Massive consumerism dressed up as good will and genuine affection pulled out of the Black Friday haze yesterday. Once-a-year feedings from guilt-ridden citizens who need to get in their last minute good deeds of the year before the accounting is closed showed up as well. Fake Santas with fake stories about quasi-idols rolled out into the streets, too. The pagan-rooted folk tales co-mingled with intense commercialism make for a bitter seasonal soup. As believers, it’s a bit too easy to poke fun at the holidays.
So what should we think about it all? Should we become isolated purists who refuse to emerge from our Keebler tree until everyone practices things according to our regulations? Should we just ignore all the hype and boycott everything? Should we rebuke anyone who dare put up a Druid-inspired evergreen with all the fancies? Scrooge certainly would approve.
I think a simple solution is found in our liberty under Christ. While we should never go against our conscience in matters of practice (1Timothy 1:5) nor should we attempt to bind others by our own, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “… why is my freedom judged by another’s conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I slandered concerning that for which I give thanks?” (1Cor. 10:29b-30)
It is completely possible to participate in our cultural holiday festivities without being trapped in consumerism. One can put up holiday decorations without bowing to them and we can certainly sing songs about reindeers and elves as part of the ‘being all things to all people’ without automatically worshipping mini-gods and animals.
In fact, as one who did refrain from holiday practices for almost five years, I can say that taking such an extreme view of non-participation actually does more harm for the cause of Christ than it helps. Let me explain.
Because I adamantly refused anything to do with Christmas, I was constantly being looked at as if I were some cultist or Jehovah’s Witness. Why, in their mind, would my protest of ‘CHRIST’mas, somehow make me a better Christian? My boycott had the opposite result. Piety fail.
The same effect was felt regarding my family and friends. Not one single ear was open to my attempted adherence to a more faithful life. In fact, being so tightly wound up only made me angry and mostly useless. I know that one can adhere to abstaining from holiday participation and not be angry all the time, but I have rarely seen it. No one wanted to talk to me about anything biblical, let alone listen to the gospel. I wasn’t preaching it either.
We should be in the world, just not of the world. Openly embracing the cultural holiday within the limits of moderation will present far more genuine opportunities to win someone to Christ then choosing to stay home or show up with a grimace.
Take advantage of the common grace given to us during this holiday season. Rejoice in the birth of Christ! Show your love to family and friends and enemies alike! Preach the truth in season.