Religious/Secular Observance of Christmas



By Louis Rushmore

The so-called Christmas festival was introduced by the Roman Catholic Church in the middle of the fourth century. As such, Christmas is over three hundred years too young to be associated with the church about which we read in the New Testament. Therefore, besides its absence from the pages of inspiration, Christmas owes its origin to man and not God. God never authorized a religious observance called Christmas.

A simple dictionary definition of "Christmas" reads: "a Christian feast on December 25 or among some Eastern Orthodox on January 7 that commemorates the birth of Christ and is usually observed as a legal holiday" [Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, (Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, Incorporated) 1993.] Originally, Christmas was associated exclusively with commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ. While one's motives to religiously celebrate the birth of Christ may be honorable, nevertheless, the Bible does not impose or even authorize a religious observance of the birth of Christ. We are obligated, though, to commemorate the death of Christ in the Lord's Supper (communion) (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). The birth of Christ, biblically, remains among the facts of the life and ministry of Jesus.

Therefore, those who conscientiously endeavor to practice primitive, book-chapter-and-verse Christianity will neither approve nor practice a religious festival not authorized by God's Word, including Christmas. We are bound to seek authority for everything we do religiously. "And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him" (Colossians 3:17). As in the expression, "in the name of the law" should a policeman arrest our attention with those words, "in the name of the Lord Jesus" means by the authority of. There is no biblical authority for the religious observance of Christmas.

More recently, Christmas has taken on a related but definitely secular side, through the mythical character of Santa Claus, etc. "Santa Claus" is defined as "a plump white-bearded and red-suited old man in modern folklore who delivers presents to good children at Christmastime" [Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, (Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, Incorporated) 1993.] Decidedly, the secular aspect of Christmas enjoys a popularity that often dwarfs the religious perspective of Christmas. This has led to a slogan whereby well-meaning, but misguided persons hope to see secular Christmas 'put in its place' relative to the religious observance of Christmas. The slogan goes something like this: "Jesus is the reason for the season." In truth, Jesus has never been "the reason for the season." The Bible does not associate Jesus Christ with the religious holiday of Christmas and neither ought we.

Christmas is also a "legal holiday." Whether that legal holiday derives from and continues relative to religious Christmas or the competing parallel secular Christmas, December 25 is nevertheless a national, legal holiday. I am unaware of any evil that incurs from enjoying that day off with my family. I am unaware of any evil that incurs for the workingman who may be granted that day off from work with pay or who may receive a bonus from his employer.

Personally, I find the gentler disposition of the season overall agreeable and wish people exhibited similar courtesies throughout the year. I don't object to receiving or giving gifts at any time of the year in a secular setting (i.e., birthdays, Santa Claus or Christmastime, anniversaries and just whenever we want to) under social rather than religious circumstances. Certainly, the family of God, regarding our social interaction outside of the assembly, could well and often does fall within our circle of friends among whom we spend time together and may exchange gifts.

Christians, though, ought to observe some clear distinctions between religious Christmas and secular Christmas. We, further, ought to use caution regarding how and where we practice secular Christmas or otherwise enjoy our national, legal holiday. From a purely biblical perspective, religious Christmas has no place in our religious assemblies or in our homes. While nativity scenes (most are flawed with the presence of the wise men) and an emphasis on the birth of Christ in December are not sinful, both may blur that distinction. Though we might take Santa home with us, he has no place in our assemblies.

Religious Christmas does not belong in our assemblies because it is not authorized! Secular Christmas does not belong in our assemblies because it is not authorized! Beyond that, we may need to recognize as a matter of judgment the degree to which secular Christmas and national holidays may be reflected in our homes and social interaction in the family of God. Mankind is given to extremes left and right, much and little, both of which are usually counterproductive.

Brother Rushmore is an Instructor at the
West Virginia School of Preaching and is
the Publisher of the Gospel Gazette online.
Visit their site: Gospel Gazette


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