Christmas in Australia is a celebration which would no doubt be very similar to the Christmas that the average American celebrates. Most of the different Christian denominations celebrate Christmas much the same as Americans would, with a church service on Christmas Day and other Christmas services on the Sundays around December 25.
The world sees Christmas as a time of humanistic peace and goodwill toward their fellow man; a time of giving presents, going to parties, and on vacations. It is a time of excess commercialization by the shopping retailers, using the birth of Christ as a means to make large profits, while telling everybody how important it is for them to give at Christmas.
We as Christians should be careful how we remember Christ’s birth. Nowhere in scripture is it commanded or even suggested that we ought to celebrate Christ’s birth. The fourth commandment says, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work; But the seventh is the Sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work.” (Exodus 20:8-10a) This does not mean that we may not remember the Lord’s birth on Christmas Day, but it does say that the only day that is to be set aside as holy is the Sabbath.
Christ in the New Testament instituted the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Christ requires us to remember Him in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. “And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you, this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” (I Corinthians 11:24-26) But we are not required to celebrate Christ’s birth.
ORIGINS OF CHRISTMAS
The Roman Catholic Church during the fourth century introduced the celebration of Christmas on a pagan festival day to make Christianity more acceptable to the world. The word “Christmas” is a contradiction in itself. Christ is the name of our wonderful Saviour and Lord, Who through one death on the cross paid for all the sins of His elect people. “For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world; but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (Hebrews 9:26-28). The ritual of the Roman Catholic Mass denies the finished work of Christ in His complete atonement for His people and teaches a need for continual sacrifice for sin. Scripture refuted this, “For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14).
Since the introduction of Christmas, almost all Christian denominations have accepted the yearly celebration as a part of their church calendar, and the word “Christmas” does not carry the connotations it originally did in the Roman Catholic Church. However, just as the celebration began as a pagan festival, the world continues its revellings today. The ungodly might go to church on the day and return home, their consciences salved that they too have been part of the reason for Christ’s incarnation, but there is no repentance from sin or desire to obey Christ.
THE UNGODLY’S CELEBRATION
The world celebrates Christmas in a very ungodly way. It does not have as its focus the reason for the birth of Christ.
Parties seem in no way to bring honor or glory to Christ’s name. Often, as far as the world goes, they turn into a drunken, gluttonous orgy where Christ is not just forgotten, but also blasphemed and despised.
Giving presents is also a part of Christmas that appears hard to justify. It seems strange to celebrate Christ’s birthday by giving present to everyone else. The worldly person gives gifts to others with the expectation that he himself will receive gifts in return. Maybe we as Christians, if we are going to make gifts, should give them to the Lord for use in His Church.
It is worth noting at this point that the world loves the celebration of Christmas. Millions will break the fourth commandment every week, yet they will drop everything on Christmas Day to attend a Christmas service or program. When the world thinks something is good, watch out! We must be careful not to do as the world does. “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination unto the LORD: but he loveth him that followeth after righteousness. The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the LORD: but the words of the pure are pleasant words” (Proverbs 15:8, 26).
The world likes to have its religion, so long as it does not offend. That is why Christmas is so acceptable. Christ is presented as a little baby in a manger, and not as the righteous Judge of all the deeds of men. The world can enjoy the religiousness of the occasion and feel a (false) sense of security that they have nothing to fear in an eternity without saving faith in God. That is not to say that celebrating Christ’s birth is wrong. But if the Church is seen to approve of the world’s religiousness at this time by celebrating Christmas, then the tradition is something that could justifiably be avoided.
The Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia takes the position that there is one holy day to be set aside, namely the Sabbath. With this in mind, the EPC does not give Christmas Day any more importance than any other day.
This is not to say that the church teaches that remembering Christ’s birth or preaching about Christ’s birth around Christmas time if wrong. But to make it an expectation that everyone should go to church on Christmas Day is to add to God’s law. There is also the feeling that to do as the world does at Christmas is to give approval to a worldly feast and celebration.
We as a family do not celebrate Christmas in any way nor treat December 25 as anything special. This does not mean that we condemn those who genuinely seek to honor Christ by remembering Him on Christmas Day.
May we conclude with the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 14:5, 6 and 8 where he says, “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.”