Recently, I watched Michael McIntyre deliver a stand-up comedy routine about Christmas. He explained what happens in his house on Christmas day. I’ve heard good humour described as “a slight colouring of the truth” and McIntyre’s account was definitely an embellishment, but also very funny.
He concluded by saying, “Christmas involves huge amounts of eating. I think it’s a Christian thing. Christians love to eat to excess on their holidays. Other religions starve themselves on their holidays.”
Yes, Michael, it is a Christian thing. Christianity is a religion that values celebration and this has been evident since its origins in the Old Testament. God instituted seven festivals a year so that the Israelites could take time off and celebrate his goodness. A couple of these festivals lasted seven days. In Nehemiah’s time, we read an account of the Israelites celebrating one of these occasions with feasting and great joy (Nehemiah 8:10-12, 17).
Before entering the Promised Land, Moses gave the Israelites these instructions: “Now when the Lord your God blesses you with a good harvest, the place of worship he chooses for his name to be honored might be too far for you to bring the tithe. If so, you may sell the tithe portion of your crops and herds, put the money in a pouch, and go to the place the Lord your God has chosen. When you arrive, you may use the money to buy any kind of food you want—cattle, sheep, goats, wine, or other alcoholic drink. Then feast there in the presence of the Lord your God and celebrate with your household” (Deuteronomy 14:24-26).
Other religions “starve themselves on their holidays” because the adherents believe they have to sacrifice or work to earn the approval of their god or gods. These religions teach people what they have to do to reach God or be made acceptable for heaven or some sort of blissful afterlife. Many try to work their way into God’s favour by doing good works, fasting or performing other sorts of rituals. Christians know we can never do enough to be acceptable to God. Jesus lived a perfect life and died a sacrificial death on our behalf. We celebrate out of a sense of gratitude for all God has achieved for us.
Two commandments in particular are repeated often in the Old Testament. They are to refrain from working on the Sabbath and not to worship idols. Both commandments demonstrate that we can’t earn God’s acceptance. Worshipping idols isn’t only pointless but places people in the position of striving for approval. Whereas God wants his people to know that they already have his approval, because they are his chosen people, not because they’ve performed a religious activity.
Furthermore, God wanted them to observe the Sabbath to remind his people they were dependent on his provision. When they rested on the Sabbath, it was a symbolic reminder that salvation wasn’t achieved by their works.
The First Christmas
The very first Christmas was a celebration. Angels appeared and shepherds rejoiced as they celebrated God’s intervention in the world. Later Jesus’ first miracle would take place at a wedding which enabled the festivities to continue (John 2:1-11). And the Bible ends with a wedding feast,
“Let us be glad and rejoice,
and let us give honor to him.
For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb,
and his bride has prepared herself” (Revelation 19:7).
So this Christmas, let’s celebrate because God has provided a way for us to be in relationship with himself. A way that doesn’t involve us trying to earn our way into his favour.
Some of my friends are also blogging about Christmas, here are the links:
By Mercy and Truth by Dienece Darling
Born to Die by Steph Penny
An Unexpected Rescue by Tamika Spaulding