Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God.
So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.
Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.
– 1 Corinthians 8:1-13
I am not going to provide a scholarly discussion about the origins of the Christmas celebration. Documentation of the origins have been written and produced into documentaries. If you are interested, there is much of this information available on the internet and other media.
I want to talk about how this celebration of Christmas could relate to the Scripture above.
I recently read a post that a blogging friend reblogged. She posted the reblog from a site that I have visited a few times. The site quoted a lot of Scripture stating that if we celebrate pagan rituals, referring to the origins of the Christmas celebration, we do so at our own destruction.
I personally feel that the logic applied in getting from one verse to the next is flawed in a purely philosophical realm, but on a personal level, 1 Corinthian 8 applies. You could compare a living God with a hunk of wood, as Jeremiah did in Jeremiah 10 and then you might misappropriate the second half of 2 Peter 3:16, where Peter suggests that no one should misinterpret Paul’s letters to their own destruction. Thus, participating in a Christian celebration that borrowed the trappings of a pagan ritual might cause someone to stumble.
That is the point. Like the Apostle Paul, we can know that our sins (past, present, and future) are forgiven. We can dine at a pagan temple, with the thought that it is only food, used to nourish our bodies. But if that dining were to cause a fellow Christian to join us, thinking that ‘sin’ was okay, that would be wrong.
Are we at that point with the Christian celebration of Christmas? Yesterday’s post looked at Christmas Myths, the things that could definitely (maybe, probably?) be wrong with the Nativity Scene that we have on our Christmas cards, the back bumper of our car, or on the church lawn. Now we add to these errors that the early church placed the celebration during one of the worst pagan holidays, incorporating the pagan celebrations with Christian context. This does not say that Christmas being celebrated will lead to our destruction, just how and when we celebrate it could have when the ‘church’ first decided upon 25 December. Frankly, I never heard about the origins of the Christmas celebration until well into my adulthood – that sheltered upbringing that I have mentioned before. I had only heard the stories about how each tradition pointed to our Savior.
But we then add the Santa Claus issue. Which leads to the gift giving issue. Which leads to the abundant, and horribly sinful, commercialization of a religious holiday.
If we look at history, especially the history books of the Old Testament, humans are prone to screw up any good thing. Never mind the origins of the holiday celebration. We have abused the month of December, now spilling into late November for too long. While we are so far removed from the pagan worship, celebrating the birth of Jesus in late December instead of the more likely birthdate of June / July should not cause people to stumble. But the commercialization does. The holiday shopping frenzy that leads to man killing man each year over the last prized (got-to-have) toy in the store… Yeah, that might cause a few to stumble.
Do we get rid of Christmas altogether? Do we move Christmas to late June or early July?
While the non-believers claim to be offended by the phrase “Merry Christmas” and the spineless masses capitulate to “Happy Holidays”, we have our own problems among believers, even among true believers.
Do true believers celebrate Santa Claus? Many do not. Do true believers celebrate with Christmas trees and other things gathered from the pagan holiday? Some do not. While some believe that Jesus was born in the late Spring or early Summer, they have no problem in celebrating the holiday in December, but some have a problem with that.
I see two issues, and they are both above my pay grade. So, I will just ask the questions.
Do we scrap Christmas celebrations as Paul suggests with food dedicated to idols in 1 Corinthians 8? If someone stumbles if I eat meat, then I will never eat meat. Is that the proper route to take?
And if we decide that we can never have a unified set of rules, even about Christmas, can we at least respect the views of others? I celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday. I erect a small, artificial tree each year. I go to worship services with a Chrismon tree at the front and we have sermons on Hope, Joy, Peace, and the source of those, Jesus. But I will respect those who have a problem with that. I will not argue against your views, for you see the pagan temple and food dedicated to idols instead of a celebration of the miracle of the birth of Jesus – God placing His holy plan into practice.
Lord, please help us to worship You in our imperfect way until we are with You, perfected before You, all worshipping together. Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.