Christians Against Christmas-GA, November 2009

I feel a little more emotional about this one because it involves people forbidding worship.  I can understand concerns about how to worship but can’t relate to issues of when.

I do understand that there are degrees, while some are against singing “Happy Birthday, Jesus” with a full-scale pageant, others would be okay with simply preaching on the incarnation in December.

Barry Baggott, in his article, “‘Tis the Season” gives these reasons not to celebrate Christmas:

We are not told to do so

Do we need to be told to worship Jesus?  I understand he is dealing with specifics.  We were not told to emphasize the birth/incarnation on December 25th or on any particular day.  But why does that exclude doing what we are expected/commanded to do whenever we do it.  Just because some are doing it annually, why must we refrain at that particular moment?

Couldn’t the “expediency” argument enter in here?

We have no Apostolic Example

(see above)  We have examples for worshipping Jesus.  Where does the Bible teach that it is right sometimes and wrong sometimes?

This section which includes the Reformation leaders reaction to Catholicism many holy days.

We are following human tradition

The root of this concept bothers me:  “We shouldn’t do something because the denominations do it.”  We talk big about having the Bible as our only guide, yet so much of our teaching/practice seems to be based on not being like the denominations, or reactionary as some of you commenters have pointed out.  Baggott refers to “the world” but means denominations, I assume.

Here is a general truism that we have to learn:

Something is not wrong just because the Baptists do it.

I have a hard time understanding and accepting this reasoning, can some one help me out?

“Another argument one hears is simply: ‘the birth of Christ is in the Bible, so that means celebrating Christmas is biblical.’  That same line of reasoning would allow one to say that “the Bible tells about the virgin Mary, so that means it is biblical to pray to her.’

There is no example of praying to Mary.  There are numerous examples of worshipping Baby Jesus.

So, I am among those who feel that Matthew 2:10-11 and Luke 2 are example enough to make a big deal about the incarnation, whether that is in December or any other time of the year.  I don’t understand why it is wrong on any given day. It’s the refraining that I can’t comprehend.

Then, Brother Baggott deals with Romans chapter 14.

His first point suggests that while the context talks about Jewish holy days (agreed) there can be no application to future Christian holy days (why not?).  off topic–More irony here is that wine comes up again as a matter of opinion in chapter 14.

His second point is that Romans 14 deals with personal/private matters and not assemblies/congregational matters.    He concedes that an individual Christian can observe such a holiday as Christmas and Easter but it becomes wrong when a church does it because it will be forced on others.

Okay, but….what about congregational autonomy?  There are some congregations in which no one has a problem with it.

We have an area-wide singing each December that is not intended to be a Holiday/Christmas program, but a time for fellowship and worship.  We do usually sing a few nativity hymns, as well as hymns dealing with every part of Jesus’ life.  Some don’t come.  Some accuse us or assume it is a “traditional” Christmas program.   They miss out.  That’s okay.  No one is forced to come.

We received a phone call the first December we lived here from a small, conservative group of brethren who are near us.  I had unknowingly sent them a flier/invite to our singing fellowship.  Unfortunately, my wife picked up the phone that day and received a tirade about our “Christmas program.”

I will never understand Christians being mad about other Christians worshipping Jesus at the “wrong time”.

—————————–

Questions I would like answered:

When–what months–is it okay to “celebrate” the birth of Jesus?

By celebrate, I simply mean sing the hymns, study the texts, meditate on implications, be in awe at what God and Jesus have done.

Would it be okay to focus on the birth every July?

Is it okay to do it regularly, just not on the same day or month every year so that people won’t think we have made it a holiday?

If you are against focusing on the birth of Jesus the same time of each year, do you participate in Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Thanksgiving themed services annually?

I intend no sarcasm or mean-spiritedness in these questions.  I realize the questions and my blogging habits might confuse, but I sincerely would like to hear more than a couple of passages such as Galatians 4:10-11 to condemn this practice.

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18 thoughts on “Christians Against Christmas-GA, November 2009

  1. I truly believe that most of our “contenders” of the faith are running on fear of other groups and are not contending for Jesus. Some media/publication outlets in the coc merely exist just to refute others, they in no way, are promoting Jesus.
    I celebrate all holidays, Christian or not with my community regardless of denominatinal affiliation or whaterver you want to call it. But it is an issue with some and it is our resp. to act in love and treat one another with love and respect.
    Great post Bro. Interesting thoughts!

  2. nick gill

    I’m currently reading The Liturgical Year by Joan Chittister, from the Ancient Practices series, and I’m simply aghast at how much misinformation is spread among “us” about these matters. Thank you for praying for freedom in Christ and challenging the status quo.

  3. Jeff

    Amazing. Just another example of how the GA has become tradition-based (not Bible-based) and irrelevant. Very sad.

  4. I used to like to lead Christmas songs in July. People who don’t want them sung in December think it strange when you lead them in July. I would expect the opposite to be true.

    I don’t like treating Christmas as a holier-than-others day. But I strongly believe in taking advantage of a time of the year when many are thinking about the Christ and his incarnation.

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  5. In my opinion, this is yet another reason why the celebration of Christmas should be left to individuals where (I believe) Romans places it. Involving the congregations in things like this greatly complicates what should be a very simple and personal decision for people to make.

    “Okay, but….what about congregational autonomy? There are some congregations in which no one has a problem with it.”

    “We have an area-wide singing each December that is not intended to be a Holiday/Christmas program, but a time for fellowship and worship. We do usually sing a few nativity hymns, as well as hymns dealing with every part of Jesus’ life. Some don’t come. Some accuse us or assume it is a “traditional” Christmas program. They miss out. That’s okay. No one is forced to come”

    Respectfully, I believe these two statements are at odds. This type of singing risks excluding those who wish to gather and worship with their brothers and sisters at every opportunity. Their congregation is participating in an activity (as a congregation) which others deem questionable or forbidden. While it’s true that no one is forcing the objectors to participate, the non-objectors are forcing objectors to make a choice to not participate with their congregation in an activity which is being deemed fellowship and worship.

    Even in a situation where a congregation believes everyone to be in agreement on the subject, I would posit that there is truly no way to know for sure who is merely compromising for fear of confrontation. Is it worth the division and argument for a congregation to specifically celebrate a day which is not mentioned in the scriptures? I know that I would not want to risk stressing the relationship with my brothers and sister in Christ for that.

    At times, it seems as though Christians will pull Christmas Day, specifically, into the churches merely to upset the “status quo” and assert a feeling of liberation where it seems they could do a better job of worshiping Jesus by preaching, teaching, or talking about the subject during the rest of the year. I’m not accusing anyone of doing that – just expressing how it sometimes appears to me.

    In Christian love.

  6. I’m with you and everyone else on this… It makes NO sense to me for to have my kids singing “Frosty” when other kids are singing “Away in a manger.”

    I’m excited that the world takes time to talk about the birth of Christ in December, and I’m going to do it too.

  7. brian

    thanks for comments guys. i have been away from computer all day.
    my apologies to Alan who commented early but was held up cuz I couldn’t check it.

    btw–our singing fellowship is not a “Christmas” program.
    If Christians don’t want to sing 3-4 songs about the birth of Jesus in the month of december, that’s very sad.

    is there a difference in celebrating a day and celebrating an event?
    I am not necessarily for singing Happy Birthday Jesus on Dec 25th. but neither will I avoid a topic so important just because of the calendar.

  8. I’m with you. I thought I was brought up rather conservatively, but I am learning more and more that my parents were actually fairly progressive. 😉 Okay, maybe not so much progressive as not-traditional-just-’cause.

    We have at least one song leader who occasionally leads a “Christmas” song at other times of the year. I like it. I like singing Christmas songs at Christmas time too, though. And, as far as I can tell, it doesn’t seem to bother many people. Like Allan said, it is hard to tell. But we do have a congregation that doesn’t pay much attention to what other congregations say we should or shouldn’t do.

  9. brian

    Allan
    You also seem to be applying roms 14 to a congregational setting.
    Romans 14 is great but we all have trouble applying it. I doubt you believe that practice and/or doctrine in a local church should be controlled by the weak minority, instead of by the elders??

  10. What I’m saying is that we know we are taught to defer to one another – to view one another as more important than ourselves and to seek after unity in Christ. I honestly don’t see how forcing those who believe it is wrong or questionable to participate in Christmas, simply because we may believe it’s allowable, to participate in it during a worship assembly. I do not see how that is “pursu[ing] the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.”

    Does leaving Christmas out of the assembly “tear down the work of God” within one who celebrates Christmas day or does it place a “stumbling block” in his/her way? If it does, I don’t see how.

    Does pulling Christmas into the worship assembly “make for peace” within those who object to its celebration? Why not merely hold to the scriptures in the assembly? Where is the need to bring in a potential stumbling block to some or many for the sake of…I’m not sure what. Perhaps that’s what I don’t see about your position.

    As to tradition being an enemy in this…I don’t see how holding to the tradition of leaving Christmas day (specifically) out of doctrine and the assembly could be any more “wrong” than bringing Christmas into the assembly and forcing it on brothers and sisters in Christ.

    Pray that some day I’ll have the intelligence to be succinct!
    🙂

  11. brian

    here is part of my reasoning about reasoning.

    how does singing some nativity hymns, or reading luke 2 constitute, equal celebrating Christmas as a unauthorized holy day??

    I don’t understand that connection.

    for allan, (i am enjoying the conversation)
    if a member came to your church that believe it was wrong to use multiple cups or support orphans homes out of the treasury, would you defer to that brother/sister out of love?

  12. In seventh grade I was given a wonderful opportunity to share my faith with almost everyone I knew, when the school newspaper interviewed me. The one question I was asked: “What does Christmas mean to you.” I thought about it, and went off into how much I enjoyed being able to celebrate Jesus’ birth, and how he had changed my life, and is the answer to the world’s problems — and how I thought Christmas is a great opportunity for Christians to both celebrate and witness to others about our Lord and savior.

    When the paper came out later that week, I had it already in hand as I walked from the bus to my house — so that I could show my mother what a great job I’d done, and how I’d not been afraid to share my faith in front of everyone.

    Instead I received a 15-minute lecture on why we don’t celebrate Jesus at Christmas, from a very distraught mother who couldn’t believe how her son had turned out this way. But don’t worry — I was baptized the following April, after getting all of that Christmas nonsense out of my system.

    What’s funny is I’d never before noticed that our family and church didn’t celebrate Christmas like everyone else. Apparently I wasn’t a very alert kid…

  13. Allan

    Know that I’m not here to force the issue or make trouble. I’m mainly just curious and wanted to hear answers to some points. Again, I apologize in advance for my wordiness…

    “how does singing some nativity hymns, or reading luke 2 constitute, equal celebrating Christmas as a unauthorized holy day??” It doesn’t.

    It’s that Christians often want to suddenly begin singing Christmas hymns around Christmas week after 50 weeks of silence. Then when a question is made about it, the usual arguments are often made. Why aren’t those songs sung/scriptures read during any of the other days of the year when Catholics DIDN’T (<– mere emphasis, not anger) hijack a pagan holiday and call it Jesus' birthday? Why, at the risk of upsetting peace among brothers and sisters, is a case being made around Dec. 25?

    "if a member came to your church that believe[d] it was wrong to use multiple cups or support orphans homes out of the treasury, would you defer to that brother/sister out of love?"

    No, but Christmas isn't mentioned in the scriptures, much less as an act of assembly worship so I don't think those examples are analogous.

    I get off track…what I'm getting at is that I completely agree with you that congregations are autonomous and that the elders have the authority to decide such things. My question is why Christians would want to risk alienating brothers and sisters in Christ over something so petty (IMO) as a Catholic/pagan holiday ("holy day") – one which is not mentioned in the scriptures. Again – I'm not condemning celebrating the holiday outside of the assembly.

    What good am I missing or not seeing about this holiday that is worth upsetting people? In the examples you gave, at least the case in support will be made from the standpoint that those acts are scriptural and the question is how to specifically perform them.

  14. brian

    thanks for sharing allan, that’s why I posted this, to create dialogue so we can all learn and understand each other’s ideas better. no need to apologize.

    I agree that it’s a shame to only focus on the birth in Dec or only the resurrection in Spring.

    I just believe that while we shouldn’t go to extremes, there is never a bad time to discuss any aspect/part of the Life of Jesus and story of God.

    I really am not supporting a celebration of Christmas, just the freedom/opportunity for a given preacher or church to preach/sing about it whenever they choose.

    Christmas isn’t mentioned, but the birth of Jesus is.
    and I don’t see how the Bible teaches (by silence or otherwise) that it would be wrong to talk about the birth, etc. at any given point.

    I Don’t want to follow the religious culture:
    either by doing exactly what they do
    or by reacting solely to them and not doing what they do.

    I want to follow the Bible. I understand being sensitive to brethren who believe it wrong to sing joy to the world within 3 months of dec 25th, but I think the brethren need to be loved and tolerated and taught, but not allowed to control the church.

    james, thanks for commenting,
    I thought you were gonna say you shared your faith by telling everyone it is wrong to talk about the birth in Dec.

  15. brian

    i understand your concern for caution biblically and relationally, but while your argument is “Why?”

    mine is not “Why not? but How can we not talk about something so amazing and wonderful.
    Jeremiah 20: 9 and Acts 4:20.
    It’s too wonderful to keep silent.

    I have another post coming up friday, don’t take it personal, because I wrote it and scheduled it a week ago, before I even wrote this original post.
    just another way to look at it

  16. There are people reflecting on, and talking about, God in the month of December, who probably only breech the topic once or twice in all the remainder of the year. They are opening up their lives, with their own language and conversation, to the Holy Spirit — just because culture says that’s what we do at Christmas. They tell their kids about Jesus, and even assemble with his disciples in December. They question what’s really important in life, and they focus on their families, if even for only a short time. They are all but begging for the Holy Spirit to draw them toward the Father.

    What an opportunity?! I just can’t see how it’s the better option to keep our mouths shut during such a pivotal time in the lives of many. And to not only remain silent about Christ’s birth, but to refuse to celebrate it with them — and then some of us even campaign to convince them (and one another) that we shouldn’t be observing it in the first place. We should be praising God for fields ready to harvest, for minds open to his words, and for eyes that, for once, might be alert to what it looks like to live in God’s kingdom.

    I don’t mean any harm in my statements, and I hope I don’t come across as rude, but try as I might, I can’t think of any good reasons to take this stance. I would name the only reasons of which I can think, but I’m afraid it would sound harsh and hateful. And that really is not my purpose.

  17. Trey Morgan

    I’m preaching a 3 part series of lessons on Christmas this year. All the lessons will come from Luke 2. This may be the first time that has ever happened in our building… I’m thrilled to see some old traditions being done away with.

  18. Allan

    Been very busy (like everyone else) lately. Just letting you all know I’ve read and appreciate your comments/responses.

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