Tis the season to be jolly.

And tis the season for Christians to be mad in the midst of so much mirth.

I get the critiques. I understand that Christmas is about Christ and not about Santa. I resonate with the call to simplify the holidays. I appreciate the warning against needless gift giving. I see how burdensome it all can be, especially for moms. So I have no problem with anyone who chooses to jump off the super-sized, industrial-strength Christmas bandwagon.

Just don’t be censorious about it.

It seems like every time Christmas rolls around, a couple rage-against-the-Christmas-machine blog posts go viral. The kind that blast Christians for ruining everything with commercialism, toys made in sweatshops, and too many reindeer games. For a season that’s supposed to be full of joy and peace, we can be awfully angry and confrontational this time of year. Downright grinchy at times.

Do you or your kids like Santa? Get rid of him. Pronto. He’s fake. He’s not the point. He’s obese and his name is an anagram for Satan.

Do you buy toys for your kids? Stop it. They don’t need them.

Are you into Christmas trees? So were the pagans. Fuhgeddaboudit.

Happy Holidays? Not in my face you don’t. Merry flippin’ Christmas, Walmart Greeter.

Do your parents spend too much money on the grandchildren? Shame them for not buying a cow in your name.

Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of helpful ways we can make Christmas less crazy and lots of practical tips for putting Christ back in Christmas. But glaring at the happy Whos down in Whoville is not one of them. As Christians, we have more to celebrate than anyone. We don’t need to lock up Donner and Blitzen to show that Christ is preeminent. Just like Lewis didn’t have to shut out Father Christmas from Narnia to make Aslan great. If you can’t stand one more minute on Amazon, or one more Barbie, or one more mention of Zuzu’s petals, feel free to keep out all the noise, Noise, NOISE! But don’t furrow your ardent brow at your brothers and sisters with all the lights, all the sweets, all the nostalgia, all the campy cartoons, and all the presents under the tree. They will probably be at the Christmas Eve service too. They will probably give to the Christmas offering. They will probably sing hymns and carols around the tree. They probably haven’t forgotten Jesus.

There is a time for fasting in the Christian life and a time for feasting. The Old Testament teaches us that. And so does Jesus. If Western Christianity is selfish and bloated, let us be the first to say so and the first to show a more excellent way. But let us be the last to use the occasion of the incarnation for moral preening. If the disciples were to rejoice when the Bridegroom was with them, surely we can do better than to be outraged sourpusses every year when we commemorate his coming.

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45 thoughts on “Christian Christmas Grinches”

  1. ATB says:

    LOVE this! Couldn’t agree more, Kevin. I can’t wait till my first run through “Elf” and our traditional night of present wrapping to the warm glow of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Of course…the Gospel, Christmas Eve service, Advent readings and a Christmas morning devotional will be a beautiful part of the time too…setting all the other parts in proper place.

  2. Curt Day says:

    So my question is, can we be both a grinch and celebrate Christmas at the same time?

  3. Phil Brown says:

    We have chosen to tell the actual story of Saint Nicholas instead of the Commercialized version invented by Coca-Cola in the 20th Century. Nevertheless, we have always told our children to respect the others who do celebrate the beloved fictional character. I think anyone can go too far in any direction. Personally my conviction is that we should always be truthful with our children. They love Narnia, but they know it is fiction. But they also know Santa Claus and his reindeer are fiction too. When I was young, I had a friend tell me:”Well, Santa and the Easter Bunny are fake! God must be too!” Now I’m not saying that all who celebrate Santa and finally find out that he was a real man (Who sat on the council of Nicea by the way) and that he has passed on and doesn’t live in the North Pole with his reindeer will end up being an atheist. Make believe is ok as long as it is honest make believe. You may disagree, and that is ok. It is a conscience issue for us. Oh, by the way: I think Christmas trees and all of that other stuff is fine. I don’t expect a non-believer to celebrate Christmas. The Bible says for God to deal with those inside the Church. God will deal with those outside. Happy Thanksgiving! http://themattwalshblog.com/2013/11/17/if-you-shop-on-thanksgiving-you-are-part-of-the-problem/

  4. Tim Filston says:

    “Exactamundo.” Thanks Kevin.

  5. Christy Keyton says:

    Thank you…that is all I want to say…just thank you!

  6. jigawatt says:

    Thus begins the War on the War on the War on Christmas.

  7. j james says:

    I really love this! Honestly, the stress to be overly pious this time of year weighs me down more than the commercialism. Since there are no biblical commands to observe Christmas a certain way, we are all applying wisdom to our own situations. For some it will be lights and presents. For others, less is more. But as you said, if they’re believers they probably haven’t forgotten Jesus because there is an inflatable Santa in their yard, or because they bought their kids five gifts they wanted instead of one they needed and one to give away.

    Let’s not let holiday observances divide us. We are free to celebrate!

  8. Bill V says:

    I think one reasons Christians always sing the chorus of “Let’s not forget the reason” over and over, is the Christmas season is Just….too……..long.

    At the risk of getting hit with yule log, it just doesn’t take 6-8 weeks to celebrate the birth of Christ, right? A few days, a few services, that’s really it.

    So what can you do to fill in a month and a half? You can only read Luke 2 to your kids a few times before they glaze over, especially since the are hearing it at Sunday School, Christian School etc etc. Even the daily advent calendar we use seems to embellish The Story a bit so that we have enough to read every day for a month.

    Anyway, Merry Christmas.

  9. Joan says:

    I tend to be a Christmas grinch. Thanks for helping me laugh at myself! :D

  10. Cyndi says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I was thinking just this when I read a blog yesterday filled with self righteous venom. This is well written and so true!

  11. a. says:

    agreed, but hafta say though – He is with us, so the rejoicing is perpetual now, so displays of ‘Christ as preeminent’ only on a day or displays which prove preeminence of another rather than Jesus would be the pharisaical. Anyway, we don’t have to wonder what He thinks about how we celebrate, we just ask Him.

    hope that wasn’t too Grinch-ish

  12. alan rees says:

    This article has one major flaw. Christ was never in Xmas in the first place. It’s a myth, probably helped along by Dickens. Jesus was born at Tabernacles, in September, probably. So it’s a lie. Simple.

  13. Scott C says:

    Here’s my beef. As soon as Halloween is over, we get a couple of trite acknowledgments of Thanksgiving and then the Christmas rush is on. Thanksgiving gets trampled in the dust. For the last 2 weeks until Thanksgiving our family has focused one being thankful in our devotions. Also our Church service this Sunday will focus on the need to be thankful and will give the congregation the opportunity for giving thanks. On top of that we host an annual Community Thanksgiving meal Sunday night that has historically attracted large numbers of people. It is the one big outreach event we do every year. I believe it really sets the tone for Christmas. Let’s not ignore the opportunities we have to celebrate Thanksgiving just because Christmas is so BIG!

  14. Phil Allcock says:

    Alan, that’s unnecessarily harsh.
    It’s not a lie. We may choose to celebrate the birth of Christ on a day that is not his actual birthday, but that doesn’t really matter. Put yourself in the shoes of early Christians. You want to celebrate Jesus’ birthday but you don’t make the rules or decide when national holidays happen. So you pick an existing holiday that is as near to when you think Christ was born as possible, and redeem it by celebrating a far more glorious truth on that day.
    And finally, given that we don’t know he wasn’t born on the 25th December, you don’t know it was a lie… :)

  15. Melody says:

    Love this! I enjoy all the fun that comes along with Christmas – even the frivolous bits.

  16. Mary says:

    Thank you, I do agree with everything you are saying. I’m sad that Christmas is such a difficult struggle for many of us.

    But I do need to add one thing. I would like very much to be one of those who gets off the band wagon. I’d like NOT to participate. Do you know how hard that is? I don’t think that the Grinch is actually stopping anyone at all. But if you are one of those who would like to quietly not participate… good luck. It is nearly impossible without offending. This might be why we get so grinchy about it. It’s forced, because otherwise you are seen by your family and friends as rude and, as you said, an “outraged sourpuss.” I don’t want to participate. I would rather fellowship at church around Scriptures, and celebrate without all of the secular stuff that is distracting from what I think is more worth the celebration. But I can’t seem to get off the hook. This, my friend, is the real problem.

    By the way, the Christmas offering… I’m not sure why you think this was necessary. The Christmas offering is for the LORD, not me. And it shouldn’t be given out of compulsion. And not because it is Christmas.

    I want out of Christmas. I’m not a Grinch. I just would rather not participate. I don’t stop anyone else at all. But I am not allowed to avoid it. This, my friend, is the real problem.

    Mary

  17. The Jones says:

    I will not rage against Christmas. But I reserve the right to rage against Christmas not starting until after Thanksgiving.

  18. Joel says:

    Sad. Let’s provoke sinful passions and prodigally spend our money and time… And somebody isn’t very joyful about the people that don’t have joy in temptation or sin. I don’t think anyone needs help falling into temptation on the holiday in this country. Most people do sin greatly on this holiday and some want to try and honor The Lord. They are frustrated at the waste of time, resources and idolatry that takes place and yet they are the bad guys?!

  19. Claire says:

    Yea, verily! The grinches use their “spirituality” as an excuse to avoid blessing others in the name of Christ. I should know, I used to be one!

  20. Michael says:

    Nothing to see here. Move along now…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4lx_sI5dJk

  21. Paul Reed says:

    We can all read between the lines in this article: “Look, it’s okay if you don’t want to celebrate Christmas, but can you try to not be such a self-righteous,holier-than-thou jerk about it?”

  22. Thank you for this Kev.
    The incredible mystery of the incarnation that John poetically teaches on, Paul explains in Colossians 2 and Philippians 2, and Matthew and Luke cover like reporters is something that I think the church often only gives a nod to and moves on to Lent, and the Cross. Maybe our lesson from culture is more that their pandemonium over Santa dwarfs our celebration of the incarnation because we don’t make enough noise about it ourselves.

  23. Russell Johnson says:

    It seems this is becoming a defining characteristic in Christian cirlces. Instead of holding to our values with conviction and sharing them with compassion, we just become angry.

  24. Meredith says:

    Thank you SO MUCH

  25. Meredith says:

    This article made me chuckle. Thanks for writing it! I think the message is very much needed in these times. :)

  26. h says:

    Praying to Santa? Really? That’s the kind of thing that brings out the Grinch in me.

  27. kpolo says:

    I’m the Grinch incarnate and I object to this caricature. My points are very simple:

    1. Stop getting annoyed at the secular world trying to suppress Christmas. There is no Biblical mandate to celebrate Christmas.
    2. Please don’t join the crowds in a mad rush on Black Friday … errr strike that … on Thanksgiving day to get your hands on the latest trinkets. It is a clear portrayal of how much you value Christ and what he means compared to other things. Paul made his statement quite clear in Philippians.
    3. At a time when Christians in the middle east and Africa are being slaughtered like pigs, is this the best we can do?

    I’m not above reproach in any of this. But unless we exhort each other to saintly living in the power of Christ, who will?

  28. Tom says:

    Mary,

    Not celebrating Christmas is a viable choice. But you’ll have to expect people to be confused about your choice to opt out. You are swimming against the flow. I’m in favor of celebrating Jesus’ birth every day, and I’m not opposed to celebrating it on the 25th of December too. I’m also in favor of Christ-followers being kind to everyone–whether they keep the Day or not. Kindess matters. Kindness is part of the fruit of the Spirit. Spirit controlled people are kind people.

  29. Zeke Mulcaghey says:

    I’m with Bill V. The darn thing is way too long. Before you know it, the wreaths and lights will get put up in July. Heck, they might as well stay up all year to save trouble. Bah humbug.
    I appreciate Kevin’s post, though. Just this morning at a restaurant, I overheard the prediction that every creche’ will be empty in ten years. I suppose Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without that sort of grousing. Maybe that somehow makes the holiday experience complete. After all, judging from the yard inflatables, it looks as if the Grinch himself has been permanently inducted into the pantheon of holiday archetypes, along with frosty and Rudolph and St. Nick.

  30. Brad Bryant says:

    As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
    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. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
    Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; (Romans 14:1-10, ESV)

  31. Isaiah Taylor says:

    @alan rees,

    Jesus was not born on December 25, but that isn’t the point. Christmas is a time to celebrate his birth, because we don’t know the actual day. It is when we spend time with family, with friends, etc.

    It’s just a placeholder for Jesus’s real birthday.

  32. Susanne says:

    Love it! Thank you!!!!

  33. Josh Bishop says:

    As with most things, G.K. Chesterton says it better than I can:

    “Personally, of course, I believe in Santa Claus; but it is the season of forgiveness, and I will forgive others for not doing so.”

    Merry Christmas, everyone—grinches and all!

  34. alan rees says:

    I knew I’d get a bit of flak. Listen up folks. Dec 25th is not the birthday of Jesus. We have no biblical command to celebrate His birthday. More people commit suicide at this time than at any time of the year. More evangelistic activity is done at this time than any other..with more money and time spent than any other…with less people becoming Christians than at any other time of the year. Do you know why? Because the whole thing is based on a lie. The lie is That we are celbrating the birthday of Jesus because the Lord wants us to, and its on Dec 25th. That’s the ‘gospel’ we are perpetrating. It’s a falsehood. You cannot do God’s work based on a falsehood. Do the things He has told you to do, leave the things He hasn’t. I am a most happy, balanced, fun and food loving person. Please don’t brand me a misery! I am after Truth. Not a lie. Peace. Real peace.

  35. James Bell says:

    LET US DRINK deeply from the CELEBRATIONS of Simeon and Anna! “Then took he Him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, LORD, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou has prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.” (Luke 2:28-38) PRAISE THE LORD: In the midst of the harsh realities of life in a fallen world, God sends salvation and the result is peace and CELEBRATION! Not as the world gives; but peace and joy that surpasses all comprehension! Behold as blessed Anna joins the mighty chorus of those who GIVE THANKS for the Saviour who brings redemption! *** GOD- ORDAINED celebrations are NEVER an escape from reality; and they never cater to the rich, or to the talented, or to those who feel themselves righteous! *** THIS IS TRUE: To escape sadness, the typical American Christmas requires lots of money and no broken down lives or families. In radical contrast, the Birth of Christ shouts— BRING NO MONEY! Bring all your broken down lives! Bring a hungry, humble heart; and enter into every day CELEBRATION and an eternity with JESUS!
    After Jesus died, arose, ascended and as He reigns in and from Heaven— the fact of the coming of God in the flesh continued to bring forth ongoing CELEBRATION from New Testament Christians! Here is How they Continued to Celebrate the Birth of Christ:
    1. “And the Word (Jesus) became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) 2. “Thanks be to God for His unspeakable Gift.” (2 Cor. 9:15) 3. “…Jesus Christ: Who being in the form of God,…took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men…he humbled Himself …unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Phil. 2:1-11) 4. “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: GOD WAS MANIFEST IN THE FLESH…..” (1 Tim. 3:16)
    Let us give CLEAR focus to the absolutely astounding: God came in the flesh to save undeserving rebels (That’s us!) from the just and eternal wrath of God in hell! He came to set rebels free from self, sin and satan. He gives us new hearts and makes us His own sons and daughters; and makes us His servants, His friends, His saints and His co-laborers! JOY! WONDER! Giving Thanks! Praising and CELEBRATING Jesus Christ! TELLING THE GOOD NEWS into all the world till He comes back— these are proper responses from those who have been rescued from sin, self, satan, and a doomed society! And there is a great cloud of witnesses who are calling for us to follow in their steps— “O Come, let US adore HIM!”
    *** BY THE WAY: Most folk in the first century found no reason to rejoice in the Advent, the Coming of Messiah. But they did find reason to crucify Him! Why? Because He exposed their sin, which they loved! Those who do not believe that they need to be saved from their sins and from the holy wrath of God will never welcome and celebrate the Saviour! However, for those who have been broken over their sin— they never GET OVER the Coming of Christ!

  36. Todd says:

    I wrote a thorough and length reply, but I will paste the kernel summary.

    Kevin, you are addressing the “tone” of a position being stated, not really the “content” of a position stated. “Content” can come in a numerous tones, and likewise “a Tone” can cover a wide-range of “content” and topics. A bad “tone” does not invalidate the “content.” and it is wrong to think a “content” should be stereotyped as being presented only in one tone, and in only the bad tones.

    So I agree Christians should not have the bad “tone” in presenting any “content”, thus we should not be “mad, censorious, rage, blasting, anger, confrontational, grinch, glare at happy Whos, furrow our ardent brow, have moral preening, or be an outraged sourpuss.” on any Content we proclaim, believe, and defend. This applies to every theological position, even including one’s stance on How the Incarnation is remembered.

    Yet in meekness, kindness, friendship, love, humility, warmth, and joy, I give a message being a Happy Who in Whoville myself, which is: Santa, Trees, Donner, Blizten, and many things being attached to the Incarnation of Christ–was not prescribed by God nor seen has needful by any saint in Scripture in order to be thankful and joyful for the Incarnation of Christ. I suspect I would agree with the general content of those who have used an improper “tone” in presenting their position. I was concerned that the article was attempting to dismiss the “content” of a group by solely addressing the “tone” some use for that content and lumping those two items as the same issue, thereby nullifying the content as well. — Maybe later I will paste a link to my more analytical reply.

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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