By Rodney Shaw


Christmas is not a biblical holiday. In fact, Christ’s birth is hardly mentioned in Scripture after the historic accounts in the Gospels. The significance of His birth lies in the fact that it served as the threshold for the Incarnation. It was His conception that was miraculous, not His birth. His birth was certainly not celebrated by the apostolic community. 

Celebrating Christmas is not nearly as religious as it is cultural. What we celebrate today is the product of many years. Christmas actually evolved with various influences. It is both secular and Christian. But more than anything else, Christmas is cultural. Even those who try to emphasize Christ’s birth during the holiday typically do so in a scanty fashion. Typical recognition of His birth usually consists of reading Luke’s account of the Nativity just before the family dives into the presents. A few attend abbreviated worship services. Even then, most of the attention is often not on His birth, but on the Incarnation as a whole, for to celebrate His birth without celebrating His death is meaningless. 

Is celebrating the birth of Christ a bad thing? No. Is exchanging gifts with loved ones a bad thing? No. (God so loved the world, that He gave’ [John 3:16].) Is the good will and cheer of the season a bad thing? No. Lights, Christmas trees, Yule logs, Santa Claus and the host of other traditions that surround Christmas must be left up to individual conscience.

Perhaps we should back up the question one level: Should Christians celebrate? I think so. God’s people should be a happy people, filled with the joy of the Lord and the ability to share love and kindness with others. A study of the life of Christ reveals that He loved feasts, parties, and a good time. This was one of His critics’ major complaints against Him. 

Is it appropriate for our inclination toward joy to be focused around Christ’s birth and sharing with family and friends? I think the answer is obvious. If for reasons of conscience or personal preference some choose not to celebrate Christmas, this is perfectly legitimate. 

However, one thing we can all agree on is that everyone should celebrate      Christ! Celebrate His eternal plan. Celebrate His conception. Celebrate His birth. Celebrate His life and teachings. Celebrate His passion and  crucifixion. Celebrate His resurrection and ascension. Celebrate “his great love wherewith he loved us” (Ephesians 2:4).

Do it all year long.

This article appeared in the Apostolic Sentinel, December 2000.