At this time of year a lot of Christians fret about the pagan roots of Christmas. They’ve pretty much worried themselves to death over the pagan traditions that have been co-opted by Christian over the years. Should we keep them? Or throw them out? What will happen if we keep them? I know folks who are sure that, if you have a Christmas tree, “you are inviting Satan into your home.”
For the record, I am pretty much at peace celebrating Christmas with any number of traditions that are important to you. That would include caroling, gift exchanges, Christmas trees, mistletoe, Santa, and other things that are either of pagan origin or have strong pagan influences in their development. There are several reasons for this.
– I don’t think God runs a patent office. Ideas, for the most part, don’t belong forever to God or Satan depending on the beliefs of the person who thought them up. I am no more concerned about the pagan roots of the tree I choose to have at Christmas than I am about using a telephone that has pagan roots because the inventor was not a Christian.
– If there is in fact any way that you can accidentally worship Satan, which I am not sure there is, I doubt seriously it is for anything as trivial as putting up the wrong Christmas decoration. To believe otherwise would make God a sneaky deity always ready to play “Gotcha!” with hapless Christians duped into some small error.
– If the only traditions we celebrated were those that were safely “Biblical”, coming straight from a direct reference to them in the Bible, we’d hardly have any traditions at all. We have church, cultural and personal traditions by the hundreds, very few of which have proof texts in the Bible. Even manger scenes, about the only Christmas tradition that we can safely say is of Christian roots, are not explicitly endorsed. Nor is Christmas itself.
So why are we hyperventilating about the whole pagan roots issue? Why do we worry if we are celebrating wrong and castigate other believers who we think are wrong? Why do we sputter when somebody talks about vague things like the “spirit of the season?”
The reason is pretty funny when you think about it. After centuries in which Christians shamelessly stole pagan ideas and incorporated into Christmas we know that the pagans are stealing the holiday right back. Christians took pagan celebration techniques, at least the ones we wanted, and threw the rest away. Now modern day pagans are taking the things we declared to be ours, at least the ones they want, and celebrate a holiday that troubles or outright offends us. Worse yet, they stole the name Christmas for their own and left us fuming. Pretty ironic, huh?
So what do we do? Should we shout “Keep Christ in Christmas!” at the top of our lungs? Should we be outraged if some politically correct politician calls his tree a “holiday tree?” Should we refuse to shop in stores that don’t use the word Christmas in their ads?
Frankly I don’t know. I can see clearly that much of what we call Christmas now actually has little to do with Christ. I doubt that forcing stores that are selling you things to use the name of Jesus in the sale is all that important to Jesus. I suppose the only thing I can do is to follow Mary and ponder about the amazing reality of God becoming man in the person of a tiny baby at least once in a while during the roar of the season.