Guest Author - Preena Deepak
A celebration of Christ’s birth is not wrong. In fact Christians must rejoice and celebrate their Savior’s birth. But why bring in pagan customs as part of the festivities? Several pagan festivals fall exactly on 25th December or close to this time and Christians over time seem to have borrowed pagan traditions while celebrating Christmas. Note that not all of them are wrong. There are many Christmas customs with Christian origins like the ones below.
The Bible does encourage us to share and give. Jesus is God’s gift to the world and also the reason why Christians give each other gifts for Christmas. Gift giving cannot be called a pagan custom at all. However the Biblical teaching on ‘giving’ differs from others. Just as God gave His Precious Son to unworthy sinners with no paybacks, Christian giving must be sacrificial, generous and from a heart of love. Many other religious celebrations also advocate giving gifts. That need not necessarily make Christmas gifts pagan provided the gifting is done the right way.
Bells have always been associated with Churches, especially in ancient times when voice amplifiers and mobile phones were not invented. Almost all Churches had bells to inform and alert members on attending Church service, funerals and such events. Bells were rung for a certain number of times to convey a message to congregation members who usually lived in and around the vicinity. With such a strong Christian usage, having decorated bells as part of Christmas celebrations cannot be called pagan. However bells do have pagan linkage. Yule is a celebration of the Winter Solstice which refers to the shortest day and longest night of the year. On this day, jingle bells are tied by patrons of pagan customs to do away with evil spirits.
Candy sticks were originally made to represent a shepherd’s staff. Since these sticks look like the letter ‘J’, they are often thought to stand for ‘Jesus’. The normal color code for candy sticks is red and white where ‘white’ stands for purity which comes when covered by the ‘red’ blood of Christ.
Lighting candles may have connections with other religious systems. But Christmas candles signify that Christ was born into a dark world of sin. Just as the light of a candle dispels darkness, Christ has won over sin and death by coming into the world. He is the Light of the World and the reason for Christmas. Though lighting candles is not necessary, it is not wrong either.
Singing Christmas carols Christmas in churches, at home and in parties is a wonderful way of celebrating the joy of Christ’s birth. However many carols we sing have words that certainly bear no evidence to our faith or the reason for Christmas Joy. Choosing carols with appropriate lyrics beforehand can avoid the risk of singing meaningless carols.
No matter what customs you decide to cling to and what you discard, prepare for this Christmas celebration by asking for the Spirit’s leading. While Christmas is a time to celebrate, it is also a time to recollect God’s goodness and faithfulness and spread Christ’s love in special ways. Let none of the Christmas goodies steal away your joy of celebrating this holiday the way God wants.
Here are two useful books you might want to buy from Amazon.com for further reading.
Buy 'God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas' by Dietrich Bonhoeffer from Amazon.com
Buy 'Advent and Christmas Wisdom from Henri J.M. Nouwen: Daily Scripture and Prayers together with Nouwen's Own Words' from Amazon.com