Keeping Christmas Christian?

Does it annoy you, the way Christmas is becoming commercialised or all about family and presents? Do you think we should be advocating that culture keep the true meaning of Christmas (the gift as Jesus) as the focus?

In my view, we Christians ought to celebrate Jesus coming at Christmas, but if the world wishes to drift away from that message, I am not about to try and stop them. The bigger question has to do with (religious) liberty in the public space.

In about 197 AD Church Father Tertullian wrote this: “Let one man worship God, another Jupiter; let one lift suppliant hands to the heavens, another to the altar of Fides;… let one consecrate his own life to his God, and another that of a goat. For see that you do not give a further ground for the charge of irreligion, by taking away religious liberty, and forbidding free choice of deity, so that I may no longer worship according to my inclination, but am compelled to worship against it. Not even a human being would care to have unwilling homage rendered him.”

What Tertullian is saying is that being human is about having and expressing freedom (or liberty). About being able to live and worship as your conscience directs you, not under compulsion. Compelling others to acknowledge Jesus at Christmas does no service to them, and renders worthless homage.

Tertullian wrote before Constantine, at a time when Christians were still a persecuted minority. I think he offers us sound advice, as Christianity once again becomes a marginalised minority. Tertullian (following St Paul) is arguing that in a just and fair society, we should be free to celebrate Jesus at Christmas. If the world wishes to celebrate presents and family, we ought to allow them the freedom to worship according to their inclination.

Rev David Rietveld

Senior Minister


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