This time of year people are generally the happiest, friendliest, most hospitable, and most benevolent. I suppose this behavior might be attributed to the “Christmas spirit.” What a better world this would be if this spirit “ran loose” each day of the year, and indeed, this is what the Lord wills (Ephesians 4:31–32). Along with all the good things this season brings, I have observed some who have extreme positions toward “Xmas.”
I was once asked if Christians should decorate a tree and give gifts at this season of the year. This question reflects an extreme concept, namely, that it is wrong to practice such innocent customs as adorning a tree, exchanging gifts and cards, and such like. Some religious groups take this position and among individuals, I have also known of brethren at various places who did so. I responded to the question, “If it is wrong to give gifts on December 25, it is wrong also on any other occasion. If it is not wrong on any other occasion (birthday, anniversary, etc.) then it is not wrong on December 25. There is nothing more wrong with decorating a tree with ornaments as a mere seasonal custom than with raising a flag on Veterans’ Day or eating turkey on “Thanksgiving” day.
Another extreme is represented by the oft-heard cliché, “Put Christ back into Christmas.” I was once harshly criticized for writing Xmas, instead of Christmas,thereby “removing Christ from Christmas.” Truth be told, Christ never was in Christmas until men put him there! “In the 5th century the Western church [Roman Catholic, DM] ordered the feast to be celebrated on the day of the Mithraic rites of the birth of the sun and at the close of Saturnalia, as no certain knowledge of the day of Christ's birth existed” (Encyclopedia Americana, 6:622).
This statement clearly demonstrates the fact that God was not very concerned about His Son's birth’s being celebrated. The event that God considered important for us to “celebrate” was His death, and we are thus to keep it in sacred commemoration each Lord's day. It is not by the birth of Christ that we are saved, but by His death and resurrection. Thus when one sings, “Remember Christ Our Saviour Was Born on Christmas Day,” he knows not what he sings. God has made it impossible for us to attach—with His authority—any sacred significance to one day as the birthday of Christ by allowing that date to totally disappear from secular history. For this reason faithful churches of Christ have no special religious observances at this season of the year. The silence of Scripture forbids any such religious observance. A practice that began four centuries after Messianic and apostolic times and that gathered all of its ingredients from Paganism must be rejected as a religious practice by those interested in New Testament Christianity.
Consider another extreme related to Christmas: While such things as the non-religious practice of adorning a tree and exchanging gifts in late December are innocent practices, these are often carried to an extreme. We should not become enslaved by our freedom. Sometimes the church’s contribution figure decreases sharply at the close of the year and into the new year. Perhaps the income of some decreases, but it may also be because some went to an extreme with their gift-buying, decorating, and traveling. Through the years, I have known some brethren who spent more on gifts during this one season than they gave to the Lord all year, in effect making the Lord pay for their festivities.
We should never allow this custom (or anything else within our control) to interfere with our worship and Bible class attendance, our giving, or other Christian duties. May we avoid these “Xmas Xtremes.”