Christmas at God's House
The holiday season is an occasion that some use to commemorate the birth of Jesus. Many who pause to remember Christ's birth are those who make no time in the rest of the year to pay homage to our risen Lord. Christmas is a time when TV provides live coverage of the Catholic mass on Christmas eve and features those who have made a pilgrimage to Bethlehem. We hear such phrases as "Remember the reason for the sea-son" and "Let's keep Christ in Christmas." There are commentaries on the dangers of consumerism and the abuse of credit. We would expect such things from those who have never been taught the difference between revealed and unrevealed religion, but what can we expect from those in God's house?
There has been a significant change to occur among brethren in recent years. When I began preaching in 1966, the Christmas season was an occasion that brethren generally used to distinguish revealed and unrevealed religion. The Sunday before Christmas was frequently used to distinguish what the Bible teaches about the birth of Christ from the religious trap-pings that have grown up around it. Church bulletins featured articles on Christmas that taught why it was wrong to celebrate Christmas in a religious way. One of the most popular articles was the one reproduced on the front page, "Christmas," by Ferrell Jenkins. My copy of this article is from the 1968 bulletin of the Plainfield, Indiana church, but it has been reproduced in many other bulletins through the years.
Brethren understood that they should not participate in the religious celebration of Christmas. Some discussed whether or not a Christian could exchange gifts on December 25th or have a Christmas tree. There were no special Christmas services or church-sponsored Christmas parties.
But things are changing in God's house with reference to the celebration of Christmas. Here are some of them:
1. Some of our liberal brethren participate in the religious celebration of Christmas in their public worship. The Bering Drive church in Houston, Texas, a church on the vanguard of liberalism, announced in their bulletin (December 15, 1991) that the following Sunday would feature a Christmas celebration. The announcement said that they would have a choral presentation of special music, the sanctuary would be adorned with poinsettias, and the worship planned to celebrate the birth of Christ. Their 1994 bulletin (December 18, 1994) said,
Each year, on the second Sunday before Christmas and the last Sun-day before Christmas we celebrate together the birth of Jesus. This Sunday we will enjoy the special gift of the Bering Chorus. For months they have prepared this music to lift our hearts in praise to God for the gift of Bethlehem. Bill will tell a Christmas story or two. We will sing Christmas carols together. After morning service we will fine the Fellowship Hall decked out in beautiful Christmas decor and a feast will be enjoyed by all. There will be violin music with the dinner, and ______________'s singing group will share their wonderful songs with us again this year.
The December 1994 issue of Love Lines, the bulletin of the Woodmont Church where Rubel Shelly preaches lamented that Santa was getting top billing over Jesus at the Christmas season and urged their members to "tell the real Christmas story at your house this year.
I have no way to judge how widespread this is.
2. Many congregations seem to have gotten too sophisticated to preach against the religious celebration of Christmas. They justify not preaching on the subject on the basis that it offends visitors who might attend at that time of the year. They castigate those who preach against the religious celebration of Christmas for being abrasive and confrontational. In the meantime, the rearing of a generation who has never heard these sermons has created a group who is asking, "What is wrong with setting aside a special day to commemorate the birth of Christ?"
3. A larger number of brethren are allowing their children to participate in the choral presentations at school that feature songs teaching that Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ.
What Is Wrong With the Religious Celebration of Christmas?
There is only one thing wrong with it. No Bible authority exists for the religious celebration of Christmas. Scripture teaches that one must have Bible authority for whatever he practices, in such texts as the following:
And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him (Col. 3:17).
Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds (2 John 9-11).
And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another (1 Cor. 4:6).
For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book (Rev. 22:18-19).
If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen (1 Pet. 4:11).
The same thing is wrong with the religious observance of Christmas as is wrong with sprinkling for baptism, infant baptism, using mechanical instruments of music in worship, observing the Lord's supper on Thursday, etc. there is no Bible authority for the practice. In the absence of divine authority for the practice, one cannot walk by faith in observing Christmas religiously.
No man has a right to dictate to brethren what to preach on the Sunday before Christmas or any other time. No man has the right to demand that brethren publish an article in their local church bulletin on the subject. However, to have a generation to grow up among us who does not know what is wrong with the religious observance of Christmas, Easter, and other unauthorized "holy days" would be tragic. How long has it been since you heard any teaching on the subject?
Guardian of Truth XXXIX: No. 24, p. 2