Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Christian Response to Holidays

He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. (Rom 14:6)


Those who read my blog back in October will remember my sentiments concerning the unholy “holiday” of halloween. When speaking of this day, there is no doubt in my mind that it has no redeeming qualities and should not be practiced by anyone who names the name of Christ.

To the other extreme is the holiday of Thanksgiving. I can think of no better example of a Godly holiday than a special time of giving thanks to God for the blessings He has bestowed upon us as a family, a church, and a nation.

Yet, this year I have been in turmoil with what to do over the holiday of Christmas. The church we have covenanted with this year does not acknowledge it. Historically, the Christian Reformers did not acknowledge it. In fact, it has very pagan roots and its Christian ties link directly back most strongly to the Roman Catholic church (of which organization I have very little regard – see my previous blog entries on that subject).

Some esteemed authors that I admire, such as A.W. Pink have written against the pagan and papal influences over this particular day. In searching out the scriptures and praying on the subject, I had just about come to the point where I wanted to scrap it altogether. However, there have been three things that have caused me to pause and consider. Two of these three things are pretty much scriptural in their approach. The third is admittedly pragmatic, but once I explain, I think you’ll understand.

First, I listened to a message by Pastor Stephen Gambill of the Reformed Baptist Church of Nashville. During our brief time at that church before leaving Nashville I got to know Stephen and found him to be a very good student of the Bible. He has a heart for serving the Lord and a determination to seek out the scriptures for the things that he believes. I downloaded Pastor Stephen’s message on this from sermonaudio.com. I did not hear him speak on the topic in person. After hearing his message, the bottom line came to be that because of Romans 14, the issue of whether or not to celebrate Christmas individually should be a matter of Christian liberty. He gave plenty of other examples as to why this holiday should not be acknowledged or celebrated by the Church. Yet, on a personal basis, Christians are at liberty to either celebrate it or not.

Not wanting to hear only a single point of view on the subject, I further explored sermonaudio.com. Anyone who is familiar with this resource knows that there are many excellent Reformed speakers here. I typed in a search for “Christmas” and found Albert Martin’s four part series on the subject. I actually assumed that he would make a case completely against it. I have heard him speak before and have been pleased with his handling of the scriptures on other topics. I was ready to hear basically his “counter-points” against what I had heard Pastor Stephen teach. To my surprise, he wound up saying essentially the same thing. Pastor Martin’s message came down to four statements of facts. These are:

1) There is no biblical warrant for esteeming any particular day to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2) The celebration of Christmas on December 25 has its roots in paganism and in diluted Christianity.

3) Christmas as it is celebrated in America today is a prime example of humanism and materialism.

4) God in His “common grace” has used Christmas to accomplish much good in the world.

After expounding intensely on these four points, Pastor Martin’s final analysis is that…surprise, surprise…Christians are at liberty to celebrate or not based on Romans 14. However, he does make some good points that in this celebration we are not given license to violate scriptural commands. For instance, it is a breaking of the ninth commandment to lie to children concerning “Santa Claus.” “Santa” himself is a violation of the first commandment because he is described as one having divine qualities such as omnipotence and omnipresence. In our celebrations we are not to be guilty of drunkenness or gluttony. Finally, when Pastor Martin gave this message (in 1994 I believe), Christmas day fell on the Lord’s Day, so it was his conviction that it would be a violation of the fourth commandment to use the Lord’s Day for this celebration.

Finally, my pragmatic reason is that out of love for my wife and children, I want to be able to provide them with the memories that they have grown used to, and to give them similar experiences that my wife and I experienced as children. I have wonderful memories of Christmas at my grandparents’ house. I will be the first to admit that pragmatism should never dictate our actions. Only the Word of God can do that. If I have to withhold something from my family because it is prohibited in the Word of God, I will do it gladly. However, in my opinion, the Lord has shown me that this particular holiday has not been authorized nor prohibited in His Word. Therefore, the Regulative Principle of Worship prevents it from being incorporated in the church. However, individual acknowledgement of the day is left to Christian liberty.

In that vein...Merry Christmas to you. May you shine forth the love of Christ in this season, and bring the truth of the gospel to those who may not listen to you the rest of the year.

2 comments:

Karen said...

Thank you for your well-thought out Biblical balanced post. Your choice makes perfect sense to me through the eyes of Scripture.

Mike Southerland said...

Thanks Karen for searching through my archives. I feel I must clarify so that I don't mislead you. I have given this topic much consideration. There are other blog posts I have written on the subject:

It's a Wonderful Lieand a reprint of A.W. Pink's tract.In hindsight, when I wrote this blog post in 2006, I believe I was just a little bit too "accepting" of pagan practices that have no place in Christian worship.

There are no lack of reasons that Christians, just like the world, find for throwing sobriety to the wind and indulging in rampant materialism. There is certainly no lack of extra-bibilical "worship" (strange fire)that is brought into the church under the guise of honoring the Lord. This includes everything from movie clips, theatrical dance, or "special music."

In my studies, I have become more and more convinced of the doctrine of the regulative principle of worship. Simply stated, whatever God has not commanded for worship we are not to do. For more reading on the topic, I recommend Joe Morecraft's book, How God Wants Us to Worship Him.I must repent that my initial use of the Romans 14:6 passage was taken out of context and used to support something it was never intended to support. Romans 14:6 refers to celebrations of "God-ordained" holy days such as Passover, Rosh Hashannah, etc. The difference between these holidays and Christmas is that the Jewish holidays were ordained in scripture. Even so, God grants the liberty to not celebrate or to celebrate if we wish. The same can not be said for pagan creations and additions to Christian worship that were never ordained in Holy Scripture.

The bottom line is that scripture is our only measure by which we judge how we should behave. If scripture is our only source, then nowhere could we find any indication that we should establish new religious holidays and attribute them to historical events (such as the birth of Christ).

I do thank you for your comment and I hope that I have not offended you in my response.