How To Celebrate Christmas – The Birth of Jesus
December 25th is rapidly approaching and if you’re like me you’re feeling excited while being surrounded with all the decorations, office parties, and little gifts from family and friends. Yes, Christmas is such a wonderful and joyful time of the year. It’s a time when families and friends get together to laugh, eat, exchange gifts, and if you’re a Christian it’s a time when we reflect on something amazing that God did for us (we’ll get to that in a moment).
If there’s one thing that pains me during this time of year I’d have to say it’s religion. I know, especially around Christmas time religion sounds like a spiritual word but the truth is not all Christians are religious, and not should they be. The definition of “religion” can be traced back to the Latin “re” and “ligare”. RE meaning “again”, and LIGARE meaning “to bind”. In other religion is be bound again.
Religion seeks to deny believers of their freedom in Christ and to put Christians back in to bondage of the law. Sure, it may not necessarily be the Mosaic Law, but none the less it’s a flavor of the law. It’s the “you better be doing this and better not do that, or else” message.
We’ve said many times before that believers are called to live out godly lives and refrain from sin. So are we contradicting ourselves? No, because the difference is in how we teach behavior.
Religion says: You better behave or God will turn from you (temporarily).
Grace says: Behave because God has cleansed you of all unrighteousness so live our who you are, but know that you’re identity and peace with God is not in your sins, or lack thereof. It’s in Christ alone.
Around Christmas time religion starts screaming about how other Christians spend their holidays. There seems to be a mass effort to lead Christians to feeling guilty because of all the shopping they’re doing, the parties they attend, or suggest that they are worshiping Santa Clause and not Jesus. Listen, there’s nothing wrong with buying presents, enjoying get togethers, and watching Santa Clause movies, so don’t let religion steal your joy.
Religion thinks that God wants us to spend every waking moment singing hymns, going to church, and reading our bibles. I’m in no way suggesting that those things are bad, but let’s be clear, God is not asking us to be robots and God is not angry is a Christian is buying gifts or attending Christmas parties. After all, if God were to get angry with us what would cause it? Sin would. And if these things are sins (which I don’t think they are), what did God do about sin? He died for it. And He’s not changing His mind and getting angry, as religion will certainly suggest.
Okay, so let’s talk about Jesus and what the Christmas message is really all about. For believers Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus. But what’s the big deal and why was Jesus born? His birth was not about placing us in bondage or making us keep rules but rather it was to give us abundant life!
[John 10:10] I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
What many fail to understand is that during the Old Testament era the Jewish people knew of only one way to get right with God, and that was through the law. They tried relentlessly to please God and failed time and time again. As it turned out, no one could be found righteous through the law (Rom 3:20) so it was impossible to please God through their behavior. Yep that includes Moses, Abraham, and all the Prophets combined.
Again, I am in no way anti-serving, in fact it’s part of natural Christian life, but I am sad to say that religion thinks Christmas is all about “serving” and “doing”. Their focus is on what we are doing for God, as if God were needy and we we’re paying Him back. God lives in us, and our focus should be on what He did for us, and we reveal our thankfulness as we let Him live through us as we express love and kindness, not through the acting out of religious duties.
[Acts 17:24-25] The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by HUMAN HANDS, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things;
Why did Jesus come to give us life? From the very beginning when Adam & Eve sinned all humans are born dead, spiritually that is. It is not sin that separates man from God, and it’s not avoiding sin that makes us right with God. The problem is we are born “spiritually dead” and if we die in that state we will spend eternity is hell. Christ came to give us life! Yes, we were all born out of mom’s water but what we all needed was to be born again, spiritually that is.
Do you remember what Jesus told Nicodemus, the religious leader who asked how to see the kingdom of God? Did He say “you need to be more obedient”? Avoid sin? Let’s see.
[John 3:1-6] Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is BORN AGAIN he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of WATER and the SPIRIT he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Side Note: There is a religion that would say that being born of water is about being water baptized for salvation. That is not the case, and Jesus clearly showed the contrast He was making between “water and Spirit” when concluded vs 6 by telling us “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
So how do we celebrate Christmas? Here’s my advice. Christmas is no different than any other day of the year. We should celebrate Jesus everyday simply by saying “thank you” and expressing the love of Christ day by day with the people God places in our path. Let’s not get all jacked up on how much time someone spends at the mall or in a church building, but instead let’s get jacked up on what God did for us through faith, not works. Let’s stop judging every move a Christian makes and calling them evil because of their works when God called them Saints because of their faith.
Remembering that we just learned that Christ came to give us spiritual life, and we receive that life only by placing our faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus as the only way of making us right with God. Having said that, while the birth of Jesus makes my heart melt, it would all be in vain and my faith would be worthless if Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead. If Jesus did not overcome death then neither have we. We have life because He was raised from the dead!
[1 Corinthians 15:13-17] But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is VAIN, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is WORTHLESS; you are still in your sins.
Did you see the ending? If Christ was not raised then you are still in your sins. But Christ was raised, so what does that mean? It means even though we struggle with sin we are NOT IN OUR SINS. Jesus died for them and made us new, apart from works, apart from law. It is finished!
So as we enter into the Christmas season let’s not litter the world by judging the believers every move, but instead let’s show the unbelievers of the world what it means to be born again in Christ. Let’s show them love, kindness, & forgiveness. That’s why we celebrate Christmas, and where wrong is when we assign a date to it.
So by all means go shopping, meet Santa, and eat Christmas cookies, but as you go about your day remember we celebrate Jesus every day and what we do on December 25th is in no way affecting how the God of the universe sees us or loves us. Cheers to your faith in Jesus!
From all of us at Jesus Without Religion we wish you a Merry Christmas.
Author: Mike Cynar
Mike Cynar grew up in church and observed that countless people would go to church and then just stop. The church always referred to them as ‘fake Christians’ or ‘backsliders’ but Mike discovered the problem was deeper. The problem was the church message. The message was 90% behavior improvement and how bad you are, with a pinch of who you are in Christ, It was like every sermon was being preached to the church of Corinth. It’s in the Baptist church, Catholic, Pentecost, and most every other church. After discovering the true gospel message and how we are made right with God because of what ‘Jesus did’ (not what ‘we do’) Mike set out to free believers from behavior improvement programs and bring them back to Jesus. The Result – Jesus Without Religion was launched.