Christmas and the Christian

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Miss Marple

Puritan Board Junior
It is true, many pagan celebrate at least part of Christmas whole heartedly. My Mom (atheist) loves Christmas, but not the part about Jesus being born and etc. However it is like the one time of year when I can mention the subject.
 

Miss Marple

Puritan Board Junior
"How much more so, then, could it possibly be proper to engage in that which God has never commanded?"

Outside of the the public worship, the regulative principle does not apply.

God has not commanded many many things I do each day. He does not command the 4th of July parade, but I go and enjoy it. It is not sin.

I sometimes think a churlish attitude towards non-sinful cultural activities can be a sin. There can be an attitude there of "I am too good for this." Not necessarily, but sometimes.
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
Everyone please read Zechariah 7 to see God's response to following the "church's (not His) calendar". The people had created 4 special days (2 mentioned in ch 7 on the 5th and 7th months), and they were asking if they should continue worshipping God with these days. And He responds by asking them if it was for Him that they had been doing such things. Implying they had been doing it for themselves and not Him, that it was man made worship and not true worship.

It is all too applicable to those who celebrate chrismass in the public worship of God.
 

Logan

Puritan Board Senior
I've been a little surprised at some of posts in this thread.

As I understand it, the Puritans took a strong stand against the church mandating "holy days" (the only ones authorized by Scripture are the Sabbath) but also allowed for days of rest, particularly for thanksgiving and humiliation.

I don't celebrate Christmas but I also have no problem being given the day off from work, or remembering Christ's birth on that day. I also thoroughly enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday, even though it is not commanded in Scripture.

I've seen it as an issue of not binding consciences and requiring religious exercises on these days. Am I mistaken?
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
No. We should not rejoice and go "way to go" when atheists and God haters get xmas customs removed; because they are not doing it for love of the pure worship of God, but from malice against the true God. That was the analogy I was trying to make with the prophet's behavior as explained by Poole.
We can appreciate that the Lord uses things the way they are in our lives without overturning the rule for His worship. Christmas etc. are our "high places." We should get rid of such corruptions. But when even these illicit observances are disparaged we should mourn like Elijah did, not because we approve of such things, but because even these corrupt witnesses to the true God are attacked rather than reformed. Poole notes (1 Kings 18:36): “Thrown down thine altars; those which were erected for thy worship in high places, which they did not destroy because they were to be abolished by thy command, Deu 12, but out of mere contempt and opposition against thee, and therefore they suffered the altars of Baal to stand.”

Help me out here brother because my brain isn't connecting the dots clearly for me. Are you suggesting that we should mourn Christ being taken out of Christmas (even though He was never in it) in terms of it being an attack on Christ per se, and yet at the same time not defend the false witness?
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
These discussions always get complicated because xmas has morphed from a strictly religiously viewed (and imposed in the past by church and civil authority) holy day to a civil holiday/holy day where many simply observe what has become the cultural custom (like Thanksgiving which is a civil holiday). We need to reform the church and those things outside of it will follow at the appropriate pace because many things except for the day they are done upon, are things done on other days. For instance; those things clearly superstitious should not be done. Gathering with family is not necessarily one of those things; it could be; but that is why these cultural aspects should be allowed to be handled by the individual and not have church elders dictating what and what not to do to everyone. My old church that I was in for 20 years wisely took this course. We took a very strong stance against the holy day; but allowed families to proceed as they deemed wise in each particular context. Some, where it was just over the top, had to break immediately from most all of the customs. Those where it was more just family gathering took a different pace. And a majority I think over whatever time each took, pared back the cultural observances of the day. One of the reasons I wanted to reprint George Gillespie's Dispute against the English Popish Ceremonies was because of the different scriptural rules he adduces throughout. I think getting a handle on these may help in wisely distinguishing how to proceed in our day even though the holiday/holy day mixture was not nearly as extreme in Gillespie's day.
I've been a little surprised at some of posts in this thread.

As I understand it, the Puritans took a strong stand against the church mandating "holy days" (the only ones authorized by Scripture are the Sabbath) but also allowed for days of rest, particularly for thanksgiving and humiliation.

I don't celebrate Christmas but I also have no problem being given the day off from work, or remembering Christ's birth on that day. I also thoroughly enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday, even though it is not commanded in Scripture.

I've seen it as an issue of not binding consciences and requiring religious exercises on these days. Am I mistaken?
 

Logan

Puritan Board Senior
Thanks for your insight Chris. I like to see a balanced view rather than extremes.
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Sophomore
Everyone please read Zechariah 7 to see God's response to following the "church's (not His) calendar". The people had created 4 special days (2 mentioned in ch 7 on the 5th and 7th months), and they were asking if they should continue worshipping God with these days. And He responds by asking them if it was for Him that they had been doing such things. Implying they had been doing it for themselves and not Him, that it was man made worship and not true worship.

It is all too applicable to those who celebrate chrismass in the public worship of God.

Calvin would disagree with your interpretation of Zechariah here, arguing that it was appropriate for the priests to encourage the people (by common consent) to humble themselves annually on the anniversaries of these significant events in the history of God's people. The issue was not with their fasting on particular days but the reasons why they were doing so: they had lost touch with the meaning of these celebrations so that they had become mere religious ritual.

Our books of church order typically allow the church (or the state!) to call for such days of fasting or thanksgiving in response to particular providences (see PCA BCO ch 62). It is not clear to me whether that covers annual recurrences of such feasts or fasts, such as the annual services of thanksgiving were mandated in England every November 5th in the years following the uncovering of the Guy Fawkes plot, but if so Zechariah 7 (and Purim) would likely be appealed to for the Scriptural warrant, and it appears that Calvin would in principle approve. Certainly, that is what is done in those churches that observe Reformation Day (which we do not observe, nor do we particularly observe Christmas). In any event, it is not self-evident that Zechariah 7 has a bearing on Christmas, one way or another, except in supporting the argument that if Christians can mutually agree to celebrate an historical act of providence, then perhaps they may also agree (by consensus, without binding anyone's conscience) to focus their thanksgiving on a particular day on a particular aspect of redemptive history.
 

Miss Marple

Puritan Board Junior
I've been a little surprised at some of posts in this thread.

As I understand it, the Puritans took a strong stand against the church mandating "holy days" (the only ones authorized by Scripture are the Sabbath) but also allowed for days of rest, particularly for thanksgiving and humiliation.

I don't celebrate Christmas but I also have no problem being given the day off from work, or remembering Christ's birth on that day. I also thoroughly enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday, even though it is not commanded in Scripture.

I've seen it as an issue of not binding consciences and requiring religious exercises on these days. Am I mistaken?

I don't think anyone here is advocating the church have an official holy day, either, so I find the arguments perplexing, as well.

While we are certainly free to celebrate or not, it seems odd to me that many seem to be implying or saying it is a sin to have a tree, sing Christmas carols, exchange gifts, decorate, or what have you in our homes or businesses.
 

Miss Marple

Puritan Board Junior
Ok, but are gathering for nog and carols, or exchanging gifts on Christmas eve, or decorating a Christmas tree, "worship events?"

On the 4th of July, I sing of Christ, acknowledging His part in our independence in patriotic hymns. I go to parades where there are churches and similar doing gospel-spreading things. I don't consider it formal worship, so, I participate freely.

Similarly, we celebrate Reformation Day, posting the 95 theses on the front door, taking the day off school, and studying some aspect of the Reformation, even decorating a little. It is not commanded. But because it is not formal worship, I participate freely.
 

Fogetaboutit

Puritan Board Freshman
Ok, but are gathering for nog and carols, or exchanging gifts on Christmas eve, or decorating a Christmas tree, "worship events?"

The fact and the matter is that the Christmas tree "tradition" can be rooted back to pagan worship practices. Would you place a statue of Buddha with candles setup in front of it just because you find it beautiful and like the ambiance the setup brings to your living room? What about setting up your "christmas" gift around it?
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
The fact and the matter is that the Christmas tree "tradition" can be rooted back to pagan worship practices.

While we're at it, let's find new names for the days of the week and melt down our wedding rings. Because those customs are rooted in pagan worship practices too.
 

stephen2

Puritan Board Freshman
While we're at it, let's find new names for the days of the week and melt down our wedding rings. Because those customs are rooted in pagan worship practices too.

This is exactly the inconsistency of those who go after Christmas trees, and I appreciate you raising this Philip. The issue as Chris Coldwell has been saying is will worship in the church. Having a Christmas tree in the home is hardly idolatry. Now a television, on the other hand...
 

Fogetaboutit

Puritan Board Freshman
The fact and the matter is that the Christmas tree "tradition" can be rooted back to pagan worship practices.

While we're at it, let's find new names for the days of the week and melt down our wedding rings. Because those customs are rooted in pagan worship practices too.

I believe there's a difference between pagan "custom" and pagan "worship" especially when you have an "object" which was specifically used as an idol. So you would be comfortable with the scenario I have proposed above? Maybe I'm just week in the faith.
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
I believe there's a difference between pagan "custom" and pagan "worship" especially when you have an "object" which was specifically used as an idol.

Guess I need to get rid of my 18th-century sculpture too. Tell me, should I remove my porch because it was originally designed as the entrance to a pagan place of worship?

This is the genetic fallacy. The Buddha statue is different because a significant portion of the world still sees it as a worship object. The Christmas tree, I would submit, has connotations more related to the Victorian era than to any pagan origins. If it pangs your conscience, don't do it. But leave the rest of us our silly traditions.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Again, and at the risk of preaching if not meddling, if we don't distinguish things that differ we end up with a discordant message and won't get at the more pressing issue of reforming the worship of God. No one remembers what the origins of the tree custom were any more than neckties or the names of the days of the week. Everyone knows the fat guy is some kind of idol. What has to be determined is if the tree is a clear monument to idolatry/superstition or an actual idol still, or is it as removed from that as our common use of the names of the days of the week. This is Gillespie's rule:
All things and rites which have been notoriously abused to idolatry, if they are not such as either God or nature has made to be of a necessary use, should be utterly abolished and purged away from divine worship, in such sort that they may not be accounted nor used by us as sacred things or rites pertaining to the same.

But the xyz are things and rites, &c., and are not such as either God or nature, &c.
Therefore they should be utterly abolished, &c.

As for the proposition I shall first explain it, and then prove it. I say, all things and rites, for they are alike forbidden, as I shall show. I say, which have been notoriously abused to idolatry, because if the abuse is not known, we are blameless for retaining the things and rites which have been abused. I say, if they are not such as either God or nature has made to be of a necessary use, because if they are of a necessary use, either through God’s institution, as the sacraments, or through nature’s law, as the opening of our mouths to speak (for when I am to preach or pray publicly, nature makes it necessary that I open my mouth to speak audibly and articularly), then the abuse cannot take away the use. I say, they may not be used by us as sacred things, rites pertaining to divine worship, because without [outside] the compass of worship they may be used to a natural or civil purpose. If I could get no other meat to eat than the consecrated host, which papists idolatrise [idolize] in the circumgestation of it, I might lawfully eat it; and if I could get no other clothes to put on than the holy garments wherein a priest has said mass, I might lawfully wear them. Things abused to idolatry are only then unlawful when they are used no otherwise than religiously, and as things sacred.

If something has passed to a mere civil use, a holiday custom, I don't see this a hill to die on. It is certainly part of the custom that keeps this day "around" but more as a holiday rather than as a holy day; it has far more to do with modern consumerism and mid to late 19th century developments in culture. I don't like it; and have tried to stay out of all of that the last 30 years; but have not avoided gathering with family on that day. Now with some of the incentives to do that gone (with my mother's passing) I feel a lot freer to simply "go do something else" that day. But I'm not bound to avoid those things that are indifferent about the holiday (I'll eat the red and green M&Ms); but am bound to avoid that which is not.
 

Fogetaboutit

Puritan Board Freshman
I believe there's a difference between pagan "custom" and pagan "worship" especially when you have an "object" which was specifically used as an idol.

Guess I need to get rid of my 18th-century sculpture too. Tell me, should I remove my porch because it was originally designed as the entrance to a pagan place of worship?

This is the genetic fallacy. The Buddha statue is different because a significant portion of the world still sees it as a worship object. The Christmas tree, I would submit, has connotations more related to the Victorian era than to any pagan origins. If it pangs your conscience, don't do it. But leave the rest of us our silly traditions.

I guess I hit a nerve, my intention was not to anger anybody but to point out what seem obvious to me. The way I see it just because something has become commonly accepted does not change what it meant originally. I came out of the Roman Catholic church, for 26 years of my life I had no knowledge of the teaching on transubstantiation but when I did I was appalled by it. Now if we were to bring similar ceremonies for the lords supper in our protestant churches but we would say we do not believe in transubstantiation, would this make the practice acceptable. Would you be OK with having a wafer in a monstrance on your church pulpit because you find it beautiful? What about if this would have been practiced for a few hundred years and became broadly accepted as a non-worship object?
 

JML

Puritan Board Junior
I definitely understand what Chris and Philip are saying. My question is whether or not you can truly separate the religious from the cultural with this holiday. After all, it is called "Christ"mas. I am not trying to be dogmatic either way. That to me is the difference between Christmas and other cultural days. If it was called "Winter Celebration", I might not have as many issues with it. I don't know, what do you think Philip and Chris?
 

Fogetaboutit

Puritan Board Freshman
Guess I need to get rid of my 18th-century sculpture too. Tell me, should I remove my porch because it was originally designed as the entrance to a pagan place of worship?

Are your 18th century sculptures pagan idols? The porch comment make no sense to me, it's the same thing as saying a brick is an idol because they used bricks to build pagan temples.
 

Fogetaboutit

Puritan Board Freshman
I definitely understand what Chris and Philip are saying. My question is whether or not you can truly separate the religious from the cultural with this holiday. After all, it is called "Christ"mas. I am not trying to be dogmatic either way. That to me is the difference between Christmas and other cultural days. If it was called "Winter Celebration", I might not have as many issues with it. I don't know, what do you think Philip and Chris?

My concerns are along the same line. If you would have a decorated tree in your house all year because you believe it's beautiful that is one thing, but to have this tree only on holidays that were meant as worship days is different in my view.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
That is the basic issue; we have a superstitious holy day that has morphed into something additional, a national and international holiday. Again, sorry to be a broken record, but these holiday issues will take care of themselves if we address the holy day issue. Take away the reason for the latter, the other will be solved. Beating someone up about a tree misses the opportunity for addressing the greater issue. I know some folks out there focus only on the pagan issues; as if, if those were solved, otherwise a day set aside to observe the birth of Christ would be great. So that is why I think we miss the main issues focusing on that wicked Baal tree in the living room.

I definitely understand what Chris and Philip are saying. My question is whether or not you can truly separate the religious from the cultural with this holiday. After all, it is called "Christ"mas. I am not trying to be dogmatic either way. That to me is the difference between Christmas and other cultural days. If it was called "Winter Celebration", I might not have as many issues with it. I don't know, what do you think Philip and Chris?
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
I guess I hit a nerve, my intention was not to anger anybody but to point out what seem obvious to me. The way I see it just because something has become commonly accepted does not change what it meant originally.

No it doesn't. But it does change what it means now. Wedding rings were originally a pagan fertility custom. Does that mean they still mean that? No.

I definitely understand what Chris and Philip are saying. My question is whether or not you can truly separate the religious from the cultural with this holiday.

That's the more operative question here. My point was simply that we should base arguments on Scriptural principles of worship and not on the genetic fallacy. Specifically, the question is whether the church may institute days of remembrance or feast days in addition to the Lord's Day. Once that question is answered, we can have a meaningful discussion of whether the traditions of religions that no one has believed in for 1,500 years have lost their original meanings by now.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
And I need to bow out. I have more Gillespie books to get out before this potentially big ice storm the weather people are scaring us with hits Dallas (and even a little ice and DFW don't mix well).
 

JoannaV

Puritan Board Sophomore
Etienne, I don't decorate my house so it seems crazy to consider putting a tree - a tree of all things! - in my house. But there are people who always have seasonal plants and wall-hangings and ornaments and things I don't even know what they are called, that they change out throughout the year. For those people a tree is not such an outlandish idea. (Though to me it does still seem a little over the top!)

John, "Christmas" is such an awkward word. There are so many contexts in which I hate to use it, and yet there seems no other alternative. To avoid it would be kind of like playing charades! If I say "plum pudding" most people wouldn't know what I was talking about, plus it contains no plums anyway. Yet I don't think I should avoid eating it until such day as it gets a new name.
 

Fogetaboutit

Puritan Board Freshman
That's the more operative question here. My point was simply that we should base arguments on Scriptural principles of worship and not on the genetic fallacy. Specifically, the question is whether the church may institute days of remembrance or feast days in addition to the Lord's Day. Once that question is answered, we can have a meaningful discussion of whether the traditions of religions that no one has believed in for 1,500 years have lost their original meanings by now.

OK, so if it were determined that no worship day should be observed by the church appart from the Lord's Day, would it be OK for church members to keep observing these extra days of worship in the comfort of their home?
 

Fogetaboutit

Puritan Board Freshman
Etienne, I don't decorate my house so it seems crazy to consider putting a tree - a tree of all things! - in my house. But there are people who always have seasonal plants and wall-hangings and ornaments and things I don't even know what they are called, that they change out throughout the year. For those people a tree is not such an outlandish idea. (Though to me it does still seem a little over the top!)

My wife has different decoration themes for each season in our house, but none of them have any association to any holidays. We do not have specific decoration tied to halloween, christmas, easter etc. I was not trying to be a decoration police but I don't think that decorating a house with objects that have roots in pagan worship with the specific intent to honor an unbiblical holiday is the same thing in my opinion.
 
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Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
OK, so if it were determined that no worship day should be observed by the church appart from the Lord's Day, would it be OK for church members to keep observing these extra days of worship in the comfort of their home?

Not as days of worship, no. Cultural celebrations? Maybe (think Thanksgiving, but with presents).
 

THE W

Puritan Board Freshman
Ok, but are gathering for nog and carols, or exchanging gifts on Christmas eve, or decorating a Christmas tree, "worship events?"

On the 4th of July, I sing of Christ, acknowledging His part in our independence in patriotic hymns. I go to parades where there are churches and similar doing gospel-spreading things. I don't consider it formal worship, so, I participate freely.

Similarly, we celebrate Reformation Day, posting the 95 theses on the front door, taking the day off school, and studying some aspect of the Reformation, even decorating a little. It is not commanded. But because it is not formal worship, I participate freely.

I do not think the issue is whether something is or is not formal worship but rather if we are celebrating pegan customs and/or what those customs point to.

The 3 things you mention here are done in celebration of something. We need to evaluate the thing being celebrated
 
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