19 Nov 2008

Taking Christ out of Christmas

I've only been blogging for three months. I am enjoying it, but as a private person I struggle with putting my personal opinions into print and taking the risk that others may criticise me for having them.

It is with great trepidation, therefore, that I put the following sentence into print:

My church doesn't celebrate Christmas!

There! It is said! And it's true!

I guess I'd better explain...

First a quote from some men more learned than me:

During the early days of the Reformation some Reformed localities observed only Sunday. All special days sanctioned and revered by Rome were set aside. Zwingli and Calvin both encouraged the rejection of all ecclesiastical festive days. In Geneva all special days were discontinued as soon as the Reformation took a firm hold in that city. Already before the arrival of Calvin in Geneva this had been accomplished under the leadership of Farel and Viret. But Calvin agreed heartily. And Knox, the Reformer of Scotland, shared these same convictions, he being a disciple of Calvin in Geneva. Consequently the Scottish Churches also banned the Roman sacred days.

Idzerd Van Dellen and Martin Monsma The Church Order Commentary, 1941

It may come as a surprise to some of you that some Christians believe that Christmas is not Scriptural. Now it is not the celebration of the birth of Christ that I am referring to - we can and should celebrate that at any time we choose. If we want to sing Christmas Carols, exchange presents or read the account of Jesus' birth in Luke Chapter 2 on 25th December, then I doubt that any of the great Reformers would have any issue with us doing so.

No, the problem is with the designation of 25th December by the Christian Church as the annual date to commemorate the birth of Christ. We don't know the date of Christ's birth, and we're not told to celebrate it on a specific date - it was Julius I, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Church, who chose December 25th as Christmas' official day in 350 AD.

This article by Dr C Matthew McMahon explains some of the issues in a clear and unsensational way:


I'm not planning to enter into a big theological debate with any of you about what can clearly be a controversial and highly emotive issue to some people. I raise it only to explain why you will not see Christmas in our peaceful home as a highly significant religious celebration in the coming weeks.

Now I love Christmas! Family traditions are particularly important to us, and we 'do' Christmas in our home in a big way. We trim the tree on the first day of advent; we have an advent calendar; we have a traditional English turkey and plum pudding meal during the hottest part of the Australian summer on 25th December; we make our puddings on stir-up Sunday; and we have lots of presents, bon-bons, silly hats and Christmas cheer. We even read some traditional nativity stories as part of our advent reading list.

What we don't do is celebrate Christmas in our Church. We don't even go to church on Christmas day - unless it falls on a Sunday, of course.

We teach about the birth of Christ year round. we celebrate it year round too. Our Christmas books are in storage until the first of December; our books about the birth of Christ are read at any time. We are not bound by tradition in our celebration of Christ's birth.

There. It's out in the open. I hope you all still love me...


  1. Yes, I found it!
    I'll have to ponder now till December on whether to post on the subject and if so what I want/ need to say.
    We take the approach to totally eshew all connection with the day, religious, private and commercial.
    But, you probably knew that :0)

  2. Hi Ruby,

    Hope you don't think the less of me...it is a well thought out family decision for us.

  3. No, certainly not. We take it as a personal conviction. I'd say of our little congregation about half do and half don't celebrate the day .

  4. In our congregation about 2/3 do and 1/3 don't...

  5. WEll said, Jeanne! I'll have to chew on that for awhile . I think you were very brave to post it and I , for one, think more highly of you now . Penny


I'd love you to leave me a message. Tell me what you like - and what you don't. Just remember that this is what we do in our family - it doesn't have to be what you do in yours...