By Ron Halbrook
“For the truth’s sake, ” we must discern good from evil during the latter part of December and early part of January, a season of special activities in America. Some of the activities can be good for us; others are wrong at any time. Some people grunt “Humbug” and deny they participate in any of these seasonal activities, but we are all involved to some extent.
Some activities are religious. Others relate to business enterprise, government, and school. Many things that once had a peculiarly religious meaning have lost their original significance. Many of this season’s practices have become part of the secular customs, social traditions of American culture. To withdraw from all custom, social tradition, and cultural byways is to become a hermit – a thing our Lord does not expect (Jn. 17:15).
A Seasonal Sabbatical
Various terms describe this season. It is a “holiday” in more ways than one; “a religious . . . or holy day;” “a day of freedom from labor; day set aside for leisure and recreation;” “a day set aside by law or custom for the suspension of business.” This time is a “respite” – a temporary period of relief or rest, as from pain, work, duty, etc.” In some ways there is more work, but it is also a season of festivities and parties for families and friends. It is a “recess” from ordinary patterns, a sabbatical from everyday habits and tasks. Such periods can refresh both body and mind.
Discern Good and Evil
In view of the great variety of activities available, those who would please the Lord ask, “Which are appropriate to a godly life? To what extent should I get involved? Where shall I draw the line?” We must ask such questions at all times of the year, so this is not out of the ordinary. As God told Israel, “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil.” We can join with others only up to a point: “have not fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. ” “Prove all things: hold fast that which is good.” At every season, we are to “discern both good and evil” (Ex. 23:2; Eph. 5:11; 1 Thess. 5:212; Heb. 5:14).
Here is a list of some things which take place at this time of year: (1) special offers and sales at stores; (2) family gatherings; (3) special baking, candles, desserts; (4) other diet delights: nuts, fruits; (5) singing and listening to season songs; (6) giving and exchanging gifts; (7) special vacations, trips, time off from work; (8) greeting cards and verbal expressions of good-will; (9) curtailment or closing of business activities; (10) household, business, and school decorations; (I1) various kinds of parties, visits, and get togethers; (12) vacations from school, and from government and civic agencies; (13) special bonuses from employers; (14) taking special pictures of children or family to give relatives and friends; (15) special religious “masses,” services, plays, and observances.
No Special Religious Practices Authorized By God!
This is certain: God authorized no religious observances peculiar to December and January! He does warn against “commandments and doctrines of men.” He said of those who “pervert the gospel of Christ,” “Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain” (Col. 2:22; Gal. 1:7; 4:10-11).
Children may decorate rooms at home or school with red and green paper, cut-out snowflakes, etc. But whether at home, school, or place of worship, they should not be taught to participate in plays presented to “observe the birthday of Jesus.” We might send greeting cards of various kinds. Not on our lawns, not in our houses, not on cards sent out under our signatures should there be “manger scenes” and admonitions to “Keep Christ in Christmas.”
Someone objects, “Religious observances at this season are meant as service to God; shouldn’t we serve God?” Yes, we should serve God, but these religious practices do not honor God because He did not appoint them. “To obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam. 15:22). Another objects, “If we reject seasonal religious practices, we must reject all social activities of the season.” No, to sing “Jingle Bells” does no honor to a Roman Catholic so-called holy day. If it does, then we should send our children to school though no one else will be there, we should reject all time off from work or special bonuses, we should eat no nuts or fruit, and we should engage in no family gatherings lest someone might think we are recognizing the Pope’s holy days. The truth is that we must simply discern between good and evil – between false, unauthorized sinful religious observances, on the one hand, and activities on the other hand which are social and seasonal, customary and traditional, harmless and innocent.
Truth Magazine XXIII: 45, pp. 730-731
November 15, 1979