Customs, Traditions, Compromises and Christmas


Earlier today, I posed a question relating to Christmas and compromises we might make relative to custom and tradition; I’d like to thank everyone who participated in the discussion which I found to be quite interesting.

Do we really compromise the true “Christmas Story” of Scripture at this time of year with our customs and traditions…?

If you’re on your game today, you can see that these are two quite different questions, and although neither is a “trick question”, answering can be a bit tricky. I say this because there is a rather big difference between what we call “Christmas” and what we call the “Christmas Story” from Scripture.

“Christmas” is what we celebrate on December 25; it’s a holiday complete with symbols, songs, foods, pageants, church services, stories, reindeer, shopping malls, red kettles, and logs on the fire… Quite frankly, it is in itself a compromise of the “Christmas Story” from Scripture. The “Christmas Story” is the complete account of the birth of Christ, its prophetic roots and God’s purpose in sending His Son to earth in redemptive history, and this has nothing at all to do with Christmas.

Christmas, the holiday, has an unholy beginning and a very checkered past with its roots in Roman paganism. Even the very date, December 25, was a Roman feast day for their god Saturn that was called “Saturnalia”. The early church adopted the holiday to a more Christian theme late in the 4th or early in the 5th century, since the Government had made Christianity the State religion. I’m not quite sure what you could call that, other than a compromise, particularly when you consider that the early Christian writers seemed to believe that Jesus had been in the spring, not in the winter.

Naturally, anyone not so sure about this might do a little research, and in the process, you’ll also discover that most of the symbols of Christmas have pagan roots as well.

Christmas, the holiday, has a long past as something celebrated more like a wild New Year’s Eve party than a holy day. In America, it was banned entirely in Puritan New England for instance. Congress was in session on Christmas Day until the Administration of U.S. Grant, when it became our first official national holiday… that was in the 1870’s. The idea of making it popular to include Christ in Christmas in Protestant America became popular in the mid 19th century.

This is why I say that Christmas is a compromise in itself with the Christmas Story. Yet it has a distinct tie with the Christmas Story, one that might be much more profound than being called the birthday of Jesus, for the tie to which I refer is a redemptive one.

It is a story of redemption because a day of drunken revelry, originally a party for a succession of pagan idols has become a day in which people all over the world hear the story of Jesus Christ. In many cases, this is the only time of year the story is told. It is a season when many people will be open to hearing about Jesus, who would never listen any other time; they let their guards down for just a short time each year. As a disciple of the King of kings, how can we let such an opportunity pass us by?

Each year the Christmas Season is a season of salvation for thousands, and if that isn’t a story of redemption then I don’t know what would be. So, I’d say that while the whole thing is one big compromise, sometimes compromise is a good thing.


About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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16 Responses to Customs, Traditions, Compromises and Christmas

  1. I don’t see it as something to even argue about. If people don’t want to particpate then they are welcome not to. For me I am going to take every opportunity to address people about Christ when they are open to hearing about Him.

  2. Pete says:

    Well said, Don. I appreciate the history lesson. I’m not up much n that, except I did know that Christmas was started to offset the pagan holiday. I believe Easter was as well, since it falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the first day of spring. Someday we will probably compromise that and make it a permanent date – who knows. I’m just glad it gives us a chance to present the gospel. Can’t be all bad if that’s the case!

  3. Love your last paragraph!

  4. ooops, your last paragraph is wonderful also, but I really love your second to the last paragraph, such a contrast! love it!

  5. Tom says:

    God works all things for the good of those who love Him. Things may have been compromised but God was able to use it. We only have to use it correctly and proclaim the truth.

  6. pipermac5 says:

    I don’t indulge in society’s Christmas traditions, but I DO revel in the birth of Christ and marvel that God would go to such incredible lengths to secure our redemption. The Christmas season directs my thoughts towards the true meaning of the season.

  7. Wally Fry says:

    That was really nice, Don, especially that last part. Honestly, we ought to just cut each other some slack this time of year over the entire holiday. Seems there are plenty of hard lines taken over the whole thing, and some basic love your neighbor thought would be quite in order. Great post. I think I missed the earlier one somehow.

  8. My only gripe is that it starts earlier and earlier each year. Otherwise, if compromising means people act a bit nicer to each other, then that just makes it a little easier to share the Love of Jesus with them.

  9. Emma Slocum says:

    Great post I actually just posted earlier today about the beginning celebrations of Christmas having very clear pagan origins because to my surprise.. there is a debate on this fact! Great historical teaching!

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