Christmas and Conscience



Dear Friends,

After becoming a Reformed Christian approximately 15 years ago, I began struggling with what to do about Christmas. Some of you might also be coming to the realization that December 25th is not the actual birth date of Christ, nor are we commanded to observe it. My hope is to direct you to balanced resources that will help you decide how you want to participate in this "holiday."

This morning I came across the recent article "Holidays and Holy Days (Part 2) by Michael LeFebvre, Pastor of Christ Church in Brownsburg, Indiana, which is posted at the blog Gentle Reformation.

Dr. LeFebvre is Reformed Presbyterian and presents the traditional Protestant view of observing the church calendar, while leaving room for Christian liberty. I think he presents a Biblical and balanced viewpoint of the observance of Christmas and other "holidays" our society observes.  I sincerely hope you will be blessed by his words of wisdom as you work through your understanding of what Scripture teaches regarding the observance of "Holidays and Holy Days."

I found three articles by Dr. Michael LeFebvre posted at Gentle Reformation regarding Christmas and will repost excerpts, plus the links below.

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Holidays and Holy Days

Published 12.03.2012

Christmas is just a few weeks off. Most churches have Christmas trees up by now, and many ministers started their Advent sermon series this past weekend. Christmas–like Easter and the other holy days of the Christian calendar–has been so widely embraced by protestant churches, that not to incorporate them into the church worship schedule seems either strange or downright block headed.

I am one of those pastors who still believes the church should not include these holidays in the worship calendar. But I also don’t want to maintain that distinction in stubbornness or merely out of fondness for “old style presbyterianism.” So, I thought I’d take a couple of paragraphs–speaking for myself at least–to explain why I still believe this is a matter of biblical conviction.

First of all, there is one religious calendar that goes all the way back to the creation: the weekly religious calendar. God appointed the sabbath day as a religious day to be observed weekly. The Ten Commandments reaffirm that this weekly day of worship sets the cadence of life for God’s people. The New Testament also continues to call us to weekly sabbath (or, Lord’s Day) worship (more on this, later). The weekly religious calendar is biblical, and continues in force.

The annual religious calendar is also biblical in its origin. The annual calendar was not instituted at creation, but it was added with the Levitical Laws at Sinai. There were seven holy days originally instituted in Israel’s yearly calendar (Lev. 23). Three of those festivals involved mandatory pilgrimages to the Temple: Passover, Pentecost, and Booths (Deut. 16).

All of these holy days–the weekly sabbath and the annual festivals–were anticipatory celebrations. Even though they each looked back to a day that demonstrated something about the saving work of God, they also looked forward to the fulfillment of that great work. The sabbath looked back to God’s rest after creation; it also looks forward to creation’s rest after consummation. The Passover looked back to the lambs slaughtered so that Israel could escape Egypt; it also looked forward to the Lamb of God who would, once and for all, truly deliver God’s people from the bondage of sin. The nature of holy days in Scripture is consistently to look back upon an event that demonstrated something about God’s saving work, in order to look forward to the fulfillment of the promise demonstrated.

Continue reading here.

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Holidays and Holy Days (Part 2)

Published 11.30.2017

Several years ago, I wrote a post for Gentle Reformation called “Holidays and Holy Days” (link here). In that article, I described the roots of the Christian Calendar—including holidays like Easter and Christmas—in the Levitical holy days of the Old Testament. The point of that article was to explain why some churches like the RPCNA uphold the Lord’s Day Sabbath (which the New Testament continues to exhort) while not observing extrabiblical holy days like Christmas. The New Testament does not institute Christmas as a holy day, and in fact the Old Testament Levitical festivals (on which the “Christian Calendar” was based) have been discontinued in the New Testament. With due respect for the sincerity with which many hold Advent worship services each December, there is actually significant reason to question the celebration of Christmas as a church holy day.

That being said, there is every good reason to affirm the place of Christmas in the calendar of American, civic holidays. And to celebrate it as a civic holiday (but not a church holy day) along with the other federally appointed American holidays. In this article—as a sequel to that previous post—I want to offer an important biblical example of civic celebration days, and to illustrate their difference from religious holy days.

A helpful example is provided for us in the book of Esther. While the traditional title for this book highlights the role of the story’s heroine—Esther—the real focus of the book is on the origin of an annual day of celebration called “Purim.” At the end of the book’s main narrative and just prior to its epilog, the book reaches its climax with the appointment of Purim as an annual day of celebration (Esther 9:20–32). There are several details about this passage worth our attention as a pattern for civic celebration dates.

First, the day of Purim was not a “holy day.” Many of our English translations use the confusing English word “holiday” for Purim in Esther 9:22. “[Mordecai appointed] the days … that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday” (ESV). The English word “holiday” is a contraction of “holy day.” To call Purim a “holiday” might, therefore, imply that it was a religious festival. However, Purim was not a “holy day,” and the above translation is misleading.

The Hebrew word typically used for Israel’s holy days is not used in Esther 9:22. Israel’s holy days were mo’adim (the holy feast days) on which the people were called for a “holy convocation” to worship (Lev. 23:2). Esther 9:22 uses a different designation for Purim. The Hebrew term translated “holiday” in this text is actually a two word phrase that literally means “a day of goodness” (yom tov). Thus, the term used to describe this celebration distinguishes it from the holy days of Israel. It is not an addition to the calendar of holy feast days (the mo’adim), but a “day of good” or a “day of gladness” (yom tov).

Second, the day of Purim did not include a gathering to worship. Unlike the true “holy days,” Purim was not a day for worship. Instead, it was a day to gather in private homes—and, perhaps, in synagogues or public spaces—to feast and celebrate and remember what God had done for them. It was a day “of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and gifts to the poor” (Esther 9:22). But it was not a day to call the congregation to gather for worship. There was no sacrifice tied to this day. There was no liturgy for this day. It was just a time to feast, give gifts, and rejoice together.

Continue reading here.

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Another interesting article by Dr. Michael LeFebvre also posted at Gentle Reformation is Revisiting the Manger which explores where Christ was probably born.

Other helpful links to articles regarding Christmas that I've posted can also be found here at the Christian Heritage News blog.

Thank you and may the good Lord bless you as you seek to honor Him in all things. Amen.






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