views on this subject and not judge one another. Neither those believers who celebrate the birth of Jesus, nor those who don’t, are more righteous or more evil than the other. Christians are free in Christ to celebrate Christmas — or they may avoid it.
Some Christians avoid Christmas celebrations for conscience sake. There is no sin in their abstinence. Others devote themselves to worship, and celebrate with thanksgiving the miracle that God sent his Son into the world for our salvation. We can all learn to say with Paul: “Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord…. Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God” (Romans 14:6, 10).
Love, not command, is what motivates many Christians to celebrate during the Christmas season. They love their Savior and they love their families, and the Advent season provides an opportunity for them to express love to both. Similarly, love motivates some Christians who choose not to celebrate Christmas. They also love their Savior and their families. Their discomfort with the Christmas celebration is based on their desire to avoid taking part in something that defiles their conscience.
Can we respect one another’s views, and follow Jesus’ command that we love one another? I believe we can. The fact that non-Christians or even some Christians celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday or in a profane way is not a reason for all Christians to avoid Christmas. No matter what the holiday or holy day, some will observe it for the wrong reasons, or get involved in ungodly conduct. These are not reasons for everyone else to avoid those same holidays.
The fact that many Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus in December or January does not mean that all Christians must do so. After all, there have been faithful Christians throughout the centuries who never celebrated Christmas.
Every pastor should provide meaningful worship opportunities during the Advent season for members who want to celebrate the birth of the Son of God. Many people will be thinking about the birth of Jesus, and pastors can build on those thoughts and direct members to the spiritual significance of his birth. Whether his birth actually happened in December is not important—what is important is that we can build on the thoughts that are seasonally common in December, just as we usually use Thanksgiving Day as an opportunity to discuss thanksgiving.
Not every member has to participate, nor to observe Christmas at home. That is a personal matter. Some Christians celebrate Christmas with traditional customs, while some celebrate it without traditional customs. Some avoid it altogether. Those who celebrate Christmas and those who do not should seek to honor Christ (Romans 14:5-6).
All our annual occasions should serve to draw us into a closer walk with Christ. They are opportunities to preach Christ, celebrate Christ and drink deeply of the living waters. May God grant us peace and unity as we live together in his grace and obedience.