Does Christmas Make Jesus Happy?
With another Christmas season in full swing, have you ever wondered if the Christmas holiday actually makes Jesus happy? How can we know for sure?
It’s a time when families come together. Maybe you think of it as a time for hot chocolate, eggnog and ugly sweaters; for sharing meals and making memories; and for trading gifts and spreading joy. There’s no mistaking it: Christmastime is on the mind of a lot of people.
And with the Christmas season come all the popular traditions—the decorated trees, the mistletoe and wreaths, the gingerbread houses and the lights hanging from houses and trees. And at the center of it all, we find the Nativity scene—where wise men, angels and two awestruck parents stand gathered around a swaddled newborn. That newborn, supposedly, is Jesus Christ—the central figure of the Christmas season and, ostensibly, the reason for it all.
But is He really? And is all this what He wants?
Know your roots
These days, it’s not much of a surprise to hear that most modern-day Christian traditions have their roots in very unchristian practices. The trees, the wreaths, the lights, the gifts, the food and even the date of Dec. 25—all stem from pagan traditions that have nothing to do with Jesus Christ. They were incorporated into the celebration hundreds of years after Christ was born to make the transition from paganism to Christianity easier for new converts.
But does it really matter? The logic often goes like this: Sure, these traditions may have their roots in paganism, but that was all hundreds or thousands of years ago. Things are different today. The modern Christmas isn’t about the feasts of ancient pagan gods; it’s a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God Himself.
There’s just one little problem: He doesn’t like any of it.
Standards for worship
It’s easy to assume that if our heart is in the right place, God is happy with whatever worship we offer. And while God does look at the heart (Hebrews 4:12), He also expects to be worshipped “in spirit and truth” (John 4:23)—and the truth is, there are certain ways He hates to be worshipped.
God expects to be worshipped "in spirit and truth." Thousands of years ago, as God was leading the nation of Israel into the Promised Land, He warned them against borrowing traditions from the pagan nations around them:
“When the LORD your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.
“Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it” (Deuteronomy 12:29-32).
But Israel didn’t listen. Over the centuries, the nation borrowed from the religions around them, blending pagan traditions together with God’s commands. God was disgusted. He sent a prophet to tell them, “I hate, I despise your feast days” (Amos 5:21). Israel had added to and taken away from God’s Word, and the result was something God found abominable.
More than 2,000 years later, here’s the question we need to be asking ourselves: Has God’s stance on worship changed?
The unchanging God
God answers, “I am the LORD, I do not change” (Malachi 3:6). In the New Testament we read, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Either God feels as strongly about blending religions today as He did thousands of years ago or what He says means nothing. Since most who believe in God wouldn’t call Him a liar, then we’re left with an uncomfortable truth:
Christmas is offensive to God.
The Christmas holiday is noticeably absent from the pages of the Bible—because neither God the Father nor Jesus Christ ever commanded or sanctioned it. That’s not the kind of thing that’s easy to hear. There are many people around the world who keep Christmas with the very best of intentions, but if we take the Bible at its word, we have to conclude that the pagan origins of Christmas are still unacceptable to a God who desires to be worshipped in spirit and truth. The Christmas holiday is noticeably absent from the pages of the Bible—because neither God the Father nor Jesus Christ ever commanded or sanctioned it.
That leaves us with another question: If Christmas doesn’t make Jesus happy, what does? How are we supposed to worship God in a way that’s pleasing to Him?
The feasts of the Lord
If we’re willing to dig into the pages of the Bible, we’ll find that God answers that question very clearly. In the book of Leviticus, God reveals “the feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts” (Leviticus 23:2, emphasis added).
God’s feasts. His holy convocations. Not ours. Worshipping God in spirit and truth means worshipping Him on His terms, the way He asks to be worshipped.
In the verses that follow, God explains what some of those terms are: a weekly seventh-day Sabbath observance and seven annual festivals.
These festivals contain the blueprint for the very plan of God—a blueprint explaining who we are, why we’re here and what God has in store for humanity. The more we observe these feasts, the clearer that plan becomes. God’s feasts show us why the world is the way it is—and then they show us how God is going to fix it and how we can be part of the solution. They are filled with meaning and vision; and are designed to remind us of where we’re going and how to get there.
But we can’t have both. We can’t worship God the way He wants and the way we want. We can’t please God by mixing and matching His commands with the practices of other religions. Once we know what God wants from us, it’s up to us whether we’ll do something about it.
Christmas, at its core, is a patchwork of traditions and customs that God says He hates. It’s not a day He ever commanded us to keep—and despite the best intentions of those who keep it, it’s not a day that makes Him happy. If we’re willing to follow God where He leads, then His feast days have so much more to offer us. Jesus Christ told His disciples, “You are My friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14, New American Standard Bible).
Learning about the feasts of the Lord is a great place to start.
We invite you to view our Discover video series “The Feasts of the Lord” to learn more about what these days mean for you and the world.