To Celebrate Or Not To Celebrate

Every year when the month of December comes around, there will inevitably be groups of people who will take up arms against celebrating Christmas. This group includes most Muslims and also some Christians.

The accusation is that Christmas is a pagan festival and therefore Christians should not celebrate it. In this article, let’s look at how far such allegations are true.

To me, the matter comes down to answering two simple questions.
1. Did Jesus come to the earth by being born? Yes or No?
2. Is this event worth remembering, talking about and celebrating? Yes or No?

The Bible records that the eternal “Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory…” (John 1:14). This is the incarnation of God among man. This happened by means of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem 2000 years ago.

On “that day”, angels announced His birth to some lowly shepherds. “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10)

How do we respond to good news of great joy? Are we “allowed” to celebrate it?

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)
This was the good news! The birth of Christ signified the coming of the Savior and Lord.

Do we know the exact date this happened? No, we don’t. But we do know it did happen! What was the Good News communicated? The birth of Christ OR the date that it took place?

Unfortunately, many of the naysayers focus on the DATE but miss the EVENT!

Matthew records for us that there were wise men from the East, who travelled a great distance to come and witness the “event.”
Guess what? They missed the exact birth date! In fact, they arrived almost two years late! The exact date was not important. What was important was the purpose for which they overcame great obstacles and distance to come and do what they set out to do.
“…For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:2)

“They rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:10-11)

Rejoiced exceedingly with great joy! Wow! That’s like joy multiplied by joy! What a celebration! That is the true celebration!
Recognizing who Jesus is and worshipping Him!

It is not about celebrating a “DAY” which someone decided to call “Christmas”. It has nothing to do with Santa Claus or christmas trees or shopping or presents or a turkey dinner! Unfortunately and sadly, this is the misrepresentation in our world today. These things have been made to become like “idols” that takes the focus off Jesus’ incarnation.

In fact, the coming of the Messiah and Savior, is something to celebrate everyday! Those who oppose celebrating point out that December 25th was the date of a pagan celebration. Rightly or wrongly, the early church in history picked this date to commemorate the birth of Christ. They intended for this new celebration to replace and overcome the old pagan celebration; as in, the Light of Christ has now come to shine in the darkness.

Whatever it was, commemorating the coming of Christ does not mean celebrating the date per se, i.e 25th December or an occasion dubbed “christmas.” It also ridiculous to suggest that we are unknowingly celebrating some ancient Roman pagan festival.
Christians who oppose “Christmas” actually say that the coming of Jesus is something we ought to celebrate everyday, and not just one day a year. I wholeheartedly agree. But does it mean that if I were to celebrate it on, say, May 19th, I am also celebrating Buddha’s birthday, just because the date coincides?
Whichever date out of the 365 days had been chosen for commemorating the birth of Christ, it would have coincided and overlapped with some unrelated event or other.

There are also those who argue that there is no instruction in the Bible to remember the birth of Christ. That is true. So why do it? This comes to the second question I posed above. Is the coming of the Savior of the World worth remembering, celebrating, talking about?

Is it worth talking about?

The Prophet Isaiah did, way back in 700 BC.
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)

The Prophet Micah did, way back in 500 BC.
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come forth for Me One to be ruler over Israel—One whose origins are of old, from the days of eternity.” (Micah 5:2)

A devout and holy man by the name of Simeon was overwhelmed with joy when he laid eyes on the infant Jesus. In overflowing thankfulness and tears, he declared. “For my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:30-32)

How odd it is then that some people in the 21st century today dictate that we cannot remember, or talk about, or be thankful or rejoice as old Simeon did!

The early disciples reminisced about the coming of Christ to them. The Apostle John wrote:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

1 John 1:1-4

The conclusion is crystal clear.
The actions of some people who misuse or abuse or even misunderstand the birth of Christ or try to connect it to some unrelated pagan festival is irrelevant to the truth of the birth of Christ itself! There can be all kinds of reactions to it just as there was when Jesus was born.
The wise men sought Jesus at his birth to worship Him, rejoicing exceedingly with great joy.
Herod sought Jesus at his birth to destroy Him, troubled and greatly enraged.
Which camp are you in?

“The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.” (John 1:9-10)

Which light are you focused on?
The Light of the World or the light of the christmas tree?
Are you distracted by Santa when you should really be looking at the Savior? Are you obsessed with Christmas when you should really be passionate about Christ?

That’s why it is a curious thing that Muslims go to great lengths and make special effort to oppose what Christians do when it has little to do with them.

Muslims cannot decide whether they are allowed to celebrate the birthday of their prophet. Many Muslims celebrate it. Other Muslims call it haram.

In many countries like Malaysia, Maulid Nabi (birthday of Muhammad) is a grand celebration and a public holiday. Muslims hold mammoth processions on this day.

Malaysian Muslims participate in a Maulidur Rasul parade..Pix Firdaus Latif

So it comes across as hypocritical and ignorant for Muslims to attempt to suggest what Christians can or cannot do when they cannot make up their minds whether to celebrate Muhammad’s birthday or not.
How ironic that while Muslims ridicule the date 25th December, they themselves cannot pinpoint the exact date of Muhammad’s birth!
The Sunni have chosen a date, while the Shias have chosen anther date. Some celebrate it on one date, and some celebrate it on another date, and the rest condemn those who celebrate it.