It is healthy for Christians to think about heaven.
As we meditate on the blessed future the Lord has in store for us our hope should grow and we ought to feel a renewed energy to persevere in our Christian lives. But what exactly will heaven be like? And specifically, will there be Christmas in heaven?
Now, maybe no one’s actually asking about Christmas in heaven, and I don’t want to get into a debate about the pagan roots of Yule logs and all that jazz, but bear with me for a few paragraphs, because it's not a bad question.
Maybe it won’t be called Christmas, it will likely look a lot different than it does now, and there definitely won’t be a jolly fat guy in a red suit (St. Nicholas will be thin and healthy in his glorified body). But we will continue to celebrate the incarnation of Jesus, the promised Messiah, in the eternal state. And that should shape how we think about our celebration of the holiday now.
Final Destination: Earth
Unfortunately, many Christians have imbibed a false view of what our eternal state will entail. The so-called Spiritual Vision model of heaven sees an afterlife consisting of disembodied souls endlessly enraptured in singing, or believers slogging through eternity as angel-like people reclining in boredom on a cloud. This mistaken notion has no biblical support. Instead, the Bible presents what has been called the New Creation model of the eternal state.
God made everything, physical and spiritual, and He declared it all “very good” (Gen 1:31). Yes, the Fall occurred in Genesis 3 and there were both physical and spiritual consequences for that. Christians know that God restores us spiritually through faith in Jesus Christ, but the promises in the OT look forward to a final restoration which is not limited merely to the spiritual plain. We are promised spiritual AND physical blessings (Deut 30:1-10; Gen 12; 13; 15; Jer 31–33; 2 Sam 7). And Paul goes out of his way in 1 Corinthians 15 to demonstrate that the resurrection believers look forward to is bodily, which is to say physical.
TMS professor Dr. Michael Vlach explains it this way, “God plans to restore all things (Acts 3:21; Col 1:20) which includes every aspect of our environment, both spiritual and physical. This includes the glorification of believers in real resurrected bodies and the planet itself (Rom 8:18-25).”
Dr. Vlach summarizes the New Creation model as follows:
“This approach follows the language of passages like Isaiah 25, 65, 66; Revelation 21; and Romans 8 which speak of a regenerated earth . . . In sum, a new creation model operates on the belief that life in the future kingdom of God is largely similar to God’s purposes for the creation before the fall of Adam, which certainly involved more than just a spiritual element. Thus, the final Heaven is not an ethereal spiritual presence in the sky.”
The Bible presents to us our final home as something which is materially not so different from our present existence on earth, because it is earth. Earth, the place which God custom made for man. But it is a restored, renewed, and perfected earth. What’s so exciting about having this correct understanding of our future home is that it gives us something concrete to hope in. Clouds are pretty, and I like singing as much as the next guy, but for me at least the idea of being a disembodied soul belting out Chris Tomlin tunes for all eternity lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. And it’s not exactly the type of thing that fills me with the anticipation and hope required to meet the troubles of this life with confidence, much less to face a martyrs death.
Culture Will Continue
But what’s all this have to do with Christmas?
On the restored earth, culture will continue. There will be, it appears, some level of continuity in terms of the social, political, geographical, artistic, and even technological spheres as they presently exist, yet without sin. And it makes sense when you think about the big picture of the Bible.
In Genesis 1:26–28 God gives mankind a kingdom mandate—"subdue and rule creation as my image bearers." And in God’s sovereign purposes, salvation and the cross were not His plan B. Just as there’s no reason to think He has given up on the planet He made for us, there’s no reason to think a concept which long preceded the Fall, kingship, will cease to be His purpose for man. There will still be nations, but they will live in harmony with one with another (Isa 2:2-4). There will still be borders, but they will not be at war. There will still be cultural contributions (Rev 21:24). Man was made to work (Gen 2:5), and the Fall made work painful (Gen 3), but on the New Earth we will work and serve Christ with joy (Rev 22:3).
If all these cultural aspects of life of the present earth will continue on the New Earth, who is to say certain aspects even of our holidays will not?
Celebration Will Continue
The heart of Christmas is celebration of the coming of Messiah (Luke 2:10–11). Will there be celebration in the eternal state? Yes! And it will be kicked off with the biggest party of them all, The Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Rev 19:6-9).The celebration of Christ’s humbling Himself and becoming a man for the sake of lost sinners will most certainly endure into the eternal state.
Eternity will be spent glorifying God for His person and work (Ps 100:1–5; Rev 19:5–6). Chief among the works for which we will glorify Him is His work in salvation (Rev 5:12). God's work in atoning for the sins of man put His person on full display in all His holiness, humility, wrath, love, grace, mercy, etc. If you want to know what God is like, look at the cross. But without the incarnation there would be no cross, and no atonement (Phil 2:8). And the incarnation is what Christmas is all about. So, though the form of our celebration on the New Earth will no doubt be different than it is now, the celebration of Christ’s humbling Himself and becoming a man for the sake of lost sinners will most certainly endure into the eternal state.
Christmas Will Continue
Will there be Christmas in heaven? When we qualify that question by saying that by heaven we mean our eternal home, which will be the renewed earth, and that the Scriptures indicate the continuation of certain aspects of culture, and that celebration will continue throughout eternity, then I believe we can most assuredly say there will be Christmas in heaven. And it will be the best Christmas you have ever known—even better than that year your parents got you a puppy.
Considering what aspects of our present lives and efforts will remain for eternity has a prioritizing effect. It causes you to focus more on what really matters. And when you think about what aspects of Christmas will remain, namely celebration and praise of God for sending His son, that should shape how you celebrate Christmas even this year. We know it's not about the presents, the sweaters, the lights, or the nostalgia, but it takes a conscious effort to turn our minds again and again to remind ourselves this is about Jesus Christ, the incarnate God-man, who lived and was crucified and rose again that by faith men and women might be forgiven for their sins, counted righteous in God’s eyes, and granted fellowship and an inheritance with Him forever. Now that’s a holiday worth celebrating for all eternity.