Our Pages

Why do churches celebrate Christmas?

Weekly Q&A

Why do churches celebrate Christmas?
Posted on December 22, 2020  - By Jobin John Mathew

Why do churches continue to recognise and celebrate Christmas Day when it’s fairly well-established that December 25th is not the day Christ was born?

We are about to enter into that ‘most wonderful time of the year’ and I guess this could be considered as an evergreen question — one worth considering and explaining.  

My dear friend, you might be right!

  • Circumstantially speaking, there is no satisfying evidence to prove that Joseph and Mary had baby Jesus on the 25th of December.
  • Scripturally speaking, while glancing through the Gospels, we have no mention of a date and we should be careful when extracting such a crucial incidental detail from a narrative where the focus is theological and not merely ‘information’. 
  • Historically speaking, none of the early church fathers make mention about ‘birth celebrations’ regarding Jesus in their writings. 

So, why do churches today celebrate Christmas? We can safely say that many are ignorant of the circumstantial evidence, scriptural references, and historical and theological significance behind the birth of Jesus. Perhaps, for some, it may even be embarrassing to have to admit that Christians don’t actually know the date of the birth of our Saviour. 

We should be careful when extracting such a crucial incidental detail from a narrative where the focus is theological and not merely ‘information’

There are a lot of Christmas traditions that have their roots in pagan culture and that were “Christianised” to become more acceptable today. This is something churches today should be very careful of. We should avoid following such rituals just to give a spiritual alternative to a pagan celebration. Remember, it was from paganism that Christ set us free. 

So, where does that leave Christians?

It’s an undeniable truth that the whole world recognises this date as the birth of Jesus, perhaps one way of looking at this is as a blessed opportunity to share the gospel! Instead of celebrating the paganistic rituals behind Christmas, we can use the occasion to talk not just about the birth of Jesus — but the meaning behind His birth, His death, burial and resurrection. 

Christmas should not be the only time we evangelise or reach out to the lost, but believers ought to use every opportunity to share the good news of the birth of the Saviour. Special occasions such as Christmas and Easter only make it easier to do so, since the world is already aware of the reason for the mass celebrations.

On a related note — and as a word of caution — take a look at Colossians 2:16: “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” 

This is the work of the gospel. It frees us from the legalistic rules and regulations regarding food and festivities. Simply put, God does not judge a person by what they eat and this liberation for believers applies to festivals (by which I refer to Easter and Christmas) as well. 

God does not judge a person by what they eat and this liberation for believers applies to festivals

The reason for the season

I am sure you are asking this question out of sincere concern for other believers and I can understand why the decorated tree, twinkling lights, and piles of presents can seem paganistic and how the idea of Santa Claus can seem confusing in relation to the birth of Christ. While Christmas has become commercialised, I think there is room for believers to “deal gently with those who are ignorant” (Hebrews 5:2), “be merciful to those who doubt” (Jude 22), and also “help the weak, be(ing) patient with everyone” (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

The date of the birth of Jesus Christ is not something to get overly hung up on — especially considering it has not been explicitly mentioned in Scripture. Instead, there are other essential truths that we need to hold on to, cherish and that are binding — such as the death of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 27:45; Mark 15:33; Luke 23;44; John 19:28), worshipping the Lord through remembering and participating in the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:17), fulfilling the gospel mandate (Matthew 28:18-20), and looking forward to His coming again!

This is the essence of the Gospel: “By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:2-4)

And this would not have been possible if Jesus had not come into the world. So, it’s not the date but the details, not the tree but the cross. It’s not the greeting cards but the cradle, it’s not about Scrooge but the Saviour, and it’s not the presents but the free gift of God (eternal life) that saves humanity. That is what we ought to celebrate on Christmas Day.

Jobin John Mathew

About Jobin John Mathew

Jobin John Mathew serves as a deacon at his church in Bangalore. He enjoys talking about Jesus to all age groups, preaching through the book of James, and listening to gospel-centric sermons. He is married to Ruby and dad to little Judah. The family shares their home with many pets, including three turtles.



Get a notification in your Inbox

A weekly brief of new resources and Scripture-based insights from our editorial team.