“The Link” – December 2017: Is it wrong to celebrate Christmas?

Brothers and Sisters,

Each Christmas season, we focus upon the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Now, some Christian traditions do not celebrate Christmas, claiming, for example, that the Bible does not tell us to celebrate the birth of Christ, so we should not. Further, they argue that 25 December was not the day that Jesus was born. Biblical and historical evidence are clear on this matter. So, on those two main grounds, they see the celebration of Christmas as wrong. But, is it wrong to celebrate the birth of Christ?

Well, the majority of Christendom has celebrated it since the time of Emperor Constantine. The first Christmas was celebrated on December 25, 336. A few years later, the Pope, Julius I, made it an official celebration. This date had the distinction of being the day of celebration for a few pagan holidays, but the Pope, by making the 25th of December the official day to celebrate Christ’s birth, reshaped the culture in a permanent way. The Pope’s re-designation and re-focus was a positive move for Christians. Now, while the rest of the culture was celebrating their false gods, Christians had a focal point of celebration to outshine the paganism in their culture, centering their hearts and minds upon the incarnation of the Savior, Jesus Christ.

Remembrance has a long biblical history. The Lord repeatedly designated things to be done for a remembrance of some great deed of God. You find this, for example, in the Passover, the Feast of Booths, the piling up of rocks, and the Lord’s Supper. So, we see that remembering the deeds of God is a positive thing. While the Lord did not command a day to be set and celebrated in remembering the birth of Jesus, there is biblical precedent for remembering what the Lord has done for his people.

Some have expressed concern that that Christmas violates the command of Deuteronomy 12:32, “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it [God’s command] or take from it [God’s command].” Yet, who is saying that celebrating Christmas is a command of God? It is not.

The celebration of Christmas is also not a violation of the regulative principle of worship, as some have challenged. The Westminster Confession of Faith states in 20:4:

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 regulative principle is directed towards public worship of the Lord, and it prohibits the addition of religious elements that have not been commanded by God. For our public worship, the celebration of Christmas involves the reading of the Scriptures, the singing of hymns and spiritual songs, and lifting up prayers of thanksgiving and praise to the Lord. All of these elements are instituted in the Scriptures, and so, as we celebrate, we worship as the Lord has willed. Indeed, there is nothing at all wrong with the people of God celebrating the Lord in remembrance of the incarnation, worshipping him to his glory. We do this throughout the year.

While our Christmas Eve service falls on Sunday, this year, it is absolutely permissible to publically and privately worship the Lord on days other than the Sabbath. Here at MPC, at the Christmas Eve service, the intended focus of our worship will be upon the Lord, in celebration of the birth of Christ. For Christmas Day, I encourage you to do the same in your private household worship. Resist the cultural emphasis on materialism. Remember what Linus said in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” after quoting from Luke 2? “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” Read in the Scriptures the good news of Jesus’ birth! Ponder the wondrous love of the Lord, who loves us so much he became one of us, in order to save us. Spend time in prayer, and, if you are inclined, sing some Christmas songs!

Now, I’m not saying don’t sit around the Christmas tree in your pajamas and robe that morning opening presents having a good time. If that is your tradition, enjoy it in love, joy, and peace, with the Lord at the center of your joy!

Merry Christmas!