Ten Arguments For Christmas

Ten Arguments for Christmas
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go… Your heart is all aglow with the yearly tradition of putting up the Christmas tree, affixing the star or angel on top, taking a step back to admire your job well done, raising a cup of hot cocoa to your mouth and glancing at social media to see all the truly reformed start their yearly tradition of arguing that Christmas is only for pagans and papists.   

I spent a couple years wrestling with the arguments against celebrating Christmas put forth by some in the reformed world so that you don’t have to have put together ten quick arguments for celebrating Christmas (and other evangelical feasts). I hope they will help you come to a better appreciation and a cleaner conscience on celebrating Christmas this year.    

1. The Church has been commanded to teach all that Christ commands[i]. The Church must teach the whole council of God. Seeing how this impossible to do all at one time, the Church also has the authority to decide what parts of scripture and when those parts may be taught. Reformed Christians practice this weekly as the Pastor/elders decide what will be preached. There is no biblical reason for why the Church would be forbidden to teach a certain truth at the same time each year. This falls clearly within the authority and liberty of the Church to do. Those who would forbid the Church teaching the nativity once a year have created an unbiblical rule that binds the liberty of the Church[ii].

2. While the Lord’s Day is the only day set aside by Christ’s mandate for worship, the Church may still gather to worship and to have instruction on other days. The early church met together daily.[iii] Reformed churches often set aside Wednesday for some kind of weekly religious gathering be it bible study or prayer meeting. If these churches have the authority to set a part a Wednesday evening for worship than they could set apart a time once a year to teach the incarnation of Christ.

3. The Bible has several examples of God’s people responding to God’s work with times of thanksgiving and times of fasting. The Westminster confession of faith says that days of fasting or of thanksgiving are permitted.[iv] One of the proof texts given was the celebration of Purim.[v] This was a feast created by Mordecai after the Jews were delivered from their enemies in the book of Esther. This was not a part of the feasts and festivals given in the law through Moses. There is no description of Mordecai being told directly by God to establish this feast. Some might say that since this is found in scripture, Mordecai was inspired by the Holy Spirit to create this feast. This would beg the question. When asked to provide an example of a non-inspired celebration found in scripture, no matter what one would point to, the same argument could be made. 

But we do have even a better example of a nonlaw yearly celebration that finds its origin not in scripture but yet was celebrated in the time of Christ. John 10:22-23 “At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon.” The scriptures make it clear that Jesus was in the temple during Hanukkah. Hanukkah or the Feast of Dedication was created in response to events that happened during the intertestamental period. Its creation is extrabiblical and yet Christ is found in the temple during its celebration. Surely if the Jews could celebrate God’s deliverance during the time of Maccabees than the Church can praise God and give thanks for his act of deliverance of all mankind in sending Christ.

4. Holidays vs Holy Days: Part of the argument against celebrating Christmas is that only the Lord can make a day Holy. This is an argument against the Roman Catholic system of merit in which the keeping of certain days can merit grace.  As a reformed Christian, I wholeheartedly oppose the papist abuses of justification and sanctification along with their superstition. I also am opposed to any idea of meriting righteousness by keeping a certain day created by the Church. I don’t know of any Protestant Christian who celebrates Christmas that would hold to a Roman Catholic system of merits. Francis Turretin, a reformed scholar, pointed out how those charging their reformed brothers who celebrate the evangelical feast days by using attacks against Rome were out of line and were attacking a straw man.[vi] A reformed church can teach and praise God for the incarnation of Christ without creating a system of merit or of attempting to usurp the Lord’s day. 

5. Our highest standard is scripture. The truths of Christmas that is the truth of Christ’s birth in a manger to the Virgin Mary is from scripture. And it is integral to our Christian faith. The great creeds of the faith which summarize biblical teaching all highlight Christs conception by the Holy Spirit and birth to the virgin Mary. The Scriptures command the church to teach these truths.

6. Speaking of creeds, the history of the church shows that celebrating Christmas and Easter go way back to the early days of the church. While scripture is our highest authority, the history of the Church should not be easily tossed aside. The Church throughout all its branches has had those who celebrate Christmas. This includes the Protestant reformers. Yes, there were those protestants who reacted to the abuses of the Church and therefore did not keep Christmas. We would do good to heed their warnings about abuses but many of their reasons for opposition to Christmas are limited to their context. Furthermore, there were faithful reformed brethren who kept the evangelical feast days.[vii] [viii]Calvin’s Geneva was one such place.

7. Colossians 2:16-17 says “Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— 17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.”  Romans 14: 5-6 says “One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.”

We ought to have Christian charity for those who differ with us on these respects. This also means that the Church which has a gathering for Christmas should be sure to leave this voluntary. Our reformed brothers whose conscience will not allow them to celebrate Christmas should not be shamed by those who do. And vice versa. Now this does not mean that the one with the weaker conscience can exercise tyranny over the Church and demand that it not teach on biblical truths at certain times of the year. Nor should they demand that their church cancel Christmas singalongs or other events they may schedule. But the church also should be careful not to treat as second-class citizens those who do not participate.
 
8. Our culture celebrates Christmas. We don’t take our cues on what is right or wrong from the culture but sometimes by God’s common grace, the broader culture’s exercises afford us opportunities to share important gospel truths.[ix] I don’t believe that the church should pass up the opportunity afforded us by God to preach the gospel during these times. Christians should use this time of year to be beacons of light. We can preach both against the materialism and greed of our culture while showcasing the glorious truth of Christ’s incarnation.
 
9. But some might say Christmas has the word mass in it so surely it is an antichrist popish thing. The word mass was used to describe the Lord’s supper from an early time in Church history. The word itself comes from the words used to dismiss the congregation. In latin it was ite, missa est (“Go, it is the sending.). The people are sent out after gathering for worship to be salt and light. The word came to take on the meaning of missions. The people gather to receive from the Lord and then are sent to go on mission. Eventually it became the name for the entire service and is most associated with the Roman Catholic service, though the Lutherans use the name as well. The point I am making is that to say Christmas does not necessitate that one is speaking of the Roman Catholic abuses. The use of the word mass goes back to the 6th century or earlier. There is no need for Christians to immediately give to the Papists the history of the church. Nor should we let the etymology of the word Christmas be used to dismiss what protestant reformed Christians do when they celebrate Christmas. We are not papists and when I say Merry Christmas I do not have the false teaching of Roman Mass in mind.

10. But what about the pagans? They were defeated and Christ reigns. Nothing a reformed Christian celebrates about Christmas is pagan. Furthermore, the claims that Christian traditions have pagan origins are mostly myths with no historical merit.[x] But speaking of pagans, it is always a blessing to me to hear the pagans belting out "fall on your knees" before the Christ through all the loud speakers in Walmart and everywhere else. Even the enemies of God feign praise to him the bible says.

[i] Matthew 28:20
[ii] Those who argue against Christmas often do so from the regulative principle.  Westminster Confession of Faith 20:4 states: “the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture.”  The Westminster Confession of Faith 21:5 gives the required elements of worship: “The reading of Scriptures with godly fear; the sound preaching, and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God, with understanding, faith, and reverence; singing of Psalms with grace in the heart; as also, the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ; are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God: besides religious oaths, vows, solemn fastings, and thanksgivings upon special occasions, which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner.”  Notice however that the content of the preaching, singing, and prayers must be biblical but nothing else is said about the timing of that content.  Therefore as argued above, the Church is free to decide what biblical content and when it may teach, preach, and sing about it. The regulative principle then need not forbid Christmas.
[iii] Acts 2:46
[iv] WCF 31:5 “solemn fastings, and thanksgivings upon special occasions, which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner”
[v] Esther 9:26
[vi] Turrettini François. Essay. In Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 100–104. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publ., 1994. “Hence we cannot approve of the rigid judgment of those who charge such churches with idolatry (in which those days are still kept, the names of the saints being retained), since they agree with us in doctrine concerning the worship of God alone and detest the idolatry of the papists.”
[vii] “The Festivals of Christ and the Saints. Moreover, if in Christian Liberty the churches religiously celebrate the memory of the Lord’s nativity, circumcision, passion, resurrection, and of his ascension into heaven, and the sending of the Holy Spirit upon his disciples, we approve of it highly” The Second Helvetic Confession (1566)
[viii] Souman, Anthon. “Synod of Dort on Ecclesiastical Feast Days.” Reformed News, December 17, 2020. https://www.reformednews.info/2020/04/03/synod-of-dort-on-ecclesiastical-feast-days/.
[ix] The Apostle Paul on Mars Hill in Acts 17 is an example of a Christian using the cultural practices of the Romans to preach the gospel and confront sin. In this case, the Apostle Paul was confronting an inherently sinful practice of idolatry and so comparisons to Christmas break down but the principle of taking advantage of cultural occasions to preach the gospel is still instructive.  
[x] Lattier, Daniel. “The Myth of the Pagan Origins of Christmas.” Intellectual Takeout, November 24, 2017. https://www.intellectualtakeout.org/blog/myth-pagan-origins-christmas/.

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