For my Conservative Church of Christ Brethren on this Day of Thanksgiving

I just have some questions and I am not trying to be snarky or rude.

Why is it okay to set aside one day a year to focus on Gratitude and Thanksgiving?

Shouldn’t we be doing this every day?  We have no Biblical Authority for doing so on one day.

This day has its origins in history and human traditions and not the Word of God, which should be the basis for everything we say and do.

The original events were observed by Anglican Separatists and animists and the holiday itself was made official by a US President.

This day is something that the “denominational” world and even unbelievers participate in.  Is it okay for us to follow their example?

I am not looking for a fight (or even a discussion, comments or closed) but whatever response you might give for justifying the celebration of Thanksgiving, just go ahead and apply that to celebrating the birth of Jesus. That’s my point.

Where is the Biblical Authority for this day?

Why I am Not Ashamed to Celebrate the Incarnation in December

Short Answer:  IT’S JESUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Longer Answer:

The birth of Jesus was accompanied by worship, praise, and celebration.  Sure we don’t have a NT example of the church celebrating it, but it was an important part of the Gospel story and Matthew and Luke give many details about it. Doesn’t that count for something? So, maybe we do have an example. (oh right, we can’t use the angels as examples because they play harps, and therefore have no credibility as examples)

We always look at feasts and celebrations as negatives, either in OT or in church history.  Why is that? God commanded many of them.  Others He at least tolerated.  He only complained about them in contrast with their hypocrisy in the OT.  Why do we believe the NT church is more spiritual or better than Israel for not having feasts and celebrations other than Communion (which we have sadly reduced to the point that it is neither a feast nor a celebration)?  Where does the Bible teach that weekly celebrations are better than annual ones?  Or that one has replaced the other?  Or that we can’t do anything annually because of what we already do weekly/daily?  See the previous post to consider Biblical examples.

When “O Little Town of Bethlehem” or “O Holy Night” comes on the radio in December (and that’s the only time, unfortunately, it will be on the radio), why shouldn’t we all rejoice at being reminded of God’s greatness and Christ’s humility?  Should we try to hold in the joy and excitement and awe of the Incarnation just because of the calendar?

I am going to enjoy it.  I would enjoy it in July and September just as much.  I appreciate every cultural reminder–from TV, radio, etc. even if I have to filter out some materialistic or pagan garbage– that God became a man and dwelt among us.

Maybe we can’t say that it is more important than the Cross or the empty tomb, but…..it’s THE GREATEST EXAMPLE one of the GREATEST themes of God’s story in the Bible:  God wanting to be with mankind!  Immanuel!! (you see these exclamation points and ALL CAPS, right?  do you understand it’s an emotional issue?)

From the garden, to the tabernacle, Solomon’s Temple….God wanted to be with His people.  The birth of Jesus is the most powerful reminder of that, and now we have the Holy Spirit living in us as well!

How can we NOT get excited about the birth of Jesus whenever we are reminded of it?!

How can we NOT worship and praise Father and Son for what they did?

Who are these Christians than have been trained to resist the urge for one month out of the year? Is it a sinful urge? Really?

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven
and on earth
and under the earth,
and every tongue confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Seasons and Days

Keep in mind my point:  it’s okay for those who choose so, to celebrate the birth of Jesus even in December and it’s wrong to judge them for it.  I will share some thoughts now on why I don’t believe it is wrong.  Next post will be more positive, why I do take advantage of the season.

Galatians 4:10

The Apostle Paul was concerned about the Galatian churches and expressed that fear.  One thing that bothered him was that they were “observing special days and months and seasons and years.”  Well, there you have it.  The Bible condemns celebrating any holy day/holiday.  I have heard this verse used against Christmas.

But please consider the context:  Paul was worried that they were preaching a different Gospel (1:6ff); Paul showed his acceptance by the Jerusalem (very Jewish) church (1:18–2:10); Paul even confronted a fellow Apostle about Jewish tradition and acceptance of the Gentiles (2:11-16); Paul spends much of the letter dealing with false teachers and teachings who were trying to enforce the Law on Christians.  They were placing their hope of salvation in obedience to the Law of Moses.  They thought they were saved by circumcision, Sabbath-keeping, etc.  That’s the situation and the context of 4:10

Paul’s statement was not a blanket prohibition by God against any and all special days.  How can we be sure?  Paul did write some other stuff………….

Romans 14

In a book on unity and a discussion on accepting those with different opinions on “disputable matters,” Paul says in verses 5-6, “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord.” He emphasizes over and over not to judge and includes topics like drinking wine and eating meat along with celebrating special days.  You should go read the rest.  And read it often.

So, technically, if I wanted to have a steak from a cow that had been sacrificed to Vishnu, with a bottle of Chianti on December 25 while celebrating the birth of Jesus, you would be on shaky ground to judge me.

Special Days

Purim is the Jewish celebration that originated in the story of Esther, when the Jews were almost wiped out but were given permission by her husband, the Persian King, to fight back.  The book is included in the Old Testament but does not mention the name of God or specifically mention what God was doing behind the scenes.  We see the great faith of one of his daughters and a son.

Hannukah/Feast of Dedication originated around 165 B.C.  It was after a terrible time of persecution when an evil king defiled the Temple by sacrificing a pig on the altar and spreading pork broth all over the place.  After the people rose up, led by Judas Maccabees, and defeated these Syrian/Greeks, they cleansed the temple and rededicated it.  This all took place between the end of the Old Testament writings and the birth of Jesus and can be read about in the Apocryphal books 1 and 2 Maccabees.

The really interesting part?  Jesus seems to have partaken in the celebration in John 10:22.  He DEFINITELY was NOT avoiding a “non-inspired,” “man-made” religious day just because all the other Jews were taking part in it.  He was at the temple.

Conclusion

Israel had numerous celebrations in the OT.  God gave them the big 3 annual feasts and there were others. Some were ordained by God, others were allowed.

The New Testament allows for believers to consider some days as special, and it’s not talking about birthdays.  The Bible also warns and condemns those who try to enforce observance of any holy day on believers.

God is a God who celebrates, who throws parties, and feasts with His People.

We need to chill about trying to stop or judge others who want to give God glory and praise.

Worship can include non-commanded things.  If not, the woman who anointed Jesus’ body with oil would have been condemned by Jesus.  Instead, Jesus defended her when others complained about it (John 12). In Luke 7, her sins are forgiven (could be a different woman/occasion).

Some Questions for the Haters

This might look like a practice in reductio ad absurdum or mean-spirited teasing, but I would seriously like an answer from those who forbid talking about Baby Jesus in December.

How does singing and reading and preaching on the Birth of Jesus in December constitute something un-Biblical?

In which months would it be acceptable?  Because if we can’t get a Bible-based ruling on when it’s okay and when it’s not, how can we ever celebrate the incarnation.

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

Is it okay to do it regularly, so long as not on the same day or month every year so that people won’t think we have made it a holiday? To have a worship assembly singing the nativity hymns and preach on the birth in February one year and August the next? Always rotating to make sure we aren’t doing something wrong?

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 Fourth of July and/or Thanksgiving themed services annually?

How can any believer in Jesus forbid others or be angry that others are worshipping some aspect of the life of Jesus?

It boggles my mind. Would love an answer.

If your conscience won’t allow it, I have to accept that, but to be honest, I have a hard time understanding and respecting it.

If you publicly condemn those who do participate in some public celebration of the birth of Jesus this time of year, you should be ashamed of yourself. Just my personal opinion.

The Argument against the “Roman Superstition”*

I took the expression “Roman superstition” from an article by Alexander Campbell, one of the most influential leaders among churches of Christ in the 19th century.  Notice that while referring to the date as the “Roman superstition,” he still felt comfortable to print an article about the birth of Jesus.  He recognized it as a tradition, yet not a sinful one.  I wish that mentality had flourished among churches of Christ.

If anyone can find a better argument against celebrating the birth of Jesus while others are doing it, let me know.  I am replying to what I could find.

The following is from a somewhat recent article (Nov 2009) from the Gospel Advocate, a publication out of Nashville, TN, that has a storied history among churches of Christ since 1855.  We receive copies thanks to a Christian 501(c)3 in Texas that pays to have 3 copies sent to most churches of Christ in the Northeast (and only supports churches/ministers that accept their creed). I wonder how many November editions have carried this same argument.

I commented on the article when it was published 2 years ago here at the blog, but will re-summarize everything.

Barry Baggott, in his article, “‘Tis the Season”

gives these reasons not to celebrate Christmas (by which he means, celebrating the birth of Jesus with hymns, readings prayers, etc.-Brian):

“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?

We are told to worship Jesus.  Period.  When is it wrong?

“We have no Apostolic Example”

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.  Fortunately, these same brethren are not aware of the full liturgical calendar or they would never allow us to talk about Jesus. 🙂

“We are following human tradition”

I believe this is where much of the reaction lies.  Some churches of Christ have allowed their teachings to be influenced greatly by what others do or don’t do.  We claim that the Bible is our only guide and source for Truth, for doctrine and practice, yet so often something is rejected because of who does it.  If someone doesn’t toe the line on the Holy Spirit, they are “pentecostal.”  If their view of baptism isn’t solidly in line with the editors, they are trying to be “baptist.”  If there is an appreciation of high church or mysticism, we are becoming Catholic.  I would love for my brothers to simply stick with the Word of God, as they claim, instead of worrying about what other churches teach.  Baggott refers to “the world” but means denominations, I assume.

Here is poorly reasoned statement:

“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 Jesus-as a baby and adult.  I wish he or the editor had thought about that argument a little longer.  The editor really should have kept that from the final version.

I truly hope there is a better reason out there for judging fellow believers as they rejoice over the Incarnation.

I will say more tomorrow about why I have rejected this view and finish up with some questions for those who hold to this view.