An occasion of sin is an external set of circumstances—whether of things or persons—which either because of their special nature or because of the frailty common to humanity or peculiar to some individual, incite or entice one to sin.
One of the many stressors of the Christmas season is that it is filled with what theologians call “occasions of sin.” We are told we should, to the to extent possible, avoid circumstances which might incite us to sin. This isn’t easy. It requires sensitivity and spiritual perception.
Holiday parties and feasts. If we are inclined to overeat, or over drink or over talk (gossip), holiday parties can certainly be an occasion of sin. If we suffer from any, or all, of these inclinations, it is wise to go into these circumstances with our eyes wide open and begin to “back off” if we find ourselves drawn into any of these bad habits. If we host such events, we need to keep in mind the temptations they pay present to others.
Shopping. If we are inclined to overspend or to buy gifts to compensate for what we failed to do for those we love during the year, we may be facing an occasion of sin. Think about what we do when we overspend. In addition to placing a financial burden on ourselves maybe for the rest of the year, we burden others. If we gift too lavishly, we humiliate the person we have gifted who hasn’t been so extravagant with us. It’s so much better to give from the heart than from the wallet.
Church events. The typical Christmas church celebration focuses on family and kids. We take family photos and the kids put on a show. There is a popular, but awful, sitcom on ABC entitled Modern Family. The premise is that in our society families aren’t what they used to be. Today they may consist of second or third or fourth marriages, gay partners, or single parents. No matter what we think about such “families” they are reality. On any given day, parents may not have their children with them because of “custody” arrangements or family brokenness. The pretty picture of Dad, Mom and all the kids to the second and third generation worshiping together on Sunday isn’t the norm. In fact, it’s quite rare.
Not everyone who attends you church will attend as an entire “family.” Don’t be surprised if some folks skip your Christmas Celebration because it isn’t relevant to their lives or may be even a painful reminder of their situation.
Nearly anything we do can be used by the enemy. We should celebrate. We should enjoy. We should proclaim the good news of Christmas. But we should do so with sensitivity and prayer with our eyes and hearts wide open. Let’s never forget that the message of Christmas is the message of Christ: forgiveness, salvation and hope.