I was 18, in the middle of my junior year of high school, when God began calling me, and I first started having to answer these questions. Many of you have been not keeping Christmas and Easter since an even younger age. What should we say when questioned about these subjects? We don’t want to lose friends. And we for sure don’t want to look like a religious weirdo!
Back then, in 1968, I was in “first love” with the truth, but didn’t know of any Church members in my small town of Las Animas, Colorado. I was soaking up booklets and other literature the Church mailed me. I was intrigued by thrilling accounts in the autobiography of Herbert Armstrong, founder of the Worldwide Church of God. He described verbal jousts with Mr. Belshaw, known in the community for being a Bible scholar. Mr. Belshaw liked to try to trip him up with “gotcha” questions at his evangelistic services. How I wanted to handle situations like that, which would surely be coming my way!
My first encounter about Christmas
For weeks I fretted about how to tell my grandparents that I no longer wanted to receive Christmas presents. I studied the Church’s materials about Christmas and what the Bible teaches. Mad’s Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions was in vogue, and I rehearsed all kinds of winning replies I could snap at them when they tried to change my mind. But when the moment came, it was only tense for me. Grandpa and Grandma just said “okay” and then started a game of dominoes!
Who knows exactly what situations you will face, but we learn God’s wonderful way of life from His Bible. It’s fitting that God gives us great advice about how to give a good answer from it as well. 1 Peter 3:15 is truly a gift from God wrapped in bright paper, a pretty ribbon and a bow: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.”
I thought I was “ready” to give an answer, but I wasn’t really. I was armed for a verbal fight. My loving grandparents had no thought of waging war against me. How many times in the 52 years since then, have dreaded encounters, demanding answers, ever happened?
My second "test"
Shortly after that, my sociology teacher announced that we would be graded on how well we memorized “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” What a quandary that put me in! A son of God memorizing that?! But no way did I want to take a zero because I knew how almost impossible that would be to bring my grade up to an A by semester’s end. I was already planning to apply for Ambassador College upon graduation, and I had heard that only one out of seven applicants would be accepted. What to do? I needed to have good grades to be accepted. Still new in the faith, with no members to consult for advice, and even after much praying over many days, I regret to say that I felt no clear answer, so I decided to memorize the poem.
I should have stood for God’s truth, but I didn’t. I knew God wants us to have nothing to do with Christmas or Easter. Thankfully, God was merciful to me despite my decision to compromise, and in due time I was accepted to Ambassador College. Looking back today, I wish I had been courageous enough to go talk with my teacher. He was one of my favorite teachers, and I think he would have made some accommodation. “But if not,” how I wish I had stood up like Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego did (Daniel 3:18) for the exciting way of life I was learning.
Share personal experiences and help each other
The word “sanctify” means set apart. We are set apart as holy to God (1 Thessalonians 5:23). But when Peter uses the word sanctify in 1 Peter 3:15, he is referring specifically to our setting apart God in our hearts. Building a relationship with Him is the foundational solution for answering questions. “. . . For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things . . .” (Matthew 12:34-35). A good answer comes out of good attitude and intent. We want to provide a respectful, humble answer, not an abrasive, arrogant barrage of information.
With our best friend, we can just say whatever we want. But we’re talking about how to answer when we probably feel on the spot and don’t want them to see us sweat. Since questions about Christmas and Easter usually arise about the same time as those holidays, it’s always a good idea to review the details about them. Then we have the truth fresh in our minds. Our answer should be better than: My parents make me do it.
What if our situation unfolds too fast to even slip in a silent prayer? Because of our relationship with Jesus Christ, we can live in confidence, relying on an amazing promise from Jesus: “. . . do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (Luke 12:11-12). But we should do the hard work in advance. Check the Church’s website for articles on these subjects and be ready to give an answer.
So far, I have never been hauled before an inquisition. Relatives, friends, classmates and co-workers have never been out to get me or attack me. They are just curious about what I’m doing. I’ve never actually had to “give a defense,” nor have I caused an offense knowingly, which the Bible warns against. We’re not to push our beliefs on others. Wisdom is learning how to give an answer, when asked.
Our answers should always be hopeful
All that we say should always convey the hope that motivates us. Faith always embraces hope for the future because the source of our hope is God who controls the future and promises eternity! So our answers should be founded on the coming Kingdom of God.
Dr. Frank Luntz in Words That Work—It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear You Say, says, “Negative messages no longer work the way they did in the past. With negative first, people don’t usually stay tuned and don’t hear the positive. A prerequisite for messages of trust that work today is to be forward-looking.”
We can be grateful that God has called us and shared His truth about Christmas and Easter with us. We wish others could experience the joy God gives us in keeping His Feasts (Leviticus 23:37). When somebody asks you a question, you won’t have time to run through a long list of reasons. If you try to, you’ll look up, and they’ll be gone! But guided by Peter’s principles of meekness and fear, we can be ready to give an answer about Christmas, Easter or whatever we are asked about.