Does God care about us displaying Christmas trees? Does He require that we put on happy faces for the holidays? Do we need to put up Christmas lights? Are we to be ashamed if we don’t have a scene of the nativity in our homes? Do our churches have to play Christmas music? Does He require that we give gifts? How much importance should we give to this post-Thanksgiving season? Since we are made in the image of God, we should see what God thinks about it, then conform ourselves to His outlook on the world and its customs.
To answer this question, we need to pay attention to one of God’s major attributes. God is holy. Let’s take a brief (I promise) side trip into the Hebrew meaning of the word. According to the Hebrew, it means to be set apart, separate from sin and anything impure. A similar meaning is attached to the Greek word. God is also said to be “holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:3, Revelation 4:8). In the Hebrew, when a word is repeated, it intensifies it. In the case of “peace, peace” it means much peace. In the case of triple holy, the meaning is taken to the extreme. In our English, it’s like saying, “Really, really, really holy.” Or, “not just peaceful, but perfect peace.” So to intensify something, we with English would add really or very to a word while the Hebrew language would double the word.
God is holy, holy, holy. God is very, very, very separate from sin. There is no sin in Him at all. He is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. So it’s improper to impute man’s sinful attributes or motivations to God in any way. Personally, I go so far as to say that God is untainted by any man-made cultures, customs, religions, politics, nations, and is even separate from the world. (He is everywhere in the world, but He is not a rock, or river, or any such thing that you can pick up and say, “This is God.”) God is separate from His creation.
God will not defend anyone’s culture. He does not favor the pop culture, for instance, over other cultures, or Roman architecture over other forms of architecture. He does not favor one culture’s clothing over another, one region’s dance over another, or prefer one nation’s group of holidays. God is untainted by any of these things. If one nation belittles one of these things that is revered in another nation, there will be uprisings and protests and political repercussions made from the slighted nation. But God is separate from these things and is not moved by the slight. We in America don’t have to worry about offending God if we say something in our prayers that is unknowingly culturally offensive to the Japanese or Buddhists. God is holy, holy, holy.
I work for a company that makes radio-controlled cars. I help maintain the company website, make press releases to inform an interested public of our new products and race wins, and gather parts to photograph and add them to the website so the public can examine its features. I also make and upkeep several product-related apps for the Apple and Android mobile devices.
Is God fascinated by radio-controlled cars, boats, and drones? Is God protective of the hobby industry in general? Does He care about apps for mobile devices? God is holy, holy, holy.
What does this mean to a Christian? In my case, it means that at work, God is my boss. God does not so much care about the photography, website, or hobby, but the care I put into doing the work. He wants a servant who is careful, faithful, hard-working, who gets along with others, and, where there are conflicts, one who can be a peacemaker. God cares about the character of the worker more than the products or services created by the worker.
He cares about how I respond to the work environment He put me in more than the work itself. He uses my circumstances and processes at work to redeem me to Himself, to conform my character into the image of His Son. At work He is training me to be His servant.
So it is at home, school, and in the community. He cares more about how I respond to the Christmas holiday than He does the products of Christmas, like trees, presents, and wreaths. Do I put others down if I have a tree and they don’t? Do I think I’m the greater because I participate in Operation Christmas Child gift boxes for distribution to kids in other lands? If the answer is yes to these two questions, then I am not being holy as God is holy. He is not defined by these things, and neither am I. I have let the culture define my values instead of learning who I am from the Word of God. The Bible puts it this way, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).
Does the holiday make you a Scrooge who is easily irritated by others? The holiday is not the problem; it’s a tool that is revealing something hidden in the heart. In this case, it reveals that you need to see God’s perspective of His creation; you need to return to Him for strength to live as He would have you live.
In all things, God’s purpose is to redeem us, to make us into His image of love: “Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5. See also 1 Corinthians 13 , Romans 8:29, and Mark 12:33).
Is Christmas unimportant, then? It is neither good nor evil. It depends on the individual: Will I use it to glorify Christ, or am I driven by it to irritation and stress? Do I go through it in the power of God, or in my own strength? Do I use it to focus on myself above others and God, or walk in love? Do I go through it in humility before God as I should every day of the year, or in pride?
As with work, so with holidays and vacations: God can use them to reveal our hearts, and train us for the kingdom to come. When we die, when this world passes away by fire, all that will be left standing before God is the person we have become. The holiday tinsel will be long gone. The political infighting will be left in the dust. The sports trophies will be burned up.
When this life is over, will we appear before God as faithful or unfaithful? Will we earn His commendation by developing a heart of love, or by developing new products or services? It’s not enough to say, “When I die, I go to heaven.” How we live now will determine our place in heaven – a place of honor or non-honor, of confidence or shame.
Christmas will come and go; use its opportunities to lay a stronger foundation for eternal rewards.