INTRO: Good morning. Wow, what a year this has been. The challenges we have had to work with and continue to face. It has been a year of controversy, controversy about the pandemic, its origins and how we should react to it. Controversies about politics, the direction of the country, the right way to handle disaster, and how to help others. Christians have faired a little better in this time of controversy because they have a place to go for help in understanding the correct way to face these challenges, God’s word.
We are at a time of year where a seasonal controversy returns that Christians are all too familiar with. Why Christians should not observe Christmas. Why do we not have special services to celebrate Christmas?
A Preacher, relating what our denominational friends say about us, wrote this: "What’s the matter, preacher man, you playing Dr. Killjoy? Are you a party basher? You think you’re too good to celebrate the birth of the greatest man who ever lived? Everybody’s doing it, man! The whole country's doing it. And here you are, you and other fanatical crazies like yourself, all of you holding out because of a few minor technicalities.”
“O.k., so Christmas is pagan in origin, so what? So Dec. 25th isn't the birthday of Christ, and the apostles and early Christians didn't celebrate His birth. No one is arguing with you about that. But so what? Who cares? What difference does it make? Look, this is the one time of the year when our children have more fun than any other, and when more people are talking about Jesus! That’s right; they’re talking about our Jesus.”
“Then there are all those terrific Christmas concerts and Christmas carols, and happy faces and happy reunions, and gifts, and great food and drink and all that sort of thing. But what do you and those other social misfits like yourself want to do? Nothing. That’s right, nothing—unless it’s to sit back and criticize the rest of us. You want my opinion? I think you're a bunch of self-righteous, nit-picking, Bible quoting, fault-finding Scrooges, all of you! Bury Scrooge, brother, turn up the music, put a smile on your face and join the crowd. It's time to accelerate to celebrate! Here, have a tree! Dress it up!"
Reading that I see; "So what......Who cares......What does it matter?" Isn't that where the problem really lies? There are few of those professing to be Christians who are concerned enough about this Holiday to even find out if it does matter. Today you will be hard pressed to find a denominational assembly that even considers the scriptures on this point.
It was not always so. During the Reformation, many reformers, including John Knox, John Calvin and Martin Luther, rejected the way Christmas was celebrated. Most denominations rejected Christmas to one degree or another. For example when outside of worship our friends the Baptists in the early 1800’s participated in Christmas activities with their families and in their communities. These Baptists exercised their Christian liberty about special days that Paul cited in Romans 14:5-6 but did not attach much significance to Christmas. The Holiday is not recognized as a special day for worship in any of the historic Baptist confessions.
I. The Bible does emphasize the birth of Christ - In all, the New Testament devotes 100 verses to the coming of Christ and we cannot overlook the fact that the birth of Jesus is one of the most significant events in the history of the world. It’s one of the most profound thoughts in the Bible and we cannot in our human limitations even comprehend the significance of what took place.
A. We cannot imagine what it was like when Jesus left the glory of heaven to come to this world and become a fully human infant. John wrote in John 1:14 - “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” So simple, yet so profound.
B. God becoming human is one of the most amazing events in history. Angels announced His birth – but only to some shepherds. The shepherds came to worship him, and later so did some wise men. Yet, for the most part this event went unannounced, it occurred under the most humble circumstances, in a manger, to two poor young people.
C. How amazing that God would trust two young people with the care and raising of the Son of God. Yet, the Bible doesn't say much about Christmas. In fact the bible says nothing about Christmas as a celebration of the birthday of Jesus. We'll look at it from the perspective of the principles that are found in the Bible and while doing so look at the historical aspect of the event that Christmas is considered to represent.
II. How are Christians to observe this great and powerful event? I will start by suggesting we accept the Biblical story exactly as it’s told without any additions and subtractions. Since no date of birth is given then obviously the Lord didn’t intend for us to set aside a day to celebrate. To celebrate December 25th is without Scriptural evidence, we simply don’t know the date. There is no problem to talk about, read about, or even sing about His birth as long as we don’t teach it as a command we must observe. It’s appropriate to talk about the Lord’s birth anytime. We can do this without implying we believe in the traditions of men that have grown around it.
A. Certainly not knowing the date of someone’s birth doesn't mean you can't celebrate or commemorate their birth on a day that is not the actual day they were bprn. That doesn't make the aspect of Christmas illegitimate from that standpoint, but the Christmas story, as it's presented in the religious world today, sometimes can be misleading and provide for us a picture that's not really accurate from the standpoint of what the Bible teaches.
B. We can look at Matthew chapter 1 and Luke chapter 2 which are records of the biblical accounts of Jesus’ birth.
III. THE WORD OF GOD, we're told, "thoroughly furnishes" the believer "unto all good works." 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Since it does not furnish us with a command or example to celebrate the birthday of Christ, how can that be a "good work" — or how can it please God?
A. As for pleasing God we see that Hebrews 11:6 tells us that "without faith it is impossible to please Him."
B. Where do we get that faith? We know that "Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” i.e., simply put, faith is just taking God at His Word. Romans 10:17. We’re told that "the just shall live by faith.... in Galatians 3:11 and “we walk by faith, not by sight.” in 2 Corinthians 5:7.
IV. TRADITIONS OF MEN vs. THE BIBLE. : As we have indicated it is no secret that the day of Christ's birth is not recorded in the Bible, neither are we told how many wise men there were, nor do the Scriptures record that they were Kings. Yet these and other legends have become so engrained in the public conscience that they are annually presented as fact in songs, pageants, plays, books, radio and TV. In these and other stories, tradition has replaced the Bible. But God says, "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and empty deceit, after the TRADITION OF MEN....." Colossians 2:8. (emphasis added)
A. The power of tradition to shackle and control the minds of those who come to worship at its shrine, is never more evident than at this time of year when sleigh-bells, Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, Santa Claus, Christmas trees, lights and gifts, manger scenes and tinseled, starlit window dressing dominate stores and shopping centers. That brings me to another consideration.
B. THE MONEY CHANGERS: Regardless of their religious persuasions, businessmen all over America join hands in sweet accord to make merchandise of the birthday of Christ. Some can't even wait until Thanksgiving to begin their "Chri$tma$ adverti$ing. But it isn't long before the ring of sleigh bells and cash registers drown out the sounds of thanksgiving—and the gift-rush is on.
C. HIGHLY ESTEEMED: We do concentrate a lot of our time and effort on this season don’t we? Christ said, "That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God." Luke 16:15. Folks, do you know of any other day of the year that is more highly esteemed in America, and in many other countries, than this season called "CHRISTMAS"?
V. THE ORIGIN OF YULETIDE:
A. Encyclopedia Americana—Vol. 6; page 623 "Christmas, derived from the medieval Christes Masse, the Mass of Christ, the feast commemorating the birth of Jesus, observed by the Western [Roman Catholic] Church annually on the 25th of December.....In the 5th century, the church ordered the birth of the Savior to be celebrated forever on the day of the old Roman feast of the birth of Sol (the sun) as no certain knowledge of the day of Christ's birth existed. The holly, the mistletoe, the Yule log, the wassail bowl are RELICS OF PRE-CHRISTIAN TIMES." (emphasis added)
B. Encyclopedia Britannica—14th edition, vol. 5; p. 642— "Christmas Customs are an evolution from times that long antedated the Christian period—a descent from seasonal, pagan, religious and national practices, hedged about with legend and tradition. Their seasonal connections with the pagan feasts of the winter solstice relate them to the beginning of time." (emphasis added)
C. Wikipedia records-–“Christmas does not appear on the lists of festivals given by the early Christian writers Irenaeus and Tertullian. Origen and Arnobius both fault the pagans for celebrating birthdays, which suggests that Christmas was not celebrated in their time. Arnobius writing was after AD 297. The Chronography of 354 records that a Christmas celebration took place in Rome in 336.”
D. In the East, the birth of Jesus was celebrated in connection with the Epiphany on January 6. This holiday was not primarily about the nativity, but rather the baptism of Jesus. Christmas was promoted in the East as part of the revival of Orthodox Christianity that followed the death of the pro-Arian Emperor Valens at the Battle of Adrianople in 378. The feast was introduced in Constantinople in 379, in Antioch by John Chrysostom towards the end of the fourth century, probably in 388, and in Alexandria in the following century.”
E. Many of the traditions that are associated with the Christmas holidays originated in paganism. It is important for us to understand that point because it's possible for individuals to actually participate in traditional things, to do things that others have done, perhaps their parents, or their grandparents have done... without really knowing the origin of them. We realize that is not necessarily always a bad thing because traditions themselves are not inherently bad.
1. But if we go along without finding out what those traditions are related to, then it's possible for us to either misinterpret the way that we are doing the tradition or why we're doing it or it might very well lead us into honoring something that God did not intend us to honor.
2. We look at the traditions that are associated with the celebration of Christmas and we recognize that most, if not all, had their origin in the same way that the celebration of Christmas did; and that is in the development of false religion.
3. We have many traditions that we follow culturally and secularly, but understanding where they came from helps us to sort things out and recognize whether or not these things could possibly engage us in something that would not be what God would want us to do. An example is the tree.
F. THE "CHRISTMAS TREE," as we know it today, has descended from a long line of trees used for centuries by pagans in the idolatrous worship of their gods, carved from trees.
1. In communicating with Israel about this matter, God said, “"Do not learn the way of the Gentiles; do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven, for the Gentiles are dismayed at them. For the customs of the peoples are futile; for one cuts a tree from the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with nails and hammers so that it will not topple. They are upright, like a palm tree, and they cannot speak; they must be carried, because they cannot go by themselves....” Does this not have a familiar ring to it?
2. Continuing God says; “Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, nor can they do any good.” Jeremiah 10:2-5.
3. Now if you revere the Christmas tree or the ornaments on it – that is idol worship. Idol worship was a clear violation of the Ten Commandments, Exodus 20:3-6. Even though we are not under the Law of Moses idol worship would still be wrong. 1 John 5:21 “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”
4. Today there is no connection between the worship of idols and the use of Christmas trees. We can erect a Christmas tree without any thought that we are raising up some pagan symbol to honor some pagan god as it was originally done. To us it’s merely a decoration and custom, nothing more. It’s a holiday, a time of joy, giving of gifts, good cheer and reaching out to those less fortunate, which by the way we should do all year long.
i. I doubt there are many people that decorate a tree and put it in their house thinking that they're doing it as a sacrifice to Odin. That's just not part of their thinking. Probably they're not decorating that tree as a tribute to the Christ child anymore either.
ii. For example, we don’t look at the days of the week as the pagans did. To pagans Sunday referred to the pagan god of the Sun. Monday was ‘Moon day.’ Tuesday was Tiw’s day, the Anglo-Saxon god of war. Wednesday was ‘Wooden’s day’ the chief god of the Anglo-Saxons. Saturday refers to Saturn, the god of Agriculture.
iii. When we say these words today it never crosses our minds that we are saying the names of certain pagan gods. These words no longer have any such meaning.
5. In America today, the tree remains as popular as ever, both with the majority of believers and unbelievers alike. However in this and other traditions there remains a danger in how we approach and observe them. In Mark 7 Jesus warned the scribes and Pharisees that they were making the commandment of God of non effect by their traditions. Again note this warning in Colossians 2:8: "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men.... and not after Christ."
VI. EXCUSES: The preacher continued his illustration; "Hey, brother, everybody's celebrating the birthday of Christ, why aren't you?" Because, says God, " You shall not follow a crowd to do evil" Exodus 23:2
A. "Well, I can't see that it hurts anything." God says, "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin." Romans 14:23. Sin hurts and Paul here is speaking of the conscience telling us – Where the conscience is in doubt the definition of proper conduct must be made on the basis of what the word of God says.
1. "But it gives our children a lot of pleasure." I would suggest you mean it gives you a lot of pleasure.
2. "Just the same, it reminds unbelievers of the birthday of Christ and makes it easier to reach them for Christ." Romans 3:8 asks, "Shall we do evil, that good may come?"
3. “Look at all the good that can be done with the special contributions!” God says, "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice." 1 Samuel 15:22.
4. "But think how the poor and homeless are cared for this time of year that counts for something doesn’t it?" Incidentally, friend, who cares for the poor and homeless AFTER "Christmas"? Will their needs be any less in January or February? Where will the so-called "spirit of Christmas" have gone during the two coldest months of the year in our hemisphere? For most, it will have ceased to exist till next December. That alone should speak volumes!
VII. "SANTA CLAUS" — A harmless legend right? Once your child has been shockingly disillusioned regarding "Santa," he may find it very difficult to believe the gospel. You lied to him about big-hearted "Santa"— who you know does not exist—now he may secretly distrust you concerning his need for Christ— who you know does exist! Rest assured, the enemy of our souls will do all he can to fan the flames of disbelief in your child.
A. Psychologist and parenting expert Dr. Justin Coulson said speaking on the downside of the Santa Clause mythos; “The major reason I have for telling the truth is that when we use a coercive, manipulative strategy to get our kids to behave, we are relying on extrinsic contingencies by telling them to be good in order to get what they want. And once that motivation is gone, how do we know they’ll still feel compelled to behave? It’s morally, ethically, and scientifically dubious at best.” Exodus 20:15 reads “Thou shalt not bear false witness.”
1. Dr. Coulson continues; “Research shows that kids who are lied to by their parents are more likely to lie themselves so it is always a good idea to tell the truth if possible. Don’t use Santa as a tool for motivating your kid. Letting them grow through fantasy and imagination is positive. Manipulation and lying to them are almost always negative. They’re going to figure it out in due time and there is a risk that they’ll feel like you’ve broken your trust.”
B. Think about it, parent. During their most formative years (1-7) you repeatedly impressed on your child, "If you want gifts from Santa you gotta’ be good." A few years later, in order to win them over to Christ, you share the gospel. But, to be saved from the guilt and penalty of sin, your youngster must now realize that they are NOT good, that, "...all have sinned and come short of the glory of God... "there is none that doeth good, no not one." Romans 3:23; Romans 3:10-12.
1. First you taught them to "be good and do good" to deserve Santa’s gifts, now you’re telling them, "there is none good." How these mixed signals impact your youngster may be crucial to their acceptance of the gospel.
2. If we are all basically good, who needs a Savior? The Lord Jesus said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." Mark 2:17.
VIII. CHRIST'S BIRTHDAY: If your family held a birthday party for you today, who would receive the gifts? Would your family exchange gifts with one another while inviting you to merely blow out the candles? How absurd! Yet friends and foes of Christ, alike, give gifts to one another and tell us they are celebrating His birth. How totally inappropriate!
THE CHOICE IS OURS: Folks, shall we obey the Word of God and quit learning "the way of the heathen," or shall we blind ourselves to the sober warnings of the Bible and observe again with a Christ-rejecting, Christ-hating world, a holiday fraught with paganism, debauchery, legends, traditions and vain customs of men? Shall we again join unbelievers in celebrating a program that is largely characterized by religious festivities, lying to children, drunkenness, gluttony, reveling, immorality, drug-abuse, a dramatic rise in car accidents, murders, suicides, depression, and the list goes on and on.
Christians are commanded not to allow those things that are traditions of men to dictate their worship to God. I don't believe that the church should include in worship the religious celebration of Christmas. That's probably something you have observed if you worship with us or if you're a member here or maybe you've seen church assemblies in other places where it is something that is manifestly absent.
We might wonder then, can the individual Christian observe Christmas as a secular or cultural holiday? It's something I think that can be answered by different Christians in different ways. But one thing is certain I think. I believe we would all agree that the Christmas celebration has both religious and non-religious elements. When we gather with our family and friends for a meal or to exchange gifts may we always do so remembering what the apostle Paul tells us in Romans 14:5-6 – “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks.”
We’re commanded to observe the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus on every first day of the week. We have been given a memorial to help us remember His suffering on the cross. At the same time, I am thankful for His birth and I rejoice that the Word became flesh. Without His taking on our sinful nature, the flesh, I would have no hope. I never want to forget this.
We haven’t been commanded to observe any specific day as the birthday of Jesus. No memorial has been left to remind us of His birth, but we have been given abundant information about His birth thus the Lord expects us to know about it and the events that surrounded it.
May God help us who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, to be like David of old who said, "Therefore, I esteem all Thy precepts concerning all things to be right; AND I HATE EVERY FALSE WAY." (emphasis added) Psalm 119:128. Oh, Christian friend, let's truly despise the things that God despises and cleave to those things that scripturally honor His Son. May we not fear to take an unflinching, uncompromising stand alongside the risen Christ! As unpopular as that may be, we'll be glad in eternity that we did!
CAN YOU ANSWER THIS QUESTION? Why is it that the world loves the babe in the manger but hates, despises and rejects the man on the cross? Was He not as meek and lowly when He died for our sins as when He was an infant? Of course, but Christ said, "they hated me without a cause." John 15:25. Jesus says: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of Me; FOR I AM MEEK AND LOWLY IN HEART, and ye shall find rest unto your souls." Matthew 11:28-30 (emphasis added)
We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God, and be baptized for the remission of our sins... If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.
Perhaps there is someone in the assembly today with the need to be buried with Christ in baptism. If you have never done these things, we urge you to do so today. If anyone has this need or desires the prayers of faithful Christians on their behalf, we encourage them to come forward while we stand and sing.
Reference Sermon: Bob Thompson
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