Christmas, Mailbag

The Mailbag: Christmas Potpourri

Merry Christmas! Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question.

I like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar (at the very bottom of each page) can be a helpful tool!

Or maybe I answered your question already? Check out my article The Mailbag: Top 10 FAQs to see if your question has been answered and to get some helpful resources.

What do you think about having decorated Christmas trees in the sanctuary / on the platform at church?

It’s a great question, because we want every aspect of our worship services – even the decor – to honor God and be conducive to worship.

Assuming they’re tastefully decorated in an understated way, I don’t personally have any problem with a Christmas tree at the front of the sanctuary for decoration. I’ve seen some lovely ones that were decorated with all white ornaments of biblical symbols (crosses, doves, stars, etc.). I don’t really see any theological difference between a Christmas tree, a holly garland, candles, poinsettias, flowers on the altar every week, ficus trees, potted plants, backdrops, banners, or any other tasteful, reverent, non-distracting piece of decor. They’re just inert objects that somebody thought would spruce things up a bit (yeah, I went there) and make the space pretty. There’s nothing wrong with that. I mean, have you read God’s instructions for the design of the tabernacle and the temple? Lots of flowers and tapestries and gold and all kinds of other pretty stuff. God invented beauty. He is OK with His house being beautiful as long as that beauty honors and points to Him.

God invented beauty. He is OK with His house being beautiful as long as that beauty honors and points to Him.

But there’s something else we need to take into consideration…

All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

1 Corinthians 10:23-24

We have good brothers and sisters in Christ in our churches whose consciences, for various reasons, just can’t handle Christmas trees. And having Christmas trees in the sanctuary would distract them from worship. So you know what we do to love and honor them? We lay aside our “right” to have Christmas trees on the platform and either don’t decorate or find another way to decorate. Many churches have found lots of different ways to tastefully decorate for Christmas that don’t involve Christmas trees.

I’ve heard people say that the word “Christmas” means “Christ’s mass” so it’s Roman Catholic and Christians shouldn’t celebrate it or use the word “Christmas”. Is this true?

It’s true that the word “Christmas” is a shortened form of “Christ’s mass”. It first appeared in English usage as Crīstesmæsse in 10381, and, at that time, it did refer to the Roman Catholic mass celebrating the birth of Christ.

You’ll note that 1038 was long before the Protestant Reformation, when Roman Catholicism was the primary manifestation of any form of Christianity. There was no other church. So, at that time, if you were going to refer to a religious observance of the birth of Christ, you naturally would have couched it in Catholic vernacular. You would not have had any other frame of reference for Christianity.

But the word “Christmas” has come a long way in the last thousand years. It no longer refers exclusively or primarily to a Roman Catholic mass. It refers to all kinds of things surrounding December 25 and the birth of Christ, from a Christmas worship service at your own doctrinally sound church to Christmas sales, presents, trees, carols, 5Ks, parties and everything else under the sun that takes place this time of year. It’s perfectly fine for Christians to use the word “Christmas”. I mean, “Thursday” started out as “Thor’s Day“. It’s actually named after a false god, and none of us bat an eye when it rolls around every week, so why would “Christmas” be problematic?

But if you have a sensitive conscience and it bothers you to use the word “Christmas,” why not try on “Incarnation Day” and see how it fits? Or maybe “Noel”? It derives from Old French and means “birth” or “birthday”1.

As for celebrating Christmas, it’s not required by Scripture, so you don’t have to observe the day if you don’t want to, but I would plead with you, don’t use “because it’s Catholic” as your reason. Don’t dignify that evil, apostate religious system – which has sent millions to Hell – with the power to be a factor in your spiritual decision making. Don’t let it keep you from celebrating the birth of your Lord in the biblical way of your choosing. They don’t have that right, and you shouldn’t give them that power. I would encourage you to read my article Is Christmas Pagan?. Everything in it applies to Catholicism as well.

1Christmas– Wikipedia

What do you think about the Christmas song, The Little Drummer Boy? I’ve always loved that song but I recently read an article stating that we shouldn’t sing it because it’s not biblically true.

It depends on what the article means by “not biblically true”. If they mean it conflicts with, denies, or twists Scripture in some way, I don’t see that in the lyrics. If they simply mean there’s no mention in Scripture of a little drummer boy visiting Jesus as a baby, that’s correct.

However, it’s reasonable to assume friends, family, and possibly even curious strangers (spurred on by the shepherds’ amazing story) visited Jesus and His parents in the days after His birth. In fact, for such a corporate and family oriented society, it would have been unthinkable that only the shepherds, and later, the wise men, ever visited them.

Could one of those visitors have been an impoverished little boy who wanted to play a song for Jesus on his drum? And Mary consented? And Jesus smiled? I don’t see why not. None of that conflicts with Scripture, and it’s all within the realm of possibility (except for the ox and lamb keeping time – I’ve never known a barnyard animal with good rhythm).

Did the article you read mean that “we” (as in the congregation, choir, soloist) shouldn’t sing that song in the worship service because it isn’t drawn from Scripture? I would fully agree with that. All of the elements of our worship services should be drawn from, and centered on the Word.

But as far as personal or family use goes, if the song makes you uncomfortable in some way, you don’t have to sing it or listen to it. (It’s certainly not one of my favorites.) I guess the decision you would have to make is whether you’re only comfortable with songs that come straight from Scripture or whether you can be comfortable with a song about something that could have happened, but isn’t in Scripture. And either way is totally fine. It just depends on your heart and your conscience.

I’m a member of a doctrinally sound church. That’s why it was a little confusing when all of a sudden, from the pulpit, they announced that we were going to have a float in our upcoming Santa Claus Parade.

When one brave soul asked why we would participate, the answer was: we need to look at the “greater good” – it’s getting the gospel out – which we are doing with tracts and Christmas candy.

While I was happy to be a part of printing off the material in hopes of getting it into the hands of as many people in our city, I won’t be participating in handing it out in the parade.

Am I wrong to feel this way? I know I should be asking our Pastors about this – but frankly, after that one person asked, she was told that we were going through with it…that they valued her “opinion” on the matter – but that they (as well as the Deacons that discussed the matter), see nothing wrong with participating in such an event. Why couldn’t we have a “booth” that was away from the parade route, and hand out literature there, instead of “being in the thick of things…”

(You didn’t say exactly how your church is going to distribute the tracts and candy, but in our local Christmas parade, the float riders throw their candy and other goodies to the watching crowd, so that’s the assumption I’m working under with my response.)

It’s always a good thing to carefully think things through whenever we bump elbows with the world. We want to impact the world with the gospel, but we want to be careful not to become worldly. “In the world, not of the world” as the saying goes.

But from everything you said in your email, I’m going to have to go with your pastors on this one. (In fact, I’ve been recommending for years that churches participate in Christmas parades as an evangelistic outreach.) It sounds to me like they’re taking hold of a golden opportunity to share the gospel and let people in the area know about your doctrinally sound church. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do as Christians? “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”?

If you’re going to share the gospel with sinners, you have to go where sinners are.

If you’re going to share the gospel with sinners, you have to go where sinners are. And if you’re invited by the sinners, so much the better. The parade organizers have invited your church to participate, or, at least they haven’t told your church it can’t participate. Why would your church not joyfully accept that invitation? Your area may be progressive, but it’s not so progressive that they’ve banned churches from participating in the Christmas parade (wouldn’t that be hypocritical?) yet. Jesus said, “We must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day. The hour is coming when no man can work.”. We’ve got to take advantage of these gospel opportunities while we still have them.

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.

And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

1 Corinthians 5:9-10, Matthew 9:10-13

Why couldn’t we have a “booth” that was away from the parade route, and hand out literature there, instead of “being in the thick of things…”

Because the parade is where the people are! If you’re there to share the gospel, why wouldn’t you want to be “in the thick of things”? “Yes, we’d like to come to your parade and share the gospel, but please put us in an out of the way area where fewer people will be.”? Hon, I am not trying to be harsh with you, believe me, but I say this to you in sisterly love: Most of the people who will be at that parade are on their way to an eternity in Hell. Have you really thought about that? Does that not grieve you? Don’t you want to rescue as many of them as possible with the gospel? An out of the way spot? Jesus said:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16

Your pastors are trying to set your church on a hill and shine the gospel forth from it. Don’t ask them to put it under a basket. From everything you’ve said, they’re good, trustworthy doctrinally sound pastors. You don’t have to personally hand out materials at the parade (you wouldn’t have to even if you were 100% on board with all of this), but trust them and submit to their leadership.

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Hebrews 13:17

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

4 thoughts on “The Mailbag: Christmas Potpourri”

  1. The new church controversy is the pastor didn’t want to put a baby Jesus in the manger and he left it empty, People are upset bc they think there should be one. should churches put up an image of God in their church?


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