We have finally finished our Christmas celebration here. We had a number of friends and relatives over for a Christmas day feast here in Baguio City, Philippines. Then we talked to some other relatives across the ocean. We will keep up the Christmas tree at least through New Years. I don’t like the tendency for people (and especially merchants) to keep pushing Christmas celebration earlier… but I do like it to linger a few days past the 25th.
Christians struggle with holidays a fair bit. Every year, some Christian groups (as well as “Christian-ish” groups) argue that good Christians should not celebrate Christmas because of its so-called pagan roots. To me the argument is not valid, but I won’t repeat that. You can look at that in “Christmas. It’s Okay… Really.”
But we are not alone. I was reading a little tweet by a Muslim who was trying to discourage fellow Muslims from celebrating Christmas. Now some of the other tweets by the same person suggest a viewpoint that is a bit out of the mainstream. Still, it is always a bit awkward when it comes to celebrating holidays of other religions. Here in the Philippines, the President every year tosses in special holidays for certain Muslim holy days. <Note: If you ever get to be the head of government in your country… please plan your official holidays months in advance. Don’t just toss them in at the last minute. It creates unnecessary chaos.> I have to admit that I don’t join in the celebration of Muslim holidays here. I have an acquaintance here who is Jewish and he said I was welcome to join a Hanukkah celebration here in town. I wasn’t able to this time. But I hope to next year.
But this got me thinking about festivities.
- Christians really should feel comfortable with finding ways to celebrate in Christian holidays. Not everyone feels this way. Here in the Philippines, a lot of Protestants actively avoid the community fiestas. Sometimes it is because of the vices (gambling, drinking, and general carousing), but often it is because of it being attached to the celebration of a catholic saint or icon. Many Filipinos believe I am wrong (and they may be correct in that judgment) but I feel that as fellow Christians it is good to seek to find some way we can join on some level to demonstrate spiritual unity with other Christians. Joining a celebration, even in a small way, is one way to do that.
- Christians really should feel comfortable with Jewish holidays. After all, their holidays are part of our history as well. Yom Kippur, Rash Hashanah, Hanukkah, and so forth, are part of our faith history. But not only are there some Christians who believe we should not in anyway celebrate Jewish holidays (I believe I recall that the Western Church purposely moved Easter so that it would not line up with Passover— how strange.). On the other hand, I know Christians that like to suggest that as Christians we should only celebrate the Jewish holidays because they are “Biblical holy days.” Those special days, however, are special not because they are Biblical, but because of their role in remembrance of God’s faithfulness in history. But God’s faithfulness did not end in, oh say, 300 BC. It has been demonstrated more recently as well (including, but not limited to, Jesus birth, and resurrection). It is fine to celebrate Jewish holidays, but not them alone.
- Christians should at least be open to finding ways to celebrate other holidays of other faiths. This gets a bit more touchy, but it is not wrong to celebrate with Hindu friends a holiday with them…. or Muslims, Sikhs, Shintoists, or others. Some feel that that is inherently wrong. I would simply suggest that it may be possible to find ways to connect with those of other faiths, through celebration while holding true to one’s own faith. For example, Jesus did a miraculous sign at a Jewish wedding. But could he have done it at a non-Jewish wedding? I would think so? What if it was a non-Jewish celebration of a different kind, could Jesus have joined it and performed a miracle then also? I think it is possible. In this area, I think it would be wise not to condemn. I know Christian missionaries who work with Muslims who join Ramadan, both in the fasting and the celebration of the end of fasting. They believe they connect with Muslims better through this.
Ultimately, like meet sacrificed to idols in the first century church, this a matter of personal discernment in Christian liberty. But I hope you will find ways to celebrate. Heaven will be full of celebration. May as well practice now.