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About Christmas

by R H Boll

Reprint from December 1950 Word & Work Magazine.

 

     At the turn of the year, reminders come in press and pulpit that “Christmas” is not a feast which Christians should celebrate. It is not only not the anniversary of Christ’s birth (the day and date of which is unknown) but it gets its authority from Rome – yea, think of that, the Greek and Roman Christianity derived the celebration of the yule-feast from pagan customs (as also the case with “Easter:’). Moreover the observance of religious feasts and holidays belong to the Old Testament order, not to the gospel dispensation, to religion of the law, not to that of the Spirit.

All of which is true. But there is also more to he said about the matter.

  1. It is true that Christians- those who hold to the simplicity of the New Testament word – do not observe religious feasts, holy days and festivals (Col. 2: 16, 17) . Nor will they fall in with any of the errors of a corrupt Christendom. We recognize no holy days (Gal. 4:10). However, on the human and social side, we are free to have holidays, when there is time and occasion for it. Our separation from the world does not demand that we oppose and  repudiate any and every thing the world does, just because the world does it. In fact, it is of the spirit of the enlightened Christian to adapt and adjust himself to human ways and customs, in so far as he can do so without sacrifice of principle. This is the “all means” by which we may even “save some” (1 Cor. 9: 19-22). Though the Christian is “not of the world” and separated from the world, that fact does not necessitate his being “odd” or “contrary” in his attitude toward human affairs.
  2. Now “Christmas” is indeed a religious holy day, observed and celebrated as such by the Greek and Roman communions, and by most of the denominations of Christendom. As such we have nothing to do with it. All our days are holy unto the Lord, and we have no days of special worship, except that on the “first day of the week,” the disciples meet together to break bread (Acts 20:7). But to the world at large, the Christmas holidays are generally just holidays – times of feasting, of merry-making, of remembering friends, of giving gifts – a break in the drab monotony of life, a release from workaday toil and care, if but for a brief moment. Humanity needs such seasons; and it is good, so long as all is done in decency. In such festivity Christians may engage, even as the Lord attended the marriage feast in Cana.
  3. The fact that Christ’s birth is specially remembered and brought into prominence at this special time, is not at all bad in itself. We can remember the fact of Christ’s birth and think on it at any time and need not refuse to do so on this day, even though some perversions have been connected with it by some parties and in some quarters. Personally, I should be glad to have all people think of that great event when God gave His only begotten Son, and the Word became flesh – at this time at least, if they will at no other. I would not discourage that. Nor would it be wrong for a preacher or teacher to take advantage of the situation and to use the general interest to teach on the theme of Christ’s birth, while the minds of the populace may be more than ordinarily receptive to such teaching. All this, it would seem, a faithful Christian can do, without entering into complicity with any unscriptural ceremonial feast of Christmas celebrations.
  4. As for “Christmas” dating back to heathen feasts – it is of no concern to those who do not celebrate it as such. Other of our social customs have sprung from pagan times; but the idolatrous meaning of them has long since been forgotten, and we certainly do not mean to commemorate those. The Seventh·Dayists have made much of the fact that Sunday was in pagan Rome dies solis- “the day of the sun.” What of it? What is that to a Christian? Thus Monday was the day of the moon; Tuesday the day of Zeus, ‘Wednesday is Wodan’s Day; Thursday, Thor’s; Friday of the goddess Freya; and Saturday (worst of all) the day of Saturn!

     Who knows or cares? And if Yule-tide had its origin with the ancient Druids and the Christmas tree was once a heathen emblem, it has not even a shadow of such meaning and import for anyone today. So let us keep the distinction between an unscriptural religious “holy day” and the holiday of national goodwill and rejoicing; and rejoice with those who rejoice as we weep with those who weep. And at this evil time there may be occasions for weeping, more than for holiday-rejoicings.

                                                    –R. H. Boll, from December 1950 Word and Work

 




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The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:10