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Christmas Part 3 (should we?)

December 7, 2012

I’ve struggled to write these last three posts.  Typically I can sit down and words seem to come to my mind easily.  That has nothing to do whether the words are well put together, or beautifully written but I know in my mind what I want to say.  Not so with this topic.  Why?  I don’t know for sure, but I think there’s an internal struggle to avoid conflict.  I know this subject is challenging but it’s worth the fight.

I desire to glorify God in this post but also to present this with a healthy dose of humility.  Don’t we all need more of that?  Shouldn’t knowing more about God be an incredibly humbling experience?  Proverbs tell us fear of the LORD is beginning of wisdom.  Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Job and John all experienced fear that crushed them under the weight of Almighty God.  These men came to a realization that God is not some token to be taken lightly.  He is God… and we should be in awe of Him.

So why would we look at Christmas any different?  Should we pass off Christmas as a tradition that we hold dear?  Do we love our traditions and things made by man more than we love honoring and fearing God?  Allow yourself to be challenged.

Galatians 4:9-11 But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?  You observe days and months and seasons and years.  I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.

Paul was admonishing these young believers not to be brought back into bondage.  Are you in bondage to Christmas through overspending, over extending, or over exerting?  Do you feel pressure to meet certain requirements?  I must decorate my house, I must find the perfect gift, and I must please someone by wearing this ugly Santa sweater they bought me last year.  This is slavery.  Satan disguised as an angel of light.  Did you notice Satan and Santa have all the same letters in their names?

John Piper commenting:

“Paul has uncovered for us a typical demonic scheme which is just as prevalent in the religions of the twentieth century as it was in Paul’s day. It is clean, it is moral, it is religious, and it is hellish.” http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/dont-go-back-from-sonship-to-slavery

The opposite of bondage, is freedom.

Romans 14:5 One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike.  Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.

So you will probably say “well there you go we have freedom to esteem Christmas.”  Let’s consider who Paul is writing too.  He is writing to new converts and Jewish believers that were debating whether they should keep God ordained feasts and festivals.  So our first question should be is Christmas God ordained?  Let’s look at Romans 14:5 again.  “Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.”  How are you fully convinced about something?  Paul tells us in Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Scripture and scripture alone should renew our minds to what is God’s perfect and acceptable will.  Before I was a Believer, I had no problem using filthy language.  Ephesians 4:29 renewed my mind.  I had no problem cursing someone, calling them an idiot with malice and hatred in my heart.  Jesus said I was a murderer.  Scripture continues to transform my life into the image of Christ.  Admittedly I’ve got a long way to go but I’ve come a long way by the power of God’s Word.

So what does church history teach us about Christmas?

Early American Presbyterian Church

When the Westminster Standards were drawn up in the seventeenth century, the true worship of God took a central position in the doctrines contained therein. True worship is directed to God alone, and only in ways he has prescribed. Matters of worship to be observed ­ the proper means or elements of worship ­ are only those which God has ordained.

Treating the second commandment, the Larger Catechism demonstrates the unlawfulness of adding to the worship of God. The scriptures forbid “any religious worship not instituted by God himself” and “corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, or taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretence whatsoever” (Larger Catechism no. 109; cf. Confession, chapter 21).

This scriptural teaching is applied in the assembly’s Directory for the Public Worship of God. A section particularly pertinent to the discussion on Christmas is found in the Appendix, “Touching Days and Places for Public Worship.” It says:

There is no day commanded in scripture to be kept holy under the gospel but the Lord’s day, which is the Christian Sabbath.

Festival days, vulgarly called Holy-days, having no warrant in the word of God, are not to be continued

In 1899, the General Assembly of the pcus was overtured to give a “pronounced and explicit deliverance” against the recognition of “Christmas and Easter as religious days.” Even at this late date, the answer came back in a solid manner:

There is no warrant in Scripture for the observance of Christmas and Easter as holydays, rather the contrary (see Gal. 4:9-11; Col. 2:16-21), and such observance is contrary to the principles of the Reformed faith, conducive to will-worship, and not in harmony with the simplicity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  See full article here http://www.swrb.com/newslett/actualNLs/Xmas_ch2.htm#FN63

Along with the Westminster Confession, the Heidelberg Confession also forbids worship of God in any way other than prescribed by scripture.  English and American Puritanism condemned the practice and forbid this as a valid form of worship.

I’ve only touched on the very basics of this subject and how much information is available to those that desire to learn more.  I can only encourage those that have had conviction to study and seek God’s will in this area.  I can give testimony of the peace that has enveloped our family as we’ve decided to take Christ out of Christmas.  Something I believe He desires.

Don’t dismiss this as some sort of legalism; I don’t believe this makes me right with God.  Don’t dismiss this as radical; was not Christ radical?  If you do anything with this today consider the arguments on the merit of God’s Word.  Below are two additional articles that fully explore this subject.  I would encourage you to investigate.

http://www.chapellibrary.org/files/archive/pdf-english/icch.pdf

http://www.reformedonline.com/view/reformedonline/Christmas%20(web).htm

Finally, men you are called to lead your families.  You will be held accountable by God for how you’ve done that.  This is a humbling reality in my life as I think about the missed opportunities but like Paul I desire to press on…

Joshua 24:14-15 “Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your father served on the other side of the River and in Egypt.  Serve the LORD!  And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell.  But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

Kevin

From → Articles

2 Comments
  1. Hey bro glad to see you thinking through everything and taking the faith seriously. I would encourage you to be careful how you cite things and understand the context in which they are written. The catechism’s and other sources you use are PROTESTant documents. They were written to protest against the Roamn Catholic Church and their usage of Christmas and Easter as holidays. If we don’t understand what they were protesting against we won’t understand what they intended to accomplish with these writings. I know you know CONTEXT is crucial to understanding a document.

    So what were they protesting against? the RCC has for a long time seen Christmas and Easter as extra holy days that if not observed one would be commiting a horrible sin. In fact, many taught it was an unpardonable sin! In other words, the RCC were making the celebration of these days binding as law. That is why the protestant documents contain the passages they did about freedom for each person to decide what days to celebrate and that no feast or festival being required. They were in way forbidding anyone to have the right to publically celebrate the incarnation or resurrection! In fact, Calvin argued that the individual had the right to celebrate according to his conscious before the LORD.

    So to sum up my comment, 🙂 Is the believer free to celebrate the crucial events in history of the incarnation or resurrection like a husband celebrates his anniversary with his wife? Or is he bound by the Word of God to treat every day the same?

    • Thanks for your comments Stephen. I always appreciate our discussions.

      I always want to be faithful to use context properly. I think it’s one of the biggest problems in today’s church world. Growing up I never gave Christmas a second thought. It just was that way. I would have never even thought there was disagreement about it being a “holy day”.

      You said:

      “The catechism’s and other sources you use are PROTESTant documents. They were written to protest against the Roamn Catholic Church and their usage of Christmas and Easter as holidays. If we don’t understand what they were protesting against we won’t understand what they intended to accomplish with these writings.”

      I agree with you. I wanted to show Christmas as an invention of Rome in Part 1.

      “the RCC has for a long time seen Christmas and Easter as extra holy days that if not observed one would be commiting a horrible sin. In fact, many taught it was an unpardonable sin!”

      I’m certain there are people in the Protestant church world today that think I am committing an unpardonable sin (a slight exaggeration) by not celebrating Christmas. God’s Word gives me freedom not too.

      There are so many directions I could have taken these posts and I didn’t want to write about them too much. I’m sure we can agree that Christmas or Easter were not celebrations until the 4th century so the early church knew nothing of them.

      If I desire to live as close to the early church as possible, for lots of reasons, I think it’s credible to use that as our example. You cannot convince me the writers of those documents would approve what we know as Christmas today.

      I can’t speak specifically to the argument Calvin made but in one of my references, I believe Calvin had outlawed the celebration in Geneva. That’s a loose translation by me. I’d have to look it up.

      We can certainly agree there has been lots of protesting of Christmas down through the years. The more I desire to draw closer to Him the less I desire the things of the world and I really don’t want to blend things and try to spiritualize them which is what most of the Christian world does.

      If you have not, I would encourage you to read the articles that I used as my sources. They are very thorough and I believe the writers took great care to contextualize them properly.

      Kevin

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