The Advent candle dilemma!

After my wife and I had accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior way back in the early 1980saw we began attending an independent fundamental Baptist church. The church celebrated the Christmas season just as most churches do but I had gotten ahold of some materials from fundamentalist sources which warned against celebrating Christmas, Easter, or other holidays since they were of pagan origin. We had come out of Roman Catholicism, which is ALL ABOUT ceremonies, rituals, feast days, and holidays, and I was concerned about falling back into that.

After reading the information we decided not to celebrate Christmas or Easter for a couple of years but that created a big scandal with our unbelieving family and friends. They assumed we were in some type of “extremist cult” like the Jehovah’s Witnesses or Branch Davidians. I felt that my hard stand on Christmas had become an impediment to my witness for Christ so adopted a less dogmatic approach; I don’t go out of my way to celebrate Christmas, every day in the Lord is the same to me, but I will join with others in remembering the birth of Jesus, when God the Son took on flesh on His mission to save the the lost (like me!). Let’s face it, Christmas is a secular holiday for the vast majority of people but believers can use the occasion to talk about Jesus in an inviting way and that’s a good thing.

I walked away from the Lord for a very long “season” but returned to Him in 2014. We joined a small Southern Baptist church close to home that had just 30-40 adults in attendance on a typical Sunday so everyone was involved. The church introduced an Advent wreath that year as part of their Christmas celebration and I was asked to light one of the candles and say a prayer on one of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. I accepted but I struggled with it. I personally don’t go for liturgical calendars, lighting candles as religious symbols, etc. If other believers enjoy such things, that’s fine for them, but it’s not for me. Anyway, I figured that opting out would seem kind of ridiculous so I went ahead and lit the Advent candle. As it turned out, we left that church after one year anyway because it became abundantly clear that the young pastor was far too ecumenical – I cringed every time he quoted Catholic theologians from the pulpit. I imagine they’ll soon be incorporating other religious rituals as well.

When it comes to the holidays, every believer has to follow the leading of the Lord and his or her own conscience. But this Christmas I’m looking forward to telling my friends and family about Jesus!

“Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another?…One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord.” – Romans 14:4&5

Can Christians celebrate Christmas?

18 thoughts on “The Advent candle dilemma!

  1. This is a wonderful post and thank you for sharing your struggles with the holidays. I did the Easter bunny and Santa Claus with my son but by the time my daughter was born I started seeing theses symbols as the idols they were being used for. I still face opposition on this. Yet when Rabbits and men in red suits are part of your church holiday program what are we supposed to do. I do not know the exact date when Jesus was born but taking a pagan holiday the winter solstice and putting a Christian label doesn’t change what the day is. Elves and Santa Claus are not real but Jesus is. Born in a manger then crucified on a cross all to give to each of us eternal life. To show us how much He loves us He gave everything asking only for us to receive Him. We make lists and expect the items we want making the holidays selfish and materialistic. Everyday to me is the day to celebrate both His birth and His crucifixion because it reminds me that He loves me. I won’t knock somebody else for how they pend the holiday but I do wish they would not force their traditions on me. I really enjoyed this post thanks again.

    1. Thanks so much for your comments, Julie! Yes, each believer must decide how the holidays fit into their worship of the Lord. I think we can use them to glorify the Lord through our witness but I agree with you that the Santa Claus/presents thing is a big turnoff. If my church brought in Santa Claus for the children I would immediately look for another church.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I enjoyed this post!

    We acknowledge Santa from a distance; we see his likeness in holiday movies, in light displays, etc., etc. They had a Mr. & Mrs. Claus at a pizza party for the playgroup and that is the closest we have come to the Santa thing. I do not do the cookies, the letters to Santa, or pretend that he is bringing gifts to the house. I just cannot do that. I don’t know that I have ever acknowledged an Easter bunny.

    I once was a part of a denomination that is consider a ‘Catholic’s cousin’ and I began to find that all of the ceremony, ritual, and tradition dried out my spirit. My zest and zeal disappeared. I have no judgments toward any denomination, because it is not my place. But, I am much more at peace just being a passionate believer who makes God a part of my every waking moment in some form. I also show up to church on Sundays, but that is no longer what my faith system revolves around the way it did when I was going through the motions of tradition and ritual.

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    1. Thanks for the kind words and for your personal perspective. My wife loves decorating the house for Christmas and she watches the Hallmark Channel Christmas shows non-stop until the big day. I’m guessing the holiday brings back family memories and all that. I could do completely without the hoopla, especially knowing what I know, but I can also join in awe with Christmas-loving believers at the thought of the Lord of the universe humbling Himself by being born into this world for us.

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  3. I like this, Tom. Very balanced and well considered. In this issue, we can all chill and nobody is a heretic, right?

    Of course my personal experience is almost totally secular, as the religious overtones of the holiday meant nothing to me 10 years ago. We don’t do Advent or such..Lent..none of that stuff really where I do to church, so I don’t really know much about them all.

    On the other hand…we almost did have an issue as some wanted to dismiss church or seriously modify the schedule Christmas Sunday. I personally thought that was hair brained and said so. If the Holiday is a secular/pagan one, then it’s STILL Sunday. If the holiday is to celebrate the incarnation of our Lord, then NOT being in his house on the designated day is equally hair brained. We finally voted to just start early Sunday and do our regular thing. We also voted to dismiss Sunday night. I was actually one of two opposing votes for that part of the motion. Not trying to be legalistic, but I didn’t think we should change what we do over this. Do our regular thing, and people can choose to come or not.

    Just my two cents. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Wally, and for your other comments. It’s interesting to see how different believers deal with Christmas. It’s such a HUGE deal for many while others are dead set against it. I don’t hesitate to draw lines in the sand when it comes to the Gospel and primary doctrines but my earlier view seemed to be counterproductive. Interesting about the discussion at your church regarding services on Christmas day. I’m sure many churches had to debate the same issues.

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      1. It was not a contentious debate at all. Usually for us people will say their mind then go with what is decided. It’s very cool to see. Pretty sure that’s how It’s supposed to work

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      2. I used to attend all the monthly business meetings at our previous church and it would often get a bit rancorous mainly because of a couple of people. I guess because of that I have no desire to attend any more business meetings.

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      3. I am sorry to hear that, Tom. We have in recent years gone through some of the more contentious things churches have done and not had any division at all. We built a new building, purchased a brand new van, and now are paving a really big parking area. Things like that are sometimes dividing factors. God has blessed us with much love among us.

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      4. It’s refreshing to hear that the members of your church are able to voice concerns and move forward without the nastiness that many churches experience over minor and major issues. Of course, we left our previous church because the new pastor just out of seminary was a vocal fan of Catholic theologians but we had been attending for only a year. A longtime member might have felt like they had to stay and “fight.”

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      5. Again, that is a tough call to make, and I don’t really have a personal frame of reference to say. Not sure how I would handle such a thing. I suspect in my situation I would have to stay and fight so to speak. This church is my home, and frankly I can’t imagine not being there. It is literally the center point of my entire life. Socially, faith wise…everything.

        I may have to jot down some notes on this someday. The love I encountered in this place literally changed my life.

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      6. I hear you, Wally. If I was attached to a congregation and had roots there I would have to stay and defend it if error started to creep in and lead people astray. But I found out that much of the SBC leans the same way as the young pastor so I would have been swimming against the proverbial tide. His preaching also occasionally touched upon politics and patriotism and as you know that’s like nails on the chalkboard for me (and my wife).

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jim. Although it’s not a direct application, I think of Luke 16:8 and the shrewd manager in regards to Christmas. We could retreat into our bunkers or circle the wagons or we could use Christmas as an opportunity for the Gospel.

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  4. Thank you for this post. I live in Japan and posted something about our church here and the Christmas celebrations…Japan is 1% Christian and despite everything said about “Christmas” the Lord is using it to lead people to himself…I think you can find my blog (I have 2 one that is mostly just about Japan and one that is faith centered) by clicking on my icon next to my comment.

    Liked by 1 person

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