Our family made the decision a couple years ago to stop celebrating Christmas. Not because we don’t believe in Jesus anymore, but because we have learned that the holiday is a conglomeration of various pagan practices. Because the Savior’s birth did not occur on December 25, or any time in December for that matter. Because the fact that the world fully embraces it in all of its commercialized indulgence is, to us, a warning flag that maybe believers ought not to be so into something the world loves. And because we just don’t believe that you can redeem a holiday that never had anything to do with Christ to begin with – because redemption means to “buy back” or “ransom”. How can Christians “take back” a holiday that originated in paganism?
Read more about our decision by clicking the image below
Yes, I know…but that’s not what it means to us…
And true, God knows my heart…
That statement really should be uttered in terrifying humility. Because he DOES know your heart. Every dark and dirty corner. Every room that is locked and hidden away. Every ugly thing we try to disguise. He knows.
So What Do We Celebrate?
We believe that God very clearly shows us, in his word, what times are important to celebrate. He tell us, in many cases, how to go about observing these appointed times. Such as Sukkot, where we are commanded to live in temporary shelters and celebrate for a week. Other times, there is not much instruction, such as with the weekly Shabbat or Sabbath. Do no work, don’t light a fire in your house, gather with other believers. But there is no instruction as to how you are supposed to “do” the sabbath.
There are many traditions for Shabbat, such as making and eating challah. Lighting candles. The kiddush and havdalah. And while they are beautiful and symbolic, they are still just traditions.
I am working at being more intentional with Shabbat – setting it apart from the rest of the week by stopping whatever we are doing and making a distinction between this holy (which means set-apart) day and the rest of the ordinary days. I do keep the day holy by not doing work or lighting fires and we gather with other believers for worship, study and fellowship. Our Sabbath fellowship has started doing a small havdalah ceremony, which I love.
Our Fridays can be kind of crazy and unpredictable with my husband’s work schedule so I have not always done such a good job of kiddush at the beginning of Shabbat. But, I’m working on it.
It’s a process.
I’m a process.
Why Not Hanukkah to Replace Christmas?
We do not want to trade one set of traditions (of questionable origin) for another set of traditions – some of which are also of questionable origin. We want to focus on what is important. We want to take this time to rededicate our lives to following our Savior and living according to the holy ways God set forth in his word.
No, we shouldn’t have to rededicate ourselves…in a perfect world, we would never lose our zeal. But, I’m sure this is no surprise to anyone who knows us…
We are not perfect.
We make mistakes.
We unintentionally let the world creep into our days sometimes and need to take time as a family to refocus.
Last year, we read through a book by First Fruits of Zion called Light in the Darkness (download a free pdf here) each night of Hanukkah. It’s a great resource for believers in Yeshua (Jesus).
We discussed and reflected upon what we read and how it applies to our own hearts and lives. We lit the candles on our homemade hanukkiah. We gave the kids small gifts each night and enjoyed fried foods and candy. We even had our family over one night to join us in an evening of food and our nightly reading.
The ones that were disappointed about our decision to quit observing Christmas and really didn’t understand.
They still don’t, but they respect our decision. That is a tremendous blessing! Many families are torn apart when this decision is made.
This year, we are not not doing Hanukkah. We are using this season to focus on rededicating our “temples” (bodies) to Yeshua. We want to keep the focus on what is important. And while gifts and gelt and fried foods are fun they really shouldn’t be the subject of our focus.
We will again read through the Light in the Darkness book each evening and light the Hanukkiah. We will spend time reflecting on how we are reflecting the Light of the World to those around us. We’ll attend a Hanukkah party and hopefully get together with some friends if our schedules work out.
We’re not doing gifts this year. Part of that is due to our car dying and having to buy a new one, but even before the death of our vehicle, I really didn’t feel like doing gifts. They are nice, but again…what is important?
…understanding that Yeshua is the Light of the World and that we should be shining that light out into the world around us.
…loving others and trying to meet needs where we see them, especially since we are so blessed ourselves.
…not getting wrapped up in the trappings of the season like the rest of the world.
…being set apart (holy) because GOD is set apart (holy). That means being different from the rest of the world.
If You’re Not Celebrating Christmas, Then How Are You Celebrating Jesus?
I recently saw a Facebook post that did a great job of answering this question, which I’ll paraphrase:
If you’re not celebrating Christmas, how are you celebrating Jesus?
I love how she showed that God’s Appointed Times all point to one thing: Yeshua. Jesus. Our Savior.
That from the beginning to the end, there is one goal in mind: Yeshua. Jesus. Our Savior.
It struck me that the person to whom she was replying was implying, apparently, that by not celebrating Christmas one is somehow not acknowledging the Messiah and what he did on the cross. That, apparently, putting up Christmas trees, commercialism and gift-giving, caroling and Santa Claus are necessary for teaching our children that they need Jesus.
Yet this same person most likely does not participate in even one of God’s Appointed Times. You know, those times HE specifically set aside for his people, Israel.
The Israel we are grafted into when we accept Jesus. Does it make sense that our loving heavenly father has one set of rules for his “natural” children and a different set for his “adopted” children?
It didn’t make sense to me, either.
Tradition or Truth?
Something else that really hit a chord within me was this question:
What tradition are you teaching your children to recognize that we can not save ourselves, but rather we need the amazingly relentless gift from God in Jesus Christ?
I think I understand what they were getting at, but I must interject that part of the problem is tradition! Traditions, doctrines, theology replacing God’s word. Man-made rules and regulations superseding the Torah (instructions, guidelines for holy – set-apart – living). Division and discord among believers over what is essentially vain doctrines of men. The bible even goes further and declares them to be doctrines of demons.
It is not tradition we need to teach our children in order that they recognize their desperate need for Jesus, but truth. Pure, unadulterated truth. Not truth with deception, paganism and idolatry woven in. Not truth with compromise – even though we have good intentions. A foundation established in our children that is not made of pure truth will crumble under stress.
What Does It Mean…to God?
Christmas is a very dearly held tradition to many believers. No one wants to believe their tradition is pagan. No one wants to believe that by participating in Christmas one may actually be doing something that displeases God, especially when the intent of the heart is to honor him. I get that, I really do. I used to think that way, too.
Then one day I realized that what it means to me is not what is important. What is important is what it means to the God that I have professed to follow. To love with all my heart and mind and soul and strength. And when I read in his word how he wants to be worshiped and what days he wants me to observe, I became convicted about how I was worshiping and celebrating. I made a decision to step away from the world’s way of doing things and embrace God’s ways.
Hanukkah is also filled with tradition. It is not an Appointed Time commanded by God to be observed, but it is at least based on something that actually happened in history. There is documented proof of the Maccabean revolt. The rededication of the temple actually happened on Kislev 25 (which varies from year to year on our Gregorian calendar).
Contrast that with the fact that Jesus was not born on December 25…or even in December.
And while we all know that Santa Claus, reindeer, magical toy making elves and all that is just fantasy (again, based on pagan origins), Christians still take their kids to get pictures with Santa. They tell the kids to go to bed early so Santa will come and give them their presents. To be good because Santa knows if they’ve been bad or good (so be good for goodness sake!)
They lie to their kids. About a jolly, benevolent man who is never seen but knows all that they do.
And then wonder why, years later, it is so easy for their kids’ faith in an unseen God is so easily derailed.
Just a thought.
Elisha Larsen says
Thank you. You’ve stated what is stirring in my heart this year.
You’re welcome, thanks so much for reading my thoughts. Many blessings to you as you walk in His ways!
It’s encouraging to read about other families on the same journey as ours, to worship Him in spirit and in truth and to worship Him HIS way, not our way. On that note, I am now examining the traditions of Hanukkah and wondering why we use a hanukkiah, created by men, instead of Yawheh’s menorah? I understand the reason behind the tradition, just questioning whether it’s right for us or not. Maybe we should use the seven candled menorah instead and light all seven candles for 8 nights. Or maybe it’s a tradition like thanksgiving, remembering an historical event, and Yahweh isn’t offended by our celebration of it. So many questions and things to pray about and yet God is so patient and faithful in gently helping us on this journey to be in the world but not of it.
Dawn Yoder says
Hi Elizabeth and welcome!
Wonderful to “meet” another on this path as well. That’s a great question about the hanukkiah and certainly something to explore. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts! I agree completely!
Starla Young says
Hello Dawn –
It is so refreshing to hear others stories that are daily striving to be set apart & to follow Yeshua & walk in His ways. This can be a lonely journey if there are no others around you trying to walk a walk of truth. You truly begin to feel & see the difference in the “few” and the “many” I really appreciate your story of you & your family.
Thank you for being a blessing –
Walking in Truth in Lawton, Oklahoma
Dawn Yoder says
Thank you so much for your kind comments. It is a lonely walk sometimes, for sure. So glad to hear you are also walking in Truth! Blessings to you and your family and I pray this holiday season is a time of drawing closer to our Father no matter what is going on around you.