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What a Rabbi Taught Me About Keeping Christ in Christmas

As to the second part about Jews stopping people from celebrating Christmas, I don’t know of a practicing, religious Jew who has problem with Christmas being Christmas. In my experience it’s been secular Jews and nominal Christians making a fuss about it.”

3. Believe what you believe, but don’t be a jerk about it

“What do you do when someone wishes you Merry Christmas?” asked my Methodist colleague.

“I wish them a Merry Christmas back,” responded the rabbi. “We’re allowed to say the words, you know,” he smiled. “What would you say if someone wished you ‘Happy Hanukkah’?”

“I say Happy Hanukkah back,” the Methodist answered.

4. Why blend in when we can be set apart?

“So, being around the Christmas images doesn’t make you uncomfortable?” I wondered out loud.

“No,” he replied. “Over 80% of our society claims to be Christian. If you lived in Israel, you’d expect Jewish celebrations to be predominant, right?”

“Which brings me back to my original question,” my Methodist friend responded. “What about your kids? Don’t they feel left out when almost all the other kids are celebrating Christmas?”

“No,” responded the rabbi. “What some people call left out, we call set apart. Being different is central to what it means to be Jewish. It always has been. So that’s what we teach our kids. That kind of separation from the culture isn’t something to be embarrassed about, it’s what makes us who we are.”

After that, the conversation ended with thanks and farewells – and a few Merry Christmases and Happy Hanukkahs, of course.

I went home pondering these things in my heart.

And I’ve never looked at Christmas the same way since.

So what do you think? Have we been guilty of going too soft – or pushing too hard – on keeping Christ in Christmas?


This article about keeping Christ in Christmas  originally appeared here.

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Karl is the author of four books and has been in pastoral ministry for almost 40 years. He is the teaching pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship, a healthy small church in Orange County, California, where he has ministered for over 27 years with his wife, Shelley. Karl’s heart is to help pastors of small churches find the resources to lead well and to capitalize on the unique advantages that come with pastoring a small church. Karl produces resources for Helping Small Churches Thrive at KarlVaters.com, and has created S.P.A.R.K. Online (Small-Church Pastors Adapt & Recover Kit), which is updated regularly with new resources to help small churches deal with issues related to the COVID-19 crisis and aftermath.