Saying no to Christmas is not saying no to Jesus.

It’s not in the Bible; we don’t have to celebrate it.

So there’s your permission to opt-out. But it’s not as simple as that, is it?

On the one hand, Jesus never commanded us to celebrate His birth and Christmas is never mentioned in the Bible. Some of the traditions we practice are deceptive at best and borderline idolatry at worst. But on the other hand, Christmas is a time of great joy, fond family memories, and anticipation as we look forward to the birth of the greatest baby ever and ultimately the return of the man that baby grew into.

We can wage a holy war on Christmas, spewing accusations of idolatry and paganism, but those words are a wedge in the hairline cracks that already divide the Church. And this time of year especially, the world is watching.

We are free to abstain, but our freedom shouldn’t imprison the joy of others with pointless quarrels. Here are three things you can safely say “no” to this Christmas:

You can say no to…taking the birth of Christ out of context

Of the 89 chapters in the gospels that tell the story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, only ONE is dedicated to the story of Jesus’ birth, Luke 2. That’s 1.1%. Yet for many of us, Christmas is 99% of our faith. The story with the stable and the manger and the shepherds and the wise men is the only story of the Bible we really know, and the only one we pass on to our children.

The rest of the chapters are filled with healing and brokenness and promises and mysteries and temptations and confrontation and suffering and joy and death and hope. But rather than progressing our focus from a Holy Infant to a Man of Sorrows, we instead look to an imaginary man in a red suit, and our children’s eyes follow.

Maybe Jesus was actually born in March. Maybe some of our Christmas traditions do descend from Pagan rituals. And yes, Jesus never commanded us to celebrate His birth. But the Son of God came into the world bundled up in hope and swaddling clothes and that is worth celebrating!

The Bible is a beautiful tapestry from the first light, to the Light of the World, to the Kingdom of Light. That night in Bethlehem is a small piece, but its threads extend intricately into the old and new testaments. I would highly encourage you to pick up an Advent reading plan and dig into the true magic of Christmas: prophecies fulfilled, the Word becoming flesh, God dwelling with His people.

She Reads Truth has a fantastic Advent series going, and it’s not too late to catch up!

You can say no to…obligatory spending

Let’s just address the elephant in the room: way too much money is spent on Christmas. Seemingly everything is on sale and we begin the annual dance of giving and receiving without stepping on anyone’s toes.

Gifts for the cousins! Gifts for the teachers! Gifts for the neighbors! You get a gift! You get a gift! You get a gift!

And I get a hole to dig myself out of starting December 26.

It’s ridiculous really, when you look at the simplicity and borderline poverty that Jesus was born into. When it came time for him to be named and circumcised eight days after his birth, a purification offering was required. Luke 2 tells us that Mary and Joseph couldn’t afford a lamb, so two birds were sacrificed instead.

The gift Jesus’ parents gave to God was simple and it was enough. They didn’t borrow money to get the lamb. Here’s our holiday gift guide straight from the Bible: the first gift mentioned after Jesus’ birth (yes, even before the wisemen).

It was inexpensive. It was sacrificial. It didn’t linger after it served its purpose.

Don’t be ashamed to give thrift store mugs, handwritten notes, cookies, a hug, a smile, or nothing at all. Be grateful for what you receive, but understand that gratitude can be independent of reciprocation.

My action item this year was this: unsubscribe from all sales emails. Stop clicking Facebook ads. Write out everything in my life that is enough. I realized I have all I need, so I don’t need to know that something I don’t need is 25% off today only.

You can say no to…Pleasing people over pleasing God

Do you feel it? The pressure that rises as the temperature drops?

Our mouths say the season is full of joy, but our hearts know it’s bloated on expectations. As we run around trying to meet them all to keep The Holiday Spirit alive, the Holy Spirit inside of us gets choked. 

If you do anything with a resentful heart, you aren’t pleasing God. (1 Samuel 16:7)

If a decision causes discord in your marriage or immediate family, it isn’t pleasing to God. (Matthew 19:4-6)

If you give begrudgingly or hoping to receive in return, your giving doesn’t please God. (Matthew 6:1-4)

If your spending puts you in debt, it isn’t Godly. (Romans 13:8)

If a certain tradition feels sinful or is blatantly unbiblical, ignoring that conviction and doing it anyway causes others to stumble and displeases God. (1 Corinthians 8:9-12)

If decorating your house rips opened unhealed wounds, Jesus is just as happy in your plain old unfestive house. (Revelation 3:20)

This year I’m looking beyond the lists, straight at my heart and checking it twice.

As I’m beckoned into the forced slowness and stillness of nursing my baby son, I think of Mary nursing that sweet baby and the humility of Jesus to come to earth utterly helpless. As I witness the love my husband has for our son, I think of God’s heart in sending His Son to us, knowing what the outcome would be. I chew on this verse until its mush, and then I chew it some more because this kind of love is just too big to swallow:

“For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life.” – John 3:16, AMP

This is truly what Christmas is all about. Everything else is just marshmallow fluff.

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