The United States government grants a federal holiday and recognizes Christmas as a national holiday. The U.S. Constitution recognizes Jesus Christ as “our Lord.” However, the Supreme Court noted that it is also a secular holiday. That is strange because the original meaning of holiday was “holy day” and this word has become secular — nonreligious without recognition of God. However, the national recognition of the birth of Jesus at Christmas is both encouraging and yet concerning. For Christians, we must be ready in this season to proclaim the gospel and teach devotion to God as Jesus did at Hanukkah (John 10:22–39).
The Christian Scriptures address how the faithful are to approach the observation of days. The apostle Paul wrote, “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord” (Rom 14:5–6a ESV). Furthermore, Paul taught the church not to judge or to despise one another over food or observing days because God is the Judge (Rom 14:10, 13). However, the apostle also taught the church at Colossi, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ” (Col 2:16–17).
The Bible does not specify or command the celebration of Jesus’s birth on December 25 (or January 6). The oldest record of Christians observing December 25 as the birthday of Jesus comes from an early Christian writer Hippolytus who wrote in the early third century AD (Commentary on the Book of Daniel 4.23.3). However, most early Christian writers did not agree on the time of Jesus’s birth. Christmas by definition is an early Roman church tradition as indicated by “mass” in the word “Christmas.” Historically, many protestant and reformed Christians opposed celebrating Christmas. Some have claimed that Christmas was originally a pagan holiday but evidence for that is lacking. Every observance of a day can be attributed to one of many pagan holidays, but such is parallelomania. Anyone educated in Christianity knows that Jesus was a Jew and His teachings were built on the Jewish Scriptures of the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms (cf. Luke 24:25–27, 44–48).
What are Christians to do with observing special days? Christians are to maintain the God-given traditions just as God has given them (1 Cor 11:2; 2 Thess 2:15; 3:6). The Bible teaches the significance of the first day of the week for assembly as “the Lord’s Day” (Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1–3; cf. Acts 20:7; Rev 1:10). For the faithful, the Lord’s Day is for assembly, and every day is committed to observing the coming of the Son of God in the flesh and Christ’s resurrection to conquer death (1 Cor 15:25–26, 54–55; 2 Tim 1:10; 1 John 4:2–3). Because the date of Jesus’s birth is not in the Bible, the church allows that individuals act according to their conscience who value such days (Rom 14). However, the church must be careful about publically recognizing and observing the manmade traditions as Jesus warned against the traditions of men being valued over God’s commands (Mark 7:1–8). Because of family and cultural traditions, people are often offended by the idea of not recognizing them. When a church observes Christmas for the birth of Christ, they imply that the day is truly the day of Jesus’s birth and infer observance of a manmade tradition upon fellow believers.
Christians should not divide or drive away believers who observe days to the Lord. For harmony and unity, Paul concluded by teaching the Christians in Rome to bear with the weak and build up one another (Rom 15:1–2; cf. 15:5–7). However, Christians do have the right and duty to warn about manmade traditions and observances of days that can lead the weak away from Christ. Paul warned, “You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain” (Gal 4:10).
Be gentle and respectful with those who observe Christmas as Jesus’s birth. Make good use of a nation recognizing a day to Jesus of Nazareth. Because many are recognizing Jesus, share the gospel. Like the angel to the shepherds, let us say, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10).