Objections to Christmas Answered

Thanksgivings on Special Occasions - Third in a series

Christmas originated as a way of lifting up God's Son as the Light of the world, to counter pagan celebrations. In 320 AD Pope Julius set December 25 as the official date of Jesus' birth; then the Emperor Constantine proclaimed it as an ‘immovable feast’ in 325 AD —so it does not change in date from year to year as Easter does. Constantine also decreed that Sunday would be the Roman day of rest.

Not all Christians today nor across the centuries have seen Constantine’s proclamations as binding, yet even after 17 centuries some still are honored. The U.S. established Dec. 25th as a federal holiday in 1887 after 14 states had made it a legal holiday. All non-essential government offices, schools, banks and many businesses close, giving families an opportunity to travel and have reunions. A good thing!

Nevertheless, in Daniel, we read: And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand… (Dan 7:25) This prophecy seems to say that the Antichrist will have the power to change or to erase ‘immovable’ dates.

U.S. law notwithstanding, some still object to celebrating Christmas. They object to the mention of the “mass” in the word Christmas. Mass is the Roman Catholic term for communion. Yet we all understand that Christmas celebrates Christ's birth. We use common terms such as ‘baptism’ with other denominations despite each having specific connotations. We also accept and use the word Sunday which has reference to the sun god's day, associated originally with pagan worship, as Monday was the ‘moon's day’ and Tuesday was named for the god of war, and so on.

Many festivals were celebrated at the time of the 16th century Reformation such as the feasts of the apostles, of Mary and others, and practices had been added to church life that encouraged superstitions and heresy. It was time for purification and revival; the Catholics agree here.

The church has re-formed and evolved over time in its understanding and practices. For example, the Trinity was defined in the third century, definitions of heresies were added at various junctures, the "full humanity and full divinity" of Jesus was established in the 5th century, and some things that were not part of the New Testament church have become usual, such as church buildings, creeds and confessions, tiny cups and miniature crackers for communion, baptistries, Sanctity of Life Sunday, handbells, and thanksgivings on special occasions.

Many of us object to the debauchery—the “extravagant merriment… bacchanalian lasciviousness’ in the season of Christmas. Merchandising and retail mayhem, puddings and candies, liquors, parties, jingle bells, ho-ho-ho, Secret Santas, gaudy decorations and blending the secular with the holy. Yet, there is also the divine joy of Christmas hymns, caroling, special decor, worship and family gatherings.

Objections are sounded against “adding to the Bible”– which Scripture forbids – (Deut 4:2; Prov 30:5-6; Rev 22:18) and degrading the worship of God:

  • “All modes of worship must be expressly sanctioned by God's word, if they are to be considered legitimate. Since Christmas observances, and other ecclesiastical festivals, are not commanded in the scriptures, they fail to meet divine approval, even if there were no additional objections to them." (Presbyterian Heritage Publications)
  • “The sons of Aaron are … condemned for bringing strange, or ordinary fire to God's worship; as doing that which God had not commanded, and yet had not otherwise forbidden... And this is the very plea which we make against ceremonies of human institution, in God's worship." (William Ames (1576-1633), prominent English Puritan)
    • “The strange fire of Nadab and Abihu was fire that did not come from the brazen altar; therefore, it is a type of failing to worship God on the ground of the shed blood of Christ." (ref)

Celebrating the birth and incarnation of the Lord at a special time of year as a tradition does not add "strange fire" that is, a different definition of what it means to be saved. Rather, it focuses us even more on Jesus Christ as Lord, born of a virgin, the Word made flesh.

Despite the commercialization, Christmas offers opportunities for evangelism that don't exist otherwise, and helps to teach church history and important facts about Jesus. Any special church service such as on Christmas Eve or Day can become a time for outreach.

Not all Christians celebrate Christmas, and no one should be forced to. Each year I look forward to Christmas, and celebrating it does help me to worship.

This blog series will continue some time in the New Year, DV, Deo Volente, God willing. Merry Christmas!

Christmas and Protestants

Thanksgivings on Special Occasions - Second in a series

About two months ago a blog series was begun on SistersSite, “Thanksgivings on Special Occasions.” The first post spotlighted the American Thanksgiving holiday. Now we look toward Christmas.

As was mentioned in the first post, the Reformation turned a fresh page on Church experience. Whereas the Catholics instituted many feast days with no basis in Scripture, the Protestants would only observe Sunday for worship and Thanksgivings on special occasions which would not take place on a Sunday.

Christmas was not one of those days of thanksgiving, for it antedated the Reformation by a dozen centuries. It was banned. But over time, it returned as a Christian holiday for Protestants by popular demand. Perhaps that is one time in history that mob rule in Protestant churches was not a bad thing. After all, Christmas may easily be viewed as a perfect occasion for thanksgiving to God.

Here is a very brief view to the origin of Christmas penned by the late R.C. Sproul, a reformed Presbyterian.

Is the celebration of Christmas a pagan ritual?

That question comes up every year at Christmastime. In the first place, there’s no direct biblical commandment to celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25. There’s nothing in the Bible that would even indicate that Jesus was born on December 25. In fact, there’s much in the New Testament narratives that would indicate that it didn’t occur during that time of year. It just so happens that on the twenty-fifth of December in the Roman Empire there was a pagan holiday that was linked to mystery religions; the pagans celebrated their festival on December 25. The Christians didn’t want to participate in that, and so they said, “While everybody else is celebrating this pagan thing, we’re going to have our own celebration. We’re going to celebrate the thing that’s most important in our lives, the incarnation of God, the birth of Jesus Christ. So this is going to be a time of joyous festivities, of celebration and worship of our God and King."

I can’t think of anything more pleasing to Christ than the church celebrating his birthday every year.

The darkest time of the calendar year approaches. The winter solstice of 2019 will occur on December 21st. Also known as midwinter, it marks the shortest day of the year. One would think that, as a symbol, Christmas might better be aligned with the day after the winter solstice, for the increasing of the light—Glory to the newborn king! But then that date is the very opposite for the southern hemisphere, so it would not be universal.

A good article on the history behind the dating of Christmas is here.

A Call for Thanksgiving

Thanksgivings on Special Occasions - First in a series

Most Americans look forward to Thanksgiving, but perhaps most do not realize that it is a Protestant permission, in a manner of speaking.

In the early days of the Reformation, Christian leaders met to discuss the formalities of the church and to establish rules for worship. How should the worship service begin? What is the correct posture in church for times of prayer— stand, sit or kneel?

What are the sacraments to be observed, and how ought they to be administered and by whom? Should a man not called into the pastorate be allowed to serve communion? Should any special days be acknowledged in addition to the day of rest, the Sabbath, on Sundays?

Their careful studies and decisions may be read in articles on the internet and in documents such as the Westminster Confession and The Directory of Publick Worship.

In the Directory, a section is devoted to the Observation of Days of Public Thanksgiving. Although the time of reformation proclaimed an end to the feast days of the Roman church that had no basis in Scripture, the reformers saw good purpose in special days being set apart for thanksgiving or for fasting, as occasions may dictate. The Anglican church accepted the concepts of the Reformation.

So, the descendants of the Pilgrims and other early Americans could embrace President George Washington’s call for a Day of Thanksgiving which he issued on October 3, 1789, 230 years ago today. The special day would be celebrated on Thursday, November 26 (1789). You can read Washington’s proclamation here.

The Pilgrims are credited with celebrating the first Thanksgiving:

The American Thanksgiving also has its origin in the faith practices of Puritan New England, where strict Calvinist doctrine sanctioned only the Sabbath, fast days and thanksgivings as religious holidays or “holy days.” To the Puritans, a true “thanksgiving” was a day of prayer and pious humiliation, thanking God for His special Providence. Auspicious events, such as the sudden ending of war, drought or pestilence, might inspire a thanksgiving proclamation. It was like having an extra Sabbath during the week. Fasts and thanksgivings never fell on a Sunday. (ref)

Thus, when President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November as a national holiday (holy day), he stood in a long tradition of Americans desiring to thank God for his bountiful care.

He declared this on October 3, 1863, which, after enumerating the blessings of God on America, read, in part:

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

Thanksgiving was made a fixed, national holiday to be celebrated the fourth Thursday of November by Congress on October 6, 1941, and the resolution was signed by President Franklin Roosevelt later that year.

Do we celebrate Thanksgiving as a holy day devoted to thanking God for blessing us in America? Even at this late date since the founding of our republic, there is so much to be thankful for.

Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High: And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me. (Ps 50:14-15)

This is the first in a brief blog series, “Thanksgivings on special occasions.” The series will pick up again in November.

Thanksgivings on Special Occasions blog series slideshow image credits: Pixabay.com - Easter-Andy Frazier, Thanksgiving dinner-free-photos, Christmas tree-Skeeze.

Attention Readers

Have you visited the Biotech Blog on this website? Find information and resources to help you think about biotech as a Christian.

During the summer of 2017, I explored the topic of kidney donation. Is it right for a society to permit that? To encourage it? What do you think? Read the Live Kidney Donation Series!

Should you sign your driver’s license to be an organ donor? Is cremation OK with God? Do these practices undermine the Christian doctrine of the Resurrection?

Learn more. The conscience cannot function without facts.


Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. -Mat 5:14

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