How (not why) Christians don't...

Discussion in 'The Pilgrims Progress' started by irresistible_grace, Nov 8, 2013.

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  1. irresistible_grace

    irresistible_grace Puritan Board Junior

    I am interested in learning "HOW" Christians don't celebrate Christmas.

    If you observe Christmas in your home or with family/friends, please refrain from responding to this thread. In this thread, I am NOT concerned with "why" Christians should or should not celebrate Christmas. I am concerned with what NOT OBSERVING looks like because it has been such a sore spot for our family...

    DISCLAIMER: I am ONLY interested in hearing from those who don't observe Christmas and/or those who used to observe this Holy Day but are slowly separating themselves from the observance of Christmas in their homes etc.

    We have been on both ends of spectrum (and everywhere in between). I think this makes it harder for us. We used to do the whole shebang... Lights, Trees, Nativity, Cards, Gifts, Carols, Happy Birthday Jesus, you-name-it! Now, we are opposed to celebrating it all together.

    We are not opposed to spending time with family and have made sure that they know they are welcome to visit on or around December 25th BUT we will not be going to anyone's homes etc. Because, we are tired of being inconsistent.

    The last few years we have NOT celebrated it at home but then we've turned around and have gone to the family gatherings and hence celebrated it even though we are opposed to it. We want to honor Christ & it is difficult when we teach our children one thing yet do the exact opposite.

    If you celebrated Christmas at one point but NO LONGER DO (out of a love for God & His worship etc.), what was the transition like for you & your family? Are you able to NOT celebrate Christmas or do you find yourself bending? Any advice for those in transition that are finding themselves struggling at this time of year (year after year)?
     
  2. Leslie

    Leslie Puritan Board Junior

    This is not what you were looking for, but we used to celebrate Christmas and no longer do. The reason is that we live in Ethiopia. December 25 is an ordinary work day or weekend day. Ethiopian Christmas is on 7 January, Living in the midst of utter poverty has changed my values radically. I'm outraged at extravagance and that's what Christmas is all about Stateside. Here January Christmas is about having meat, a small scrap, for the first time in 8 months and cutting fresh grass to put on the dirt floors. We get invited to share a meal with a poor family and do, knowing all the time that every bit we eat is food the malnourished kids won't get. There are no Christmas carols, but the kids do sing and beat drums in the middle of the night. I don't recall anyone talking about or reading the story. It's just a family day. We don't identify with it, but at least it's not obnoxious like Christmas in the States.
     
  3. THE W

    THE W Puritan Board Freshman

    Any event that celebrates this day you just choose not to participate in. This may involve you explaining why to someone. See it as an opportunity to share the gospel.
     
  4. Hemustincrease

    Hemustincrease Puritan Board Freshman

    Hello Jessica

    I don’t celebrate Christmas. I basically just ignore it. (So far as that is possible, without eloping to some remote uninhabited island for a month or two ;)).

    My gripe at this time of the year is the church bringing this tradition of man into the corporate worship of God without any authority from Christ to do so. This makes it very awkward for the children and I as we are somewhat forced (unless we omit to gather together with the people of God) to sit under this tradition for a few weeks every year.

    On a personal basis, the 25th December is treated just like any other day in our home. We just carry on as per usual. Yes, we have to answer the same old questions year after year, and in part that never gets much easier for me (especially because I am without a husband to do the answering. :)). Other than that, I very happily ignore it and feel incredibly blessed each year to be liberated from all the rushing and spending and time wasting going on all around me. My children (9, 5 and 3) have never known Christmas as anything other than a pagan festival which we don’t celebrate (just as with Halloween or Easter etc) so they have always been perfectly content to just follow me in this. I actually have to train them how to be discreet, because when they see anything to do with Christmas they tend to loudly proclaim it as pagan and worldly etc which isn’t the best way to keep the peace amongst our brethren who do partake. LOL
     
  5. DeniseM

    DeniseM Puritan Board Freshman

    We don't go to any celebrations of any kind, with family or with friends. For the first time this year, we are in a church where it is not celebrated in the church in any way. We treat the day as any other day, unless it falls on the Lord's Day, and then we observe it just as we would the other 51 Lord's Days of the year. Christmas doesn't have anything to do with us, and we don't have anything to do with it. Our kids know that we don't celebrate it and why. They also know that most of the rest of our nation does celebrate it and some of the ways in which they do so.

    It has taken a long time to get our families used to the idea, but it's pretty well established at this point that there isn't any point in even inviting us to Christmas gatherings. I still don't think they fully understand why we don't celebrate the day, but at least they know that we don't.
     
  6. irresistible_grace

    irresistible_grace Puritan Board Junior

    Thanks Jo-Anne!
    And, thanks Denise!!!

    I guess where I struggle the most is that when we were Baptist we made a huge deal about Jesus being the reason for the season & not taking Christ out of Christmas. Our religious convictions (or lack thereof) was the reason we celebrated Christmas. Now that we are "Reformed" our religious convictions ARE the reason we cannot observe Christmas. So, our family & friends are royally confused. It was never an issue for anyone when we celebrated their most cherished holiday but to try to explain that we are trying to honor Christ by separating ourselves ... NOT COOL MAN!

    The difficult part is that our children know why we don't celebrate but no one else wants to know why. We are still in transition... I an thankful the FCC as a denomination doesn't observe it in Corporate Worship (although the Chiropractic Office we are renting really goes overboard with decorations which is very distracting & frustrating but that is for another thread).

    Does anyone with small children have advice for those of us in transition?
    Is anyone willing to share what their transition looked like?

    (Ignorance is NOT bliss & these things canNOT just be avoided. So, sincere comments are greatly appreciated.)
     
  7. JoannaV

    JoannaV Puritan Board Sophomore

    I grew up not celebrating Christmas. For us that meant the 25th was generally a day spent at home cleaning. Everything was closed, no public transportation, so that was a good day to do some spring cleaning! I'm not sure that I can be very helpful to you because every family is different :-/ My parents' families were respectful of our family's choice, whatever their other feelings on it may have been. We did used to get together with family at other times during the season, because most people weren't working so it was a good time to do that. That is perhaps harder when people don't get so much time off, and the actual holiday may be the only day everyone is off work. We did used to go to my mother's parents' house sometime after the 25th for a meal. Basically your traditional British Christmas dinner. But no-one mentioned Christmas as they knew our family's beliefs. I suppose it all depends on how involved "Christmas" is in the various family gatherings. Someone's house being decorated would not be sufficient reason for me to avoid it. But of course there is normally something more involved.
    I went to public school, so I was surrounded by Christmas whilst not participating. I sat out of the Nativity rehearsals/performance, made alternate crafts, did not exchange cards or people gave me non-Christmassy cards. (Same for Easter and any other similar occasion.) So I did experience how one could be immersed in a culture whilst being of a different culture, if that makes sense.

    Later my parents' beliefs changed and they began acknowledging the season more, not creating anything but not avoiding it either. An example of their increased involvement is that they began inviting a family member over for dinner on the 25th, someone who would otherwise have not been with family that day.

    Now I am struggling because my in-laws are more into Christmas than I am. (Though to varying extents they are becoming less so.) So I am following this thread for ideas :) Though my situation is different than yours so maybe there won't be any haha.
     
  8. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    It is tricky to describe what one does not do, but I understand the question. I think I tried starting a thread like this last year, but it didn't take off. One thing tricky about this is that there can be highly contextualized cases, so I hope anything I say here is seen in light of a particular context rather than necessarily something I would universally recommend.

    As noted by some, negatively I avoid the things that are used to celebrate Christmas (giving gifts, singing songs, Christmas parties, religious services, Christmas movies) and positively I try to treat the day as ordinary as possible given the day of the week, while taking into account that there are others celebrating. That way, I can avoid celebrating without turning a blind eye to what is going on around me.

    I do what I can to be consistent, but as one who has only recently come to this view, there is still much that is unclear in my mind and difficult to sort out. As a university student who has not entirely left home yet, I have to do some things that I might be able to avoid were I on my own. An unusually big meal is made on Christmas. The first year, I avoided eating anything that was specially made for Christmas, believing it to be "offered up to idols" and then offered to me as such (that is, offered to me as food prepared specifically to celebrate Christmas), and avoided going to the extended family gathering.

    But as I had a long hard think about it, it became apparent to me that there was more going on than met the eye: namely, it appeared there were some things that were only accidentally associated with the day Christmas fell on and not intended as part of celebrating the day. I also tried to keep George Gillespie's thought in mind, that things abused to superstition, if necessary, may still be made use of (e.g., someone who needs clothing grabbing a priest's garment). I was still not entirely sure whether that was the case or not here; I was told that such was indeed the case, so I ate what was given to me, and I went to the extended family gathering (which I was also assured was not really associated with Christmas celebration; and when I went, that certainly seemed to be the case), though I still have some doubts whether my problem was understood since the food was later called "Christmas food" by some.

    I will probably do the same this year as I did that year, but I will continue to think on it. It may be easier to avoid the whole thing entirely by staying at my apartment near my school. I know that I would rather avoid everything entirely and plan on doing so whenever I leave home.

    Another thing that might be considered bending is that I currently will receive rather than refuse any gifts people may give me, as it would be quite unkind to them to refuse, and it seems to me it would do more harm than good to refuse it. I also occasionally find myself humming a Christmas tune (though I stop when I become aware of it).

    One thing that I am still unsure about are the charities and volunteer work that appear on Christmas or in association with the day.

    Practically, I recommend doing what one can to not be available during the season, especially on that day. If one is able to excuse oneself because of work, then all the better. But of course, to those whom one is able to explain one's view to (family), it is important to be clear what one is against and what one is for; so that, as noted in an earlier post, it is clear one isn't against family gatherings and may be even willing to have family gatherings during that time of year--just not Christmas ones.

    But also work so very hard to be gracious in one's refusals; mindful that many people are ignorant of Scripture and history, and so may associate one or the Reformed religion with the JWs, or may think the Reformed faith a cult, so that one will need to be careful what language one uses to refuse such things (there is not always time to go through the Scripture teaching on the matter, and even if one did, especially when all the "good feelings" of Christmas abound, some people will be too absorbed in the season or too shocked by one's stand to pay attention; or just too ignorant to follow what one is saying, needing to be more thoroughly grounded in "first principles" still); making every effort to keep up one's devotional life, so that one's rejection of Christmas will indeed be out of a desire to obey Christ, rather than out of pride or a desire to rebel or out of unlawful hatred (this is not only for one's own good; people may be able to tell in your responses to them whether your desire is one sincere one to obey Christ rather than a prideful or cultish, non-thinking action;; and seeing a pious life will help win some respect for one's view in their eyes), and also so that one will have the strength and comfort to carry through despite all the pressure and emotion; seeing what one can do to join a church that does not celebrate, so one will also have the support of friends; being all the more careful not to disturb the peace of one's congregation in what one does or says; making an effort to be generous throughout the year.

    I suppose there are probably many other things, but those are what currently come to mind.

    Suffice it to say that it was quite difficult; I was ready to leave the day behind and threw out everything immediately, but everyone else wanted me to do otherwise. Such will probably be the case in many situations in which one has friends or family who are really into celebrating the day.
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2013
  9. Mushroom

    Mushroom Puritan Board Doctor

    I just grouse about the fact that the Lord has ordained that it is celebrated with candles and abandon in the Church where I am a member (unbelief, eh wot?), scowl at my brethren who do so for about a month, scoff at the significance placed on the season and day by professing Christians, then in January regret that I am so hard-hearted and uncharitable to people I love in spite of their error. We also go visit my unbelieving friend's widow on that day because in her neighborhood they do the candle in a sack thing, and she likes to have us over. Our families know by now that to try to do anything Christmassy with us is not worth the effort, so they keep their distance. We occasionally drive around and admire the decorations. We giggle about the annual debates that arise on PB.

    It's a gay old time.

    Hope this helps. Maybe there's a better way...
     
  10. Tirian

    Tirian Puritan Board Sophomore

    My family HATED when I forbade them giving easter eggs to my kids, and I think they view me as the devil himself for putting an end to Christmas. I think Christmas more than anything they see as being a personal attack on them as they LOVE it so much.

    Anyway, to begin I transitioned to a "family day" so we'd get together for a normal family lunch. It isn't a big deal the next year, I can tell you! You will be so relaxed at not having been caught up on the horrendous wasting of money and stress over a special meal etc.

    Tell your family you wish them well when they want to celebrate Christmas.

    If your experience is anything like ours:

    1. Year one - your family will try to ignore your wishes and buy Christmas presents for your kids and perhaps even try to overcompensate so your kids don't "miss out"
    2. Year two - your family will decide to let you have your "funny" ideas and at the same time, will even start to realise how much money they spend during Nov/Dec
    3. Year three - your family will start regretting decades of money ill spent, and energy wasted which they can't get back. They won't fully embrace your ideas, but Christmas becomes VERY low key for them and they focus on spending quality time together with Grand kids, giving thanks for the year coming to a close...

    Almost every year I experience something like this: During December while checking out of a dept. store I come across a husband/wife with three shopping carts full of plastic toys etc for the kids. They are both red faced and arguing starts to give way to yelling. They've gotten to the register only to find they can't afford all the junk they want to get, so now they are arguaing over what gets put back, and which child is missing out etc. It's heart breaking to see people so bound..... When pressured to attend those family functions you speak of, if I know they wont understand my convictions, I relay the story to them and tell them I don't want to be a part of it.
     
  11. irresistible_grace

    irresistible_grace Puritan Board Junior

    Thanks Joanna (different situation but helpful nonetheless).
    Thanks Raymond & Matthew - very helpful - lots to chew on.
    Brad you are a hoot, but I appreciate your input.

    KEEP IT COMING!

    My family (mother & sister especially but my father-in-law as well) will go into debt just because of Christmas. They shower our children with gifts (in excess). We admire their generosity but not the fact that these acts of kindness are specifically attached to "Christmas." They talk about Christmas throughout the year as they think about what they might get for the kids etc.

    I'll admit that first year we became convinced that Christ is not honored by Christians observing the Christmass, we were rather bah humbug about the season & made a little ruckus about the whole thing. However, the next year we totally caved in (trying to celebrate it "culturally") & the last two we've been really inconsistent (not observing it at home but still going to family functions).

    No more!

    This year we have communicated to my mother/family that anyone/everyone is welcome to come over "that" day or any other day when my husband is off & we are home because we want to exercise genuine Christian hospitality. We also said that if anyone feels they must bring gifts, we are not opposed to generous giving but we would prefer their gifts consist of necessities (like clothing) rather than non-essentials (like toys). We did go so far as to suggest they need not waste their money on wrapping paper etc. because we would prefer the gifts be "from" them rather than "for" Christmas.

    We still feel like we're bending more than we should but these things are so much more difficult than we think they should be ... The fact that the so-called "Reformed" Christian community (even here on the Puritan Board) is NOT consistent when it comes to the "non-observance" of Christmas & Easter etc. only makes matters worse.
     
  12. Andres

    Andres Puritan Board Doctor

    I don't care for Christmas anymore and thankfully my wife shares my convictions. Unfortunately, our extended family really goes all out for Christmas, so we do not completely ignore it. I believe that it goes against the RPW to celebrate Christmas in public worship, however I must acknowledge that there is some liberty to celebrate in private if one so chooses. Now there are elements that I think are sinful across the board (lying about Santa Claus) but for those elements where there is liberty, we do partake in some for family's sake. For example, we do enjoy spending time with family during the holidays. It's naturally a good time for this as most people have time off from work, etc. My extended family also chooses to give gifts to myself, my wife, and my son. I still struggle some with how to best refuse these because ultimately even though I tell them we don't expect gifts, it's not necessary, etc, they will ultimately still give them, at least to my son. As Raymond stated, I think that it is rude to flat out reject gift's from others (within reason) so there is a lot of grace that must be involved when rejecting Christmas offers.
     
  13. Loopie

    Loopie Puritan Board Freshman

    I know that my wife and I are certainly trying to grow more in a proper understanding of the so-called 'holidays'. My wife and I both grew up celebrating Christmas and Easter. My family celebrated Halloween as well (I stopped participating during my high-school years). My wife never celebrated Halloween.

    When it comes to Christmas, that happens to be the only time of the year that my wife's family all gathers together. Being that they all live on the East Coast, and I am stationed in Las Vegas, it is also the only time that my wife, myself, and our 2 kids, can see the rest of the family. It is for this reason that we still come home for Christmas, and spend the time with family (the family dinner usually has around 20-30 people). We do not view that day as any more holier than any other day, and we do not engage in deceiving our children about Santa Claus. We informed our families that if they want to give gifts, it needs to be things they need (and they are certainly not obligated to give gifts anyways). Furthermore, the gifts cannot be 'From Santa' but must be from the person.

    So far we have gotten some negative feedback from the family. Both my mother and father criticized my views recently. My mother said "those things didn't ruin you, did they?" My father said, "you should just let kids be kids." In the end though, they both agreed to respect my decision, even if they did not approve of it.

    There are still things that my wife and I need to figure out regarding 'holidays'. Right now I have no problem (outside of public worship) listening to or singing 'seasonal songs' so long as they are theologically correct and not blasphemous. I still cringe when I hear the lyrics about Santa Claus..."He sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake...". That just bothers me, because a fictional being/creature is being attributed with divine qualities that only can be attributed to God. So I won't listen to or allow my children to listen to or sing such songs.

    As for Christmas trees, that is something I still need to do a bit more study/research on. Both my wife's parents and my parents put up a Christmas tree. My oldest daughter always gets excited to see it, and she enjoys its beauty. I understand that Christmas trees are generally understood as having come from Germany, and that they are not necessarily pagan in origin (although that is up for debate). I always try to think about 'why' we do the things we do, and not just do them because of culture or tradition. For now my wife and I are not going to condemn Christmas trees, but we will ensure that our children do not venerate them or think of them in any way as holy, spiritual, or anything more than just a seasonal/cultural decoration.

    Obviously there is always spiritual growth that needs to occur during our sanctification. Certainly one must use discernment to recognize when certain 'traditions' are simply cultural, and perhaps acceptable, and when certain 'traditions' are violations of God's law. For instance, things such as 'handshakes' and 'salutes' no longer have a practical application or meaning in today's world (in fact, a handshake is simply an additional way to spread germs and bacteria). They are simply cultural traditions that have been passed down to us. I honestly don't know where the 'handshake' comes from, but it still has meaning in our culture (perhaps different from the original meaning). If I were to move to Japan, I would probably have no problem 'bowing', so long as it is not done as an act of worship, but simply as showing mutual respect amongst society.

    So from my perspective, there are some things that are culturally/traditionally acceptable, even though their original meaning and purpose is not the same as today. And just because certain things have changed in meaning, and have no practical use (such as handshakes), that does not necessarily mean that we are obligated to stop doing them. I do believe that there are certain principles that Scripture does not permit us to cross or violate, but within those principles there is a certain 'domain' or 'area' of freedom within the Christian conscience (especially outside the realm of public worship).

    Anyways, that is where my wife and I are at right now regarding 'holidays'. As we continue to pray and study God's word, I am sure that we will continue to modify our views in the goal of aligning more with what God has revealed to us in Scripture.
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2013
  14. JoannaV

    JoannaV Puritan Board Sophomore

    A lot of parents who celebrate Christmas still struggle with how to deal with gift-receiving, so you might be able to find a lot of different tips on how to handle that, some of which may actually fit your situation. With Christmas being at the end of the year, it seems the perfect time for the gift of year-round passes to museums and the suchlike. ;) Some people really like to give gifts generally, and some of those seem to like to have various focal times to do so. Perhaps part of that is the anticipation? I don't know.
     
  15. kodos

    kodos Puritan Board Junior

    Disclaimer: I hardly live up to the following.

    I have found that in life, folks are quick to give you leeway if you live the following out the 364.25 days that aren't Dec. 25th:
    If you are thinking of them, and loving them the rest of the year, they will tend to respect you when you do things they don't (currently) agree with. If you are kind to them and show them gifts of graciousness, what evil will they speak of you when you stand by your convictions and refuse to put up a tree for Dec. 25, or for conscience sake are not handing out trifles, when you have cried with them and loved them the rest of the year?

    I have found that my best hearings when it comes to things like EP, The Lord's Day, "holy days", and the gospel itself has come from the regard that people have had for the care I've shown them. In many cases this has led to them changing their views theologically, or embracing the gospel itself.

    On the other hand, if I rail against everything in the world and yet do not show genuine care for those made in God's image, I am not only a poor witness to Christ, I would say that my very soul is in jeopardy. They have to see that my convictions come from my love of Christ, and not from sinful pride.

    My Pastor (Mark Koller on the PB), has preached a few sermons of late that have been very convicting in this regard!
     
  16. Tirian

    Tirian Puritan Board Sophomore

    Great post. If you have audio recordings could you post the link to one you found helpful in this vein?
     
  17. kodos

    kodos Puritan Board Junior

    We have been in the midst of a sermon series on John's gospel, and this topic has come up in the sermons being preached on Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well.

    "The Patience of Jesus" (John 4:16-18): The Patience of Jesus - SermonAudio.com
    "The Compassion of Jesus" (Isaiah 42:3, John 4:16-18): The Compassion of Jesus - SermonAudio.com
    In the Compassion of Jesus, we looked at Isaiah 42:3 in connection to the woman at the well - "A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench"
    "Worship in Spirit and Truth (John 4:19-26): Worship in Spirit and Truth - SermonAudio.com

    I hope they are as much a blessing to you as they were to my family.
     
  18. Tirian

    Tirian Puritan Board Sophomore

    Thanks - listening to The Compassion of Christ now :)
     
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