I’ve been using Mondays to clean out my mailbox. Here’s a message I received last week, along with my response to it, on whether it’s appropriate for Christians to celebrate Lent.
Question: Should Christians Celebrate Lent?
I enjoy your posts and articles, but Lent and Advent are both man-made and Romanish inventions, and something that born again believers should not be celebrating.
Answer: Dying to Self is Part and Parcel of the Christian Life
You may be right, Virginia, but certainly the historical event that each holiday has as its focus — Christ’s birth and His death, burial, and resurrection — deserve to be remembered and pondered by every Christian, whether they choose to officially observe Advent and Lent or not.
Undoubtedly, some pagan symbolism has crept into both holidays. Some Christians therefore choose to abstain from celebrating at all. Others opt to “redeem” such symbols by assigning Christian meanings to them.
For instance, the evergreen trees we decorate at Christmastime symbolize both the eternal life we have in Christ (1 John 5:11-12) and the blessings that come from being planted firmly in God’s word (Psalm 1:2-3).
The Christmas lights we string on our house remind us that Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12) and that we, too, should shine as lights to the dark and dying world around us (Philippians 2:15).
You get the idea.
I offer these explanations not as an attempt to persuade you to celebrate these holidays yourself, Virginia. If you cannot partake with a clear conscience, you should not partake at all. Rather, I’m just highlighting the fact that many sincere Christians who observe Lent and Advent have hearts as free from paganism as they can possibly be.
Paul’s words in Romans 14:5-12 apply here, as well:
One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or 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.
But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.
For it is written,
“AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME,
AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD.”
So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.
That is sobering thought, isn’t it? Each of us must one day give account of ourselves to God.
His Word contains explicit commands on some of the issues we face in our culture today (lust, pride, adultery, murder, etc). But other matters — like celebrating holidays or homeschooling your children or forgoing birth control or whether to breast- or bottle-feed — are really more a matter of preference and circumstance.
We need to be careful not ignore parts of Scripture that specifically address cultural trends, but also not to go beyond what Scripture says in matters of taste. It is a difficult balance to strike sometimes. And I’ve not always done as good job at it as I would like.
But thankfully, God hasn’t given up on me yet! He is still hard at work, faithfully conforming me to the image of His blessed Son. And He is doing the same for my Christian brothers and sisters.
And that includes you, Virginia. Thanks for writing to me with your concerns. I hope my response helps you see this issue from a different perspective.
Note: For readers who may be wondering what prompted Virginia’s question as to whether Christians should celebrate Lent in the first place, she was responding to the following free printables we offer on this website:
- Counting Down the Days to Christmas: A Scripture Chain for Advent
- Counting Down the Days to Easter: A Scripture Chain for Lent
Do you share Virginia’s conviction that Christians should not take part in Christmas or Easter celebrations of any kind? I fully support your right to hold such an opinion. Please ignore my links. These resources are not intended for you.
Do you view these holidays as wonderful opportunities to focus your thoughts on Christ and to encourage your children to do the same? These Scripture chains provide a simple way to do that. And they’re FREE! So check them out.
And if you’d like an extra-special way to center your heart on Jesus this Lenten season, check out my new devotional journal for Easter, Because He Lives.
My goal in creating this little journal is to inspire you to think deeply about the unfathomable grace and mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ. His love for us compelled Him to take on flesh, come to earth, and pay the penalty for our sins by dying on a cruel cross. When he rose from the grave, He conquered sin and death forevermore so that forgiveness and eternal life can be ours by grace through faith in Him alone. Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Thank you! Thank you! In the last few years, I have found it distressing to have well-meaning Christians inform us that if we were true Christians, we would not be celebrating these holidays in any fashion.
Jennifer Flanders says
“Well-meaning” is the operative word, Martha. I think it’s important to view such admonitions as coming from an earnest desire to live a holy life and to encourage brothers and sisters in Christ to do the same. That’s a good thing. Iron sharpens iron, and good fruit can come from such discussions. Hebrews 10:25 tells us to “encourage one another, and all the more as we see the day drawing near.”
But it is also important that we recognize that our agreement on this particular issue is not essential to salvation. The doctrine of original sin, the deity of Christ, His substitutionary death and bodily resurrection, and the fact that mankind’s only hope lies in confessing our sin and putting our faith in Christ alone — those are the things upon which all true Christians should agree.
These other matters — whether or not we celebrate certain holidays, whether we use instruments or sing acappella, whether we worship on Saturday or Sunday, whether we preach topically or exegetically — there is a lot of room for leeway there, and we need to extend grace to those whose preferences differ from our own on topics not specifically addressed in Scripture.
Thank you for that excellent answer. I was thinking of that passage of Scripture as I began reading and then you included it.
Jennifer Flanders says
It’s a great passage, and such a good reminder to show grace to our fellow Christians!