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Sermon No: 41167-Should Christians celebrate Christmas - Part 2



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SERMON TOPIC: Should Christians celebrate Christmas - Part 2

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 3 February 2019

Topic Groups: CHRISTMAS, CONSTANTINE, HERESY

Sermon synopsis: Some feel that it is unimportant (or even sinful) to celebrate Christ’s birthday at all. Other arguments used by anti-Christmas proponents are:

- Christians never observed Christmas until the 4th century. Therefore it must have been the emperor Constantine or “some pope” who introduced the festival as a form of honour to the sun god.
- There is no instruction or precedent in the Bible to celebrate Jesus’ birth.

Are these valid arguments?
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SHOULD CHRISTIANS

CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS? (PART 2)

When did the modern anti-Christmas sentiment among some Christians originate?

In Geneva in Switzerland, under John Calvin’s influence, anything that remotely resembled pleasure was viewed with suspicion. He allowed neither dancing nor theatre-going, no art other than music - and even that could not involve instruments.

Calvin also suppressed the celebration of Christmas.

CALVIN

John Calvin (1509-1564)

The Puritans were English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries who were generally Calvinist in theology. They sought to “purify” the church of Roman Catholic practices, maintaining that the Church of England had not been fully reformed and needed to become more Protestant.

The English government under Cromwell regarded the practice of singing Christmas carols as pagan and sinful. The Puritans prohibited all celebrations of Christmas and in 1645 legally abolished Christmas. 1

1 https:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Christmas_music

THE PURITANS

Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658)

When in 1660 Charles II restored the Stuarts to the throne, the people of England once again practiced the public singing of Christmas carols as part of the revival of Christmas customs, sanctioned by the king’s own celebrations. 1

1 https:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Christmas_music

Charles II of England (1830-1885)

THE PURITANS

In America, New England’s Puritan religious leaders did not approve of celebrating Christmas and in part of the 17th century it was even a crime to do so. 1

1 https:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Christmas_in_Puritan_New_England

THE AMERICAN PURITANS

Last time we noted that some feel that it is unimportant (or even sinful) to celebrate Christ’s birthday at all. The arguments used by anti-Christmas proponents are normally:

The date of Christmas comes from pagan sources.

Christians never observed Christmas until the 4th century. Constantine or “the pope” introduced the festival as a form of honour to the sun god.

Modern Christmas celebrations were borrowed from pagan traditions that seem similar.

There is no instruction or precedent in the Bible to celebrate Jesus’ birth.

Let’s continue with the second objection:

CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS?

CHRISTIANS NEVER OBSERVED CHRISTMAS UNTIL THE 4TH CENTURY.

We saw earlier how already in the 2nd century Theophilus refers to Dec 25th as being the date of Christ’s birth. And around 202-211 AD the famous scholar, Hippolytus of Rome, put the birth of Christ at 25th Dec, 2 BC.

This of course doesn’t mean that it was an official religious feast day. But around 386 AD John Chrysostom, an Eastern bishop argued that the church in Antioch, Syria should observe Dec 25th as Christ’s birthday. He reasons that the Western church (with Rome at its centre) was already doing this. 1 In general the Eastern church regarded 6 Jan (Epiphany) as the date of Jesus’ birth. 2

1 (Homil. Diem Natal., 2; PL, 49, 552ff) 2 Many Orthodox Christians still celebrate Christmas Day on or near 7 January.

4TH CENTURY

THE "POPE" ?

CHRISTIANS NEVER OBSERVED CHRISTMAS UNTIL THE 4TH CENTURY WHEN THE POPE ADAPTED THE CELEBRATION.

Apparently Cyril of Jerusalem (348-386 AD) asked Julius (Roman “pope” 337-352 AD) to confirm Christ’s birth date “from census documents brought by Titus to Rome,” after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Julius then determined the date of Christ’s birth to be 25 Dec.

If this account is true, whether Julius was correct in arriving at this date is a separate issue. The motive seems apparent – they are trying to establish the date of Christ’s birthday from census records held in Rome (i.e. the census of Augustus mentioned in Luke’s gospel). They were not choosing the date based on a pagan festival.

THE POPE

However it is questionable whether the correspondence between Julius and Cyril of Jerusalem even took place. It was related by John of Nikiû (c. 900). 1 But Julius died in 352, and Cyril made no change to their January celebration. In about 411 Jerome still reproves Palestine for keeping Christ’s birthday on the Manifestation feast (6th Jan). 2

Another document 3 has Julius writing to Juvenal (the bishop of Jerusalem c. 422 to 458). But they were not even contemporaries as Julius had died 70 years earlier.

Cosmas Indicopleustes, a Greek traveller in the 6th century, noted that the church in Jerusalem still argued from Luke 3:23 that Christ’s baptism day (celebrated in January) was the anniversary of his birthday. 2

1 Ezech., P.L., XXV, 18 2 http:// www.newadvent.org/ cathen/03724b.htm 3 Cotelier, Patr. Apost., I, 316, ed. 1724

THE POPE

C

O

N

S

T

A

N

T

I

N

E

?

Emperor Constantine I (272-337 AD)

IF NOT THE POPE, IT MUST HAVE BEEN THE EMPEROR CONSTANTINE WHO INTRODUCED THE FESTIVAL AS A FORM OF HONOUR TO THE SUN-GOD.

And we know that – how? Just because Constantine lived in the 4th century doesn’t mean that everything that happened in the century can be attributed to him.

Returning to our legal criteria that a man is innocent until proven guilty we may ask:

What documentary evidence is there?

Who were the eye witnesses?

In the absence of both, this cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt and it falls into the class of hearsay.

CONSTANTINE

The unsubstantiated claim is that Constantine chose Dec 25th so that his pagan subjects could still have a holiday at Saturnalia. Constantine allegedly was a devotee of the sun cult (despite the fact that he was actually the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity).

We’ve already looked at the facts around Saturnalia and “the birthday of the unconquered sun”. Trying to involve Constantine in the debate is pure speculation and hearsay.

Is there any evidence that syncretism with the sun god cult was actively encouraged by the Roman church?

CONSTANTINE

Actually Leo I, patriarch of Rome 440-461, discouraged his congregation from mixing Christianity with sun worship and rebuked those who paid reverence to the sun god on the steps of St. Peter’s before entering the basilica.

When the sun rises at daybreak, there are some people so foolish as to worship it from the highest elevations; even some Christians think they are acting piously by following this practice, so that before entering the basilica of St. Peter the apostle, dedicated to the only living and true God, when they have gone up the steps leading to the porch at the main entrance, they turn around to face the rising sun and, inclining their heads, bow in honour of the brilliant disk. 

CONSTANTINE

This behaviour, partly due to the vice of ignorance and partly to the spirit of paganism, upsets and saddens us very much. Even if some of them do worship the creator of that beautiful light rather than the light itself, which is a creature, they should still abstain from giving the appearance of that worship, because if someone who has turned away from the cult of the gods notices the same custom among us, would that person not return to the old beliefs thinking that probably Christians and nonbelievers are doing the same thing? 1

1 Leo I, Sermon VII

CONSTANTINE

Those who claim Constantine was both Christian and pagan should more carefully examine the historical record. Constantine did not outlaw paganism and allowed religious freedom - but in the words of an early edict, he decreed that polytheists could “celebrate the rites of an outmoded illusion,: so long as they did not force Christians to join them.” 1 In a letter to the King of Persia, Constantine wrote how he shunned the “abominable blood and hateful odors” of pagan sacrifices, and instead worshiped the High God “on bended knee”, 2 and in the new capital city he built, Constantine made sure that there were no pagan temples built. 3 Sporadically, however, Constantine would prohibit public sacrifice and close pagan temples…4

1 Codex Theodosianius 9.16.2. 2 Eusebius, “Life of Constantine” 4.10. 3 R. Gerberding and J. H. Moran Cruz, Medieval Worlds 4 Wikipedia

CONSTANTINE A PAGAN?

Q: Was the early church around the 4th century AD ‘soft on paganism’?

A: The reality is that the early Christians distanced themselves from paganism. They refused to sacrifice to the emperor, would not attend the public games and spoke out against even the theatre. This is why they were persecuted by the pagans – they refused to accept the pagan gods and practices and insisted that there was only one true God.

‘SOFT’ ON PAGANISM?

To mention but a few examples:

In 391 Theophilus, bishop of Alexandria, had the temple of Serapis dismantled. In doing so, he was enforcing recent imperial legislation suppressing pagan temples. Having obtained the Emperor Theodosius’ approval, Theophilus confiscated the temple of Dionysius, removed the statues and converted it into a church.

In 579 Anatolios, the governor of Edessa, tried to conceal his paganism by ‘Christianising’ it. He was condemned to death by the Emperor Maurice when it was discovered that the portrait of Christ he commissioned was actually of Apollo.

In the 6th century the Emperor Justinian and others started to persecute pagans, not embrace them.

‘SOFT’ ON PAGANISM?

So to suggest that early Christians chose Dec 25th to either appease pagans or as a form of syncretism is to ignore the historical evidence.

Q: So how did the pagan influence enter the Church?

A: It’s possible that later pressure on pagans to forcefully convert caused false conversions and many of these people held on to pagan symbolism which they simply Christianized.

‘SOFT’ ON PAGANISM?

YULE, CHRISTMAS

TREES & SANTA

Let’s look at the next objection:

Since many of the elements in modern Christmas celebrations seem unrelated to Christianity, they must have been borrowed from pagan traditions that seem similar.

Thus theories abound regarding the pagan origins of various customs of the Christmas holiday stemming both from the old Greco-Roman paganism and also the areas where the Germanic peoples were Christianized and supposedly retained elements of their indigenous traditions.

SANTA CLAUS

What about other Dec 25th celebrations in Europe (like Yule) which have pagan origins?

About AD 730, the English Christian historian Bede wrote that Dec 25th had been celebrated by Anglo-Saxons. But again, while Bede notes that it was the same day as Christmas, there’s absolutely no indication that the one celebration inspired the other. He contrasts the ‘heathen’ celebration to the ‘sanctity’ of Christmas.

They began the year with December 25, the day some now celebrate as Christmas; and the very night to which we attach special sanctity they designated by the heathen term Mōdraniht, that is, the mothers’ night…1

1 De Temporum Ratione

YULE & PAGAN FESTIVALS

But is similarity the same as dependence or derivation? In other words, just because we use similar customs does it mean in every case that these are directly derived from pagan religions? Cultures all over the world have used lights and trees, gift-giving and revelry for their celebrations. Why is it assumed that because Christians use these things at Christmas that they have taken them directly from paganism? If it is discovered that pagans drank milk or hugged their families at their pagan festivals, does that mean that if Christians do so, they are engaging in paganism? But this is the kind of logic used by the anti-Christmas crowd. 1

1 Christmas is Not Pagan - Part IV (By Dr. Richard P. Bucher) http:// www.orlutheran.com/ html/ chrmas_pagan4.html

YULE & PAGAN FESTIVALS

THE HOLLY

For example, although it is closely associated with Christmas, holly was linked to winter traditions before Christianity: Druids considered it a sacred plant, and often wore holly crowns on their heads. 1

Yet Holly is known as christdorn (“Christ thorn”) in German and Christians consider holly symbolic of Jesus in two ways. Its pointed leaves are said to symbolize the crown of thorns placed on Jesus’ head while the red berries represent his blood. 1

1 https:// www.telegraph.co.uk/ gardening/ how-to-grow/

THE YULE LOG

A Wikipedia article notes these dual symbolisms as well as the fact that (despite the bold claims of some) no one really knows where some of these traditions originally came from.

The Yule log… or Christmas block is a specially selected log burnt on a hearth as a Christmas tradition in a number of countries in Europe. The origin of the folk custom is unclear. 1

Some claim that the custom derives from Germanic paganism and that “After the Christianization of Scandinavia, it may have been incorporated into the Christian celebration of Christmas there, with the pagan significance no longer remaining.” 1

1 https:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Yule_log

THE YULE LOG

But the foresaid article continues:

However, as there are no reliable existing references to a Christmas log prior to the 16th century, the burning of the Christmas block may have been an early modern invention by Christians unrelated to the pagan practice. Regardless of its origin, for the Christian feast of Christmas, the yule log symbolizes

the battle between good and evil: “as the fire grew brighter and burned hotter, and as the log turned into ashes, it symbolized Christ's final and ultimate triumph over sin.” 1

1 Ibid.

Is everything that was once used by paganism centuries ago, now off limits when Christians apply them to Christmas or other Christian festivals? Are we prepared to strictly apply that to everything we do? Why can’t we use some of the same words, symbols or customs, which long ago ceased to be used in the worship of false gods? We need to remember that before pagans co-opted them centuries ago, God had given many of the things used in custom, as good gifts to be enjoyed by his people. Why then can Christians not redeem these good gifts for their use as they celebrate Christmas? 1

1 http:// www.orlutheran.com/ html/ chrmas_pagan4.html

YULE & PAGAN FESTIVALS

Aren’t Christmas trees forbidden in Jeremiah 10:3-4?

For the customs of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter.

In context the Lord is talking about idols – note that the tree is shaped with a chisel – something not done on Christmas trees. The very next verse says:

Jer 10:5 Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.

So, unless you’re praying to your Christmas tree, this verse doesn’t apply to you.

CHRISTMAS TREES

Winifrid (680-754), who became known as Boniface was a missionary to the Germans for 40 years. Some credit Boniface with the start of the fir tree as the Christmas tree tradition.

One popular story relates that from his missionary travels, Boniface knew that in winter the inhabitants of the village of Geismar gathered around a huge old oak tree (known as the “Thunder Oak”) dedicated to the god Thor. This annual event of worship centred on sacrificing a human, usually a small child, to the pagan god. Boniface desired to convert the village by destroying the Thunder Oak, which the pagans had previously boasted the God of Boniface could not destroy, so he gathered a few companions and journeyed to Geismar. 1

1 https:// catholicsay.com/ st-boniface-and-the-christmas-tree/

CHRISTMAS TREES

His fellow missionaries were scared and fearful that the Germans might kill them, so they balked when they reached the outskirts of the village on Christmas Eve. Boniface steadied the nerves of his friends and as they approached the pagan gathering he said, “Here is the Thunder Oak; and here the cross of Christ shall break the hammer of the false god Thor.” Boniface and his friends arrived at the time of the sacrifice, which was interrupted by their presence. In a show of great trust in God and born from a desire to enkindle the fire of Christ in the German pagans, Boniface grabbed an axe and chopped down the Thunder Oak of mighty Thor. The Germans were astounded. 1

After he felled the ‘holy’ oak tree, a fir tree (‘Tannenbaum’ in German) was claimed by Boniface as a new symbol.

1 Ibid.

CHRISTMAS TREES

He reputably told the people, “This humble tree’s wood is used to build your homes: let Christ be at the centre of your households. Its leaves remain evergreen in the darkest days: let Christ be your constant light. Its boughs reach out to embrace and its top points to heaven: let Christ be your Comfort and Guide”. 1

It must be noted however that the vitae (the earliest writings about Boniface’s life) make no mention of this. 2

1 http:// wiki.tell.com/ index.php/Christmas_tree 2 https:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Saint_Boniface

CHRISTMAS TREES

Modern Christmas trees originated during the Renaissance of early modern Germany. Its 16th century origins are sometimes associated with Protestant reformer Martin Luther, who is said to have first added lighted candles to an evergreen tree. 1

According to Wikipedia the relevance of ancient pre-Christian customs to the 16th century German initiation of the Christmas tree custom is disputed. 1

Gillian Cooke writes that resistance to the custom was often because of its supposed Lutheran origins. 2

1 https:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Christmas_tree 2 A Celebration of Christmas, 1980, page 62: “Martin Luther has been credited with the creation of the Christmas tree. ... The Christmas tree did not spring fully fledged into... tree was slow to spread from its Alsatian home, partly because of resistance to its supposed Lutheran origins.”

CHRISTMAS TREES

A possible predecessor to the Christmas tree is the paradise tree.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica this was the main prop of a popular medieval play about Adam and Eve and was a fir tree hung with apples, that represented the Garden of Eden. The Germans set up a paradise tree in their homes on December 24, the religious feast day of Adam and Eve. 2

The apples were replaced by round objects such as shiny red balls. 1

1 https:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Christmas_tree 2 http:// www.britannica.com/ EBchecked/ topic/ 442528/ paradise-tree

CHRISTMAS TREES

The Christmas tree was first recorded to be used by German Lutherans in the 16th century, with records indicating that a Christmas tree was placed in the Cathedral of Strassburg in 1539, under the leadership of the Protestant Reformer, Martin Bucer. 1

According to www.history.com after 1750, Christmas trees began showing up in other parts of Germany, and even more so after 1771, when Johann Wolfgang von Goethe visited Strasbourg and promptly included a Christmas tree is his novel, The Suffering of Young Werther. After Germany’s Prince Albert married Queen Victoria, he introduced the Christmas tree tradition to England. 2

1 https:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Christmas_tree 2 http:// www.history.com/ topics/ christmas-traditions-worldwide/page2

CHRISTMAS TREES

In the 1820s, the first German immigrants decorated Christmas trees in Pennsylvania. The “German Lutherans brought the decorated Christmas tree with them; the Moravians put lighted candles on those trees.” 1

When decorating the Christmas tree, many individuals place a star at the top of the tree symbolizing the Star of Bethlehem, a fact recorded by The School Journal in 1897. Professor David Albert Jones of Oxford University writes that in the 19th century, it became popular for people to also use an angel to top the Christmas tree in order to symbolize the angels mentioned in the accounts of the Nativity of Jesus. 2

1 Kelly, Joseph F. (2010). The Feast of Christmas. Liturgical Press. p. 94. 2 https:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Christmas_tree

CHRISTMAS TREES

Hasn’t Christmas been over commercialised?

This is a valid objection. As Christians we commemorate the occasion when God gave “the gift” of His Son to save a lost world. For the unsaved it’s just a time of drunken revelry and materialistic indulgence.

Doesn’t Santa take away the focus off Jesus at Christmas?

Yes – this is a valid objection as well. We remember our Lord’s birth, not semi-mythical figures of the past. So where did the tradition of Santa Claus (Father Christmas in the UK) come from?

Please ignore emails claiming that SANTA is a deliberate anagram for SATAN (i.e. by juggling the words around). This is nonsensical to say the least.

SANTA CLAUS

Saint Nicholas of Myra is the primary inspiration for the Christian figure of Santa. He was a 4th century Greek Christian bishop famous for his generous gifts to the poor. In Europe (more precisely the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria and Germany) he is still portrayed as a bearded bishop in canonical robes. 1

1 http:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Santa_Claus

SANTA CLAUS

A medieval fresco depicting Saint Nicholas from the Boyana Church, near Sofia, Bulgaria

Nicholas was imprisoned during the persecution of Christians by the Roman emperor Diocletian but was released under the rule of Constantine. 1

He was buried in his church at Myra, and by the 6th century his shrine there had become well known. In 1087 Italian sailors or merchants stole his alleged remains from Myra and took them to Bari, Italy; this removal greatly increased the saint’s popularity in Europe, and Bari became one of the most crowded of all pilgrimage centres. 1

Nicholas’s reputation for generosity and kindness gave rise to legends of miracles he performed for the poor and unhappy. 1

1 https:// www.britannica.com/ biography/Saint-Nicholas

SANTA CLAUS

After the Reformation, devotion to Nicholas disappeared in all the Protestant countries of Europe except Holland, where his legend persisted as Sinterklaas (a Dutch variant of the name St. Nicholas). Dutch colonists took this tradition with them to New Amsterdam (now New York City) in the American colonies in the 17th century. Sinterklaas was adopted by the country’s English-speaking majority under the name Santa Claus, and his legend of a kindly old man was united with old Nordic folktales of a magician who punished naughty children and rewarded good children with presents. The resulting image of Santa Claus in the United States crystallized in the 19th century, and he has ever since remained the patron of the gift-giving festival of Christmas. 1

1 https:// www.britannica.com/ biography/ Saint-Nicholas

SANTA CLAUS

Some present circumstantial evidence regarding parallels between modern Santa and Odin, a major god amongst the Germanic peoples prior to their Christianization.

Odin was sometimes recorded, at the native Germanic holiday of Yule, as leading a great hunting party through the sky. Two books from Iceland 2 describe Odin as riding an eight-legged horse named Sleipnir that could leap great distances, giving rise to comparisons to Santa Claus’s reindeer. Further, Odin was referred to by many names in Skaldic poetry… Síðgrani, Síðskeggr, Langbarðr, (all meaning “long beard”) and Jólnir (“Yule figure”). 1

1 Ibid 2 We know very little about Odin, except for what was written by Snorri Sturluson, a 13th-century Icelandic writer. Almost everything we know about Norse mythology comes from Edda and Heimskringla, two books he wrote between 1220 and 1240.

SANTA CLAUS

According to Wikipedia, “An unsubstantiated claim is that the Christmas stocking custom derived from the Germanic/Scandinavian figure Odin. According to Phyllis Siefker, children would place their boots, filled with carrots, straw, or sugar, near the chimney for Odin’s flying horse, Sleipnir, to eat. Odin would reward those children for their kindness by replacing Sleipnir’s food with gifts or candy. This practice, she claims, survived in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands after the adoption of Christianity and became associated with Saint Nicholas as a result of the process of Christianization. This claim is doubtful as there are no records of stocking filling practices related to Odin until there is a merging of St. Nicholas with Odin.” 1

1 https:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Christmas_stocking

SANTA CLAUS

The current depiction of Santa Claus is based on images drawn by cartoonist Thomas Nast for Harper’s Weekly beginning in 1863. 1

The image was further defined and popularised by Coca-Cola. According to the company’s own website, “The Santa Claus we all know and love—that big, jolly man in the red suit with a white beard—didn’t always look that way. In fact, many people are surprised to learn that prior to 1931, Santa was depicted as everything from a tall gaunt man to a spooky-looking elf.”

1 https:// www.britannica.com/ topic/ Santa-Claus

SANTA CLAUS

Merry Old Santa Claus by Thomas Nast

SANTA CLAUS

In 1931 Coca-Cola commissioned Haddon Sundblom to develop advertising images using Santa Claus. He painted the image of Santa using his friend Lou Prentiss as a model. But even though it’s often claimed that Santa wears a red coat because it is the colour of Coca-Cola, Santa appeared in a red coat before Sundblom painted him. 1

1 https:// www.coca-colacompany.com/ stories/ did-coke-create

NO INSTRUCTION

Let’s look at the final objection:

It is also contended that there is no instruction or precedent in the Bible to celebrate Jesus’ birth. We are only instructed in Scripture to remember the Lord’s death (Luke 22:9) and not to celebrate his birthday.

It is true that we are commanded nowhere in Scripture to remember the Lord’s birth, so there is clearly no obligation to do so.

3) NO INSTRUCTION

There have been two approaches taken by Christians in these types of matters where Scripture is silent:

If Scripture doesn’t explicitly command us to do something, then it’s wrong to do it.

If Scripture doesn’t explicitly command us not to do something, then in the light of Christian liberty, we are free to do it or to refrain from doing it – but not to force our convictions about debatable matters on others.

3) NO INSTRUCTION

The first approach or “regulatory rule” of worship, as it came to be known, is described by Samuel Miller (1769-1850) in his book:

The Scriptures being the only infallible rule of faith and practice, no rite or ceremony ought to have a place in the public worship of God, which is not warranted in Scripture, either by direct precept or example, or by good and sufficient inference. 1

But this approach can get you into all sorts of legalistic bondage. The NT doesn’t explicitly talk about the use of musical instruments in worship as does the OT – so people of this mindset have sometimes gone so far as to prohibit any use of musical instruments in church.

1 “The Worship of the Presbyterian Church”

3) NO INSTRUCTION

But take it to it’s logical conclusion:

We shouldn’t use cars to church because Jesus walked or rode on a donkey.

Men shouldn’t wear pants or shoes because Jesus wore a robe and sandals.

We shouldn’t sit on chairs either or use PA systems or heaters and fans either – there’s no Scriptural directive for this.

We shouldn’t have tea and biscuits after the meeting either – where are we commanded to do this?

We should also start greeting each other by kissing, because the Bible mentions only this (Romans 16:16) and not shaking hands or hugging.

3) NO INSTRUCTION

Thus, while many Calvinist and Presbyterian reformers found fault with Christmas, Luther and other reformers, did not. Luther only discarded human traditions and teachings which directly contradict Scripture. The doctrines of men were only problematic for Luther when they made matters of conscience out of things that were not articles of faith, such as food, clothing, and days.

We do not condemn the doctrines of men just because they are the doctrines of men… But we condemn them because they are contrary to the gospel and the Scriptures. While the Scriptures liberate consciences and forbid that they be taken captive by the doctrines of men, these doctrines of men captivate the conscience anyhow. 1

1 A Reply to the Texts, LW 35:153; WA 10II:91

3) NO INSTRUCTION

While it is true that there is no instruction in the Bible to celebrate the Lord’s birthday, it is untrue that there is no Scriptural precedent.

The shepherds celebrated the Lord’s birth. In fact they were explicitly told by an angel the details of Jesus’ birthplace. If Jesus’ birth was unimportant why did the angel bother?

Luke 2:10-20 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.

This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” … The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God

The very angels celebrated the birth of our Lord with worship and song.

Luke 2:13-14 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.”

Heb 1:6 And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.”

If angels celebrated Jesus’ birth, why should it be sinful for us to do the same?

Matt 2:11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.

Matt 2:1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

The Magi travelled all the way from the east to celebrate the Lord’s birth with worship and to give presents to the child Jesus.

This ministry is not an attempt to prove conclusively that 25th Dec is the birth date of Christ.

Rather it shows that the claims that 25th Dec is a holiday borrowed from pagans are baseless and false and that the “evidence” submitted by those who make these claims would not hold up in any modern court of law.

It also shows that the 25th Dec is not a sinister invention of a 4th century pope or emperor, but dates back to at least the 2nd century AD.

We have also seen that the association of the Christmas tradition with a pagan celebration was an invention of an infamous apostate from the church - in one of his attempts to destroy the newly-legalised Roman church and to elevate the status of paganism.

CONCLUSION

Q: So in conclusion, should we celebrate Christmas?

A: Like the question that troubled the early church about meat offered to idols, it falls into the category of questions of conscience.

We are free to do so, provided we keep the focus on Jesus’ birth. We also shouldn’t condemn those who prefer to refrain based on their association (whether valid or not) of Christmas with pagan festivities.

Likewise those who refrain shouldn’t self-righteously judge the man who exercises his Christian liberty in this regard. As the saying goes: “IN ESSENTIALS, UNITY; IN NON-ESSENTIALS, LIBERTY; IN ALL THINGS, CHARITY.”

CONCLUSION

COPYRIGHT INFORMATION

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations are taken from the NIV:

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)




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