By William Pile
I came by it honestly. My disdain for Christmas, that is. I was the perfect model for a “Christian” Scrooge.
When my parents came to Christ, I was but a child, and when they came to believe that Christmas was a pagan holiday, not fitting for true Christians to observe, it was hardly a studied decision on my part. In my teenage, as a Christian myself, I bought heavily into Christian exclusivism, a kind of unmentioned theology by which most everything nominal Christians did was at least suspect, or in some cases outright denied. Observance of religious holidays not specifically mentioned in the Bible fell into the latter category.
It was the old “origins” argument, but I didn’t know it. By that argument, anything that had ever been touched by paganism was still pagan, and “Christianizing” it didn’t change anything. Naive Christians who observed Christmas were actually celebrating the Saturnalia, or worse yet, the Catholic version: Christ’s Mass. All the trappings of the holiday had equally evil background, I discovered. Christmas trees, Santa Claus, mistletoe, the yule log, exchanging gifts. Incidentally, it didn’t really bother me that much of the research and argumentation behind the “origins” concept was coming from Jehovah’s Witness publications and the writings of Herbert W. Armstrong.
True to form, as Christmas approached, I became a real Scrooge. As a minister and soul-winner, I loathed the season. (Don’t look at my records of souls saved during December!) Everything I saw people doing seemed like such a mockery. I talked mostly about the drunkenness, phony love and good will, and extravagance. And you didn’t dare get pe into a department store during the Christmas shopping season! Bah! Humbug!
My own children pretty much accepted my non-celebrating of Christmas. I’m not sure I really tried to explain it to them. Probably I relied on my exclusivism theology and told them that “real Christians are different!”
It didn’t happen overnight, my conversion, that is. I’m not sure of the dynamics of my change, actually. I know that no body, no person, changed my mind. People don’t unscrooge a Scrooge. I know that for a long time I’d been questioning whether the fact that the Bible didn’t mention the early Christians honoring the birth of Christ meant that it was wrong to do so. I was wondering about the “origins” argument. I could think of some things that used to have an evil connotation, but now didn’t.
The Holy Spirit’s impact on my life wasn’t quite as dramatic as the ghosts in Scrooge’s, but He certainly changed me. He began to strip my robes of righteous exclusivism from me while refocusing my attention from the negative to the positive. Those were two radical moves! I discovered many “true Christians” who observed Christmas in a genuinely Biblical spirit, and if anything they were better for it. They knew the early Christians probably didn’t celebrate it, and they knew that December 25 was just a guess at His true birth date. They didn’t worship trees, or tinsel, Or lights, or Santa Claus, or December 25th.
And then I looked at some of my non-Christian friends. Christmas was very important to them. Sure, they were caught in the commercialism but it didn’t take much pushing on my part to change conversations from commercialism to Christ. They seemed to want there to be more to Christmas than Jingle Bells, drunken parties, and huge credit card bills. Someone had changed – and it wasn’t them!
Even a flashing thought of a world without Christmas now scares me. This season I intend to celebrate my Savior’s coming every chance I get. I’ve got some ghosts of Christmases Past to relive. I was Scrooge for too long. Some of the people who knew me that way deserve to see the “new” me.
You may not agree with my conversion. You may see it as compromising with evil. And you may be wondering where all the Bible verses are that justify my change. I already thought of that. My list is composed of one passage encouraging Christmas celebration, for every passage denouncing it. Send me yours and I’ll send you mine. In the meantime, we’ll call it a draw.
May God give us all joyous celebration at Christmas and all year ’round!
Guardian of Truth XXX: 7, p. 204
April 3, 1986