For some Protestants, these points won’t apply because they share these devotional practices with Catholics all year round.
But for other Protestants, mostly evangelicals and fundamentalists, who are normally very critical of Catholic devotional practices, here is some friendly food for thought.
Here are three ways they seem to curiously “turn Catholic” every Christmas:
1) They set up “graven images” of Jesus, Mary, and other saints in their churches and homes
Aren’t these religious images distracting from Jesus? Aren’t they encouraging idolatry? And besides, don’t they know Jesus isn’t a baby in a manger anymore? He rose from the dead and is in heaven!
2) They sing songs about Mary and the saints
In addition to all the traditional hymns, one of the most popular Christmas songs in recent years has been “Mary, Did You Know?” Written by evangelical Protestants, it considers Mary’s perspective of the Christmas story.
But why are they focusing on Mary? Doesn’t that make her a distraction? Shouldn’t they just focus on Jesus? Here’s a helpful diagram:
3) They celebrate Christmas, an unbiblical tradition of man started by the Catholic Church
The Bible no where tells Christians to have a special day to celebrate the birth of Jesus, let alone to do it on December 25th. It appears to be a tradition of man started by the Catholic Church in the 4th century. (In fact, many Protestants didn’t celebrate Christmas until the 19th and 20th centuries in part because of this.)
In fact, some Protestants didn’t celebrate Christmas until the 19th and 20th centuries precisely for these reasons.
But for Protestants today, there are easy answers to all of these objections.
The religious imagery is not meant to be worshipped as idols, but is simply meant to be a reminder of important people and events in salvation history. The songs do the same thing. Even if they focus on Mary or other characters, they are ultimately about Jesus and the glory goes to God. And the fact that Christmas as a holiday is an extra-biblical man-made tradition is just fine since it doesn’t contradict anything in the Bible.
These responses are all good and true.
They’re also exactly what Catholics say, too, when faced with just these sorts of objections from Protestants the rest of the year when we’re not celebrating Christmas.
Yes, there are still some important Catholic practices that evangelicals don’t partake in, even during Christmas (e.g. asking Christians in heaven for prayers). But the point is that there are many elements of Catholic devotion which evangelicals will criticize as obviously wrong when they see them in an unfamiliar, foreign-looking Catholic context, but will joyfully (and rightly!) embrace when seen in a familiar evangelical context.
So perhaps we’re not as far a part as we normally think!