For Pastors: Porn and Christmas Don’t Mix

Is there anything more beautiful and wholesome than Christmas?

Is there anything more antithetical to Christmas than porn?

On one hand, you have Norman-Rockwell paintings and nativities, and family gatherings, all bathed in warmth and hope and light. On the other hand, you have endless pages of graphic images, loneliness and isolation, and the fleeting sense of pleasure that always dissolves into dark regret soon after.

Porn and Christmas don’t mix. But for many, the holidays are a season of relapse and bondage.

If you’re a pastor, porn is probably the last thing you want to be talking about around the holidays. But when you look out at your congregation, amid the sea of smiling faces and gaudy Christmas sweaters, there are men and women who are holding on to sexual sobriety for dear life. There are children receiving digital devices on which they’ll be exposed to porn. There are singles who will retreat from the festive atmosphere of the advent service to a lonely, all-night porn binge.

Many find themselves beset with unexpected temptations and triggers during the holidays. Recovery expert Michael Leahy says, “People essentially take a holiday from their recovery, and as a result, fall back into many of their old sexual sin habits.”

The Christmas message speaks hope into the ugliness and brokenness of sexual sin. It speaks warmth, hope, and light into the cold, desperate darkness of porn. As a pastor or ministry leader, consider how you can fight porn this holiday season with these four Christmas truths:

1. Christmas Means That Flesh Is Good

Porn is full of promises about “flesh.” It’s about looking at the flesh of others. It’s about gratifying the desires of your own flesh.

It’s a lie, because porn never delivers on these promises. Porn artificially rips the flesh away from the soul, so it can never satisfy the longings of the heart. It provides a momentary burst of gratification, then leaves the viewer wanting more, feeding the cycle of addiction.

For many trapped by porn, flesh seems like something hopelessly dirty and irredeemably shameful. Men and women addicted to porn and masturbation may hate their own bodies.

However, the Christmas story tells us that Jesus is the Word made flesh (John 1:14). That’s right, God became the same stuff that people use to make porn.

That thought might be shocking, but it carries an important truth. It means that God does not think the flesh is hopelessly dirty or irredeemably shameful. God made flesh and He called it good. Christmas means that God can mend the brokenness of flesh. It means He can restore souls torn apart by sexual addiction and the perversion of porn. It means He can replace the ugly darkness of sin with light and beauty.

2. Christmas Means You Are Not Alone

People trapped by porn may feel out of place and ostracized from the wholesome atmosphere of holiday festivity.

“No one else has these dirty thoughts or feelings. I have no place here. I’m alone.”

Yet, the Christmas story tells us that we are not alone. It tells us that Jesus himself was tempted the exact ways we are. Hebrews 4:17 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” In every respect. So while there may not have been internet porn in Jesus’s day, the Bible tells us that He faced the same kinds of temptation that we do. That includes sexual temptation.

While Jesus never gave in to sexual temptation, this verse tells that He understands it perfectly, and He sympathizes. He became flesh so He could sympathize.

The Christmas story tells the porn struggler, “You are not ostracized. You are not isolated or alone. You are understood by God himself, who was tempted in the same ways you are tempted.”

3. Christmas Means Freedom From Bondage

The Christmas story is not merely about God’s sympathy for our weakness. It fully acknowledges the bondage and slavery of sin. A person trapped in pornography addiction during the holidays will feel this sense of disconnectedness and brokenness. Disconnectedness and brokenness are the reality of porn.

If you’re addicted to porn and have tried to quit, you know this because you’ve felt it deeply and painfully.

But Christmas tells us that we are not left to our own. Hebrews 4:17 includes an important caveat to Jesus’s temptation: “Yet without sin.” Jesus is not merely the One who sympathized with our weakness, but he defeated the very things that keep us in bondage. Colossians 2:15 says, “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” This includes porn.

Jesus broke the power of sin by living a perfect life, then dying on the cross for sinners in bondage. In the words of the great Christmas carol: “O come, O come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel.”

Christmas tells those struggling with porn that Jesus took on flesh to be like them, to sympathize with them, and to set them free from bondage.

4. Christmas Means Fellowship With God

We usually think of the holidays as a time of family, friends, and fellowship. It’s a glorious gathering to share joy and love in one another’s presence. This is fitting because the Christmas story is the story of Emmanuel, “God with us.” It’s ultimately a story about God coming to earth to share His glory, joy, and love with His people.

Those struggling with porn are those who long for a taste of glory, who are marked with sadness, and desperately in need of love. They are people who desperately need the story of Christmas.

It is not enough for pastors to tell porn users, “It’s Christmas, God is with us.” People trapped in porn need to experience this, not just hear it. The body of Christ is where we are meant to experience the presence of God most fully here on earth.

As a pastor or ministry leader, you can help make this experience of God’s presence manifest for the person trapped in porn by:

Speaking up about the reality of porn addiction.

Let people know they are not alone and create a safe place for these sins to be confessed and help to be sought. If you have struggled with porn yourself, your testimony may be the very thing that sparks hope for someone else.

Seeking out those who are lonely and isolated.

During the holidays, singles are often the people who struggle the most with porn. Demonstrate the reality of “God with us” by sharing your holiday with someone who has no friends or family. Perhaps there’s an international student you can invite over for Christmas dinner. Even if social distancing limits your options, try hosting a Christmas Bible study over Zoom.

Encouraging accountability and openness.

People can’t experience the presence of “God with us” if they are living in secrecy and lies. Accountability and openness break the power of isolation. They create a path through addiction to joy and love, with other people and ultimately with God himself. This Christmas, give someone who struggles with porn the gift of keeping them accountable. Make a point to reach out to them by phone, or in person. Ask them how they are doing. Be vulnerable about your own struggles.

The holidays can be a season of despair for those who are trapped by porn. But the message of Christmas promises freedom and fellowship with God. As a pastor, consider the gift of hope that you might give to members of your congregation who are struggling with porn.