Celebrating Christmas With Those Who Don’t Follow Christ

Celebrating Christmas

“How can I honor God while I’m celebrating Christmas with unbelieving relatives?”

This was essentially the question my friend asked me, immediately following our church service on Saturday evening. She was traveling on her way through Nashville to meet her family for the Christmas holiday.

I could sense the trouble in her spirit, even as she asked the question. We had just enjoyed a wonderful service, focusing our attention on the significance of the birth of Christ. The hymns we sang, the Scriptures that were read, and the message that was preached all wonderfully pointed to the person and work of Jesus.

It was clear that God had captured my friend’s heart personally and specifically by these glorious truths and that there was a strong desire in her soul to honor Christ as she celebrated Christmas.

Feeling Alone at Christmas

The problem, she shared, was that she was on her way to spend the Christmas holidays with family members who don’t follow Christ. She was somewhat discouraged as she considered what the holidays may have in store for her.

A large storm was quickly approaching the middle Tennessee area where we were located, so I assured my friend that I would pray for her and I sent her off to travel home safely before the storm hit.

I don’t think my friend is alone in her struggles. On the contrary, I’m quite sure that many feel as if they are traveling into a storm as they make their way to spend the holidays with unbelieving relatives.

So, how would Scripture guide us when we’re celebrating Christmas with those who don’t follow Christ?:

1 Peter 3:13-15:

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

Zealous For What Is Good

People are generally not harmed for acts of kindness. We are encouraged from this passage that we can go to spend time with our family members with “a zeal for what is good.” Let us do good to them so that they see Christ in us. When opportunities arise, and our relatives ask what is different about us, we can give the “reason for the hope” that is in us.

When we do this, we must do it with gentleness and respect. As my friend, Dave Odom, recently shared: “The content of the gospel should never be compromised, but neither should the graciousness by which we communicate it.” As those who have received mercy, let us graciously extend that same mercy to others.

The gospel is “good news” for sinners. We can arm ourselves with this mindset. We come into sinful homes with good news that Jesus was born to live a perfect life and die on the cross as a substitute for sinners. There is no one who has fallen too far from the reach of Christ’s love.

Therefore, we do not have to fear or be troubled. Whether our relatives accept or reject us for our acts of kindness, we will be blessed. And even if no one else in the room is honoring Jesus as they open other gifts, in our hearts we can set apart Christ as Lord.

Even If We Suffer for Embracing This Good News, We Will Be Blessed

Matthew 5:10-12:

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

May God grant us grace to “walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. {May our} speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that {we} may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:5-6).

And in our hearts, may Christ, the Lord, be honored as holy even as we celebrate his birth in the midst of those who don’t acknowledge his Name.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14).

I'm a husband, father of four, healthcare IT recruiter, pastor and writer. I live in the greater Nashville, TN area where I serve as an elder with Redeeming Grace Church (www.rgcnashville.com).