Recently I delved into the topic of the origins of Christmas and argued the case that Christmas is not pagan in origin, but from serious devotion to the Son of God. So it’s not pagan, but there are other arguments against its celebration. For one, it’s not in the Bible. Nowhere are we commanded to celebrate Jesus’ birthday or other Christian feast days. Many of the anti-Christmas persuasion use this argument to establish Christmas as a non-sanctioned holiday and therefore should not be celebrated. Two, only the holidays of Leviticus 23 should be celebrated. God gave us these holidays so why make up our own? Both of these arguments rely on the assumption that we are only allowed to celebrate what is explicitly commanded in Scripture. Anything else is an aberration and should be treated with extreme suspicion. Besides these arguments is the assumption that Christianity has been apostate from the “biblical” faith and mixed with paganism. As I’ve argued against this position elsewhere, I won’t bother with it again except to say that it is a hangover from 19th higher criticism and radical protestant propaganda making out the Roman church to be the beast of Revelation.
What I will argue here is that Christmas and other Christian holidays are at least permissible and even good for us. Why would Christians deem it permissible to commemorate their own holidays? The answer is simple, it’s biblical. Esther 9:27 “The Jews established and made a custom for themselves and for their descendants and for all those who allied themselves with them, so that they would not fail to celebrate these two days according to their regulation and according to their appointed time annually.” The Jews in the book of Esther establish a holiday celebrating their deliverance from the Persians and Haman by keeping two days of feasting. Well, it’s in the Bible, so it’s OK to celebrate you might say. Funny. What came first, the writing of Esther or the holiday? So while Esther gives us biblical precedent, for the Jews celebrating Purim they were charting new waters. They must have thought they had justification for doing so. One funny thing is, God is not mentioned commanding the holiday, in fact, God is not mentioned in the entire book of Esther. Of course a case can be made for His hidden hand guiding events, but there is no explicit command to celebrate these days nor mention of God in them. So Christmas, in fact mentions more about God than even one of the biblical holidays!
Hanukkah has kind of taken over the place of Christmas for a lot of Hebrew Roots folks, but again, this is not a commanded holiday. In fact, it’s not even in the Protestant Bibles they use except in the New Testament. We see Jesus celebrating Hanukkah in John ten. This means that the messiah himself thought it at least permissible to observe this holiday, you know, since he walked all the way from Galilee to Jerusalem to observe it. The Hanukkah story as recorded in the books of the Maccabees at least appeals to God’s intervention, but it does not state that God commands anyone to celebrate it. So we have two holidays in the Bible that God does not command that are permissible at the least. Though many would go further and argue that these holidays teach us about God’s deliverance and faithfulness to his people. I would agree. That is the same way I see Christmas. What better way to teach about God’s faithfulness than to commemorate when Christ,
“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humble himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”
Hanukkah and Purim are additions but are OK with in the Hebrew Roots movement. Since it is argued that these two holidays were commemorations of God’s direct intervention into history,they are justified. OK, great, sounds good to me. This argument cuts both ways though. What could be more of a direct intervention of God into history than his putting on flesh and dwelling among us? Indeed, there is nothing more radical, nothing more revolutionary than the culmination of God’s plan in the person of Jesus Christ. By his coming into the world, the revolution of God’s kingdom was inaugurated. Besides the resurrection, this is one of the most important events in all of history. Without the nativity, we don’t have the crucifixion and resurrection. We don’t have the redemption of all flesh.
With the absolute importance of the event of the nativity, coupled with the understanding that the holiday is not pagan, but actually Christian in origin, then I believe we are completely justified in celebrating Christmas. If the Old Testament saints and those in the second temple period could order their calendar according to God’s actions, so can Christians. We have the biblical precedent for it.