Every year around Christmas time, the newspaper calls and asks if our congregation has scheduled any kind of special service or religious observance for Christmas. I always tell them “No. We have nothing planned.” As Christians, we love to embrace the “Christmas spirit” but not as any kind of religious observance. The “Christian world” at large, though, embraces this holiday as the most sacred and holy day of the year. Yet , members of the church of Christ do not observe it as such.
Why is that? Because, as Christians, everything we do in the name of religion must be in accordance with the teachings and doctrines of Christ. Col. 3:17 “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” All religious practices, especially worship, must be according to truth. Jn.4:24 “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” Truth derives itself from the Word of God. Jn.17:17 “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” Christ denounces any religious practice that does not originate with the Father as vain religion. Mat. 15:9 “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”
If “Christmas” did not originate with God, then what is the origin of the religious observance of “Christmas”? Before we begin, we need to notice that there is no mention of observing the birthday of Jesus as a religious holiday in the New Testament. Neither is there a record of it being observed by the early church during the first three Christian centuries. It was not ordained by Christ, not taught as doctrine by His apostles and not observed by the early Christians. If authorization to observe the birthday of Jesus did not come from God, from Jesus, or from the teachings of the Holy Spirit, given by inspiration through the apostles, then it can only be of men. There is no other conclusion that can be drawn – the religious observance of “Christmas” must originate with men and therefore it is a vain religious practice. The Word “Christmas” comes from “Christ Mass” or the “Mass of Christ”. A “mass” is a Catholic observance of the Eucharist, or “Lord’s Supper.” The “Christ Mass” is the religious observance of the Eucharist to honor the birth of Jesus. The “Christ Mass” is observed by the Catholic church on December 25th, regardless of what day of the week it falls upon. The “Christmas Holiday” originated with the Catholic church centuries after the apostolic era.
World Book Encyclopedia: “Bishop Liberious of Rome in 354 A.D. ordered that December 25th be adopted as the birth date of Christ.”
Encyclopedia Britannica: “Liberius gave this reason for having “Christmas”: ‘We have a Mass for every Saint, but there is no Mass for Christ’.”
The New Chaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge: “The pagan festival (Brumalia, Dec. 25) with its riot and merrymaking was so popular that Christians were glad of an excuse to continue its celebration with little change in spirit or in manner. Christian preachers of the West and the nearer East protested against the unseemly frivolity with which Christ’s birthday was celebrated, while Christians of Mesopotamia accused their Western brethren of idolatry and sun worship for adopting as Christian this pagan festival. Yet the festival rapidly gained acceptance and became at last so firmly established that even the Protestant revolution of the sixteenth century was not able to dislodge it.”
Our denominational friends say, with the best of intentions, “Let’s put Christ back into Christmas!” However, they need to realize that Christ was never in Christmas. And so it is that at this time of the year we must ask ourselves, “Do we want to be the church that one reads of in the New Testament? Do we want to be like that God-fearing, Bible believing, Bible teaching, speaking where the Bible speaks – silent where the Bible is silent – church that Jesus died to save? Or do we want to be like the rest of the world around us and celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday?” I believe that if we were to observe “Christmas” as a religious holiday, we would then be guilty of the same kind of vain religion that the Jesus spoke of in Mat. 15:7-9.
We must also ask ourselves, “Which is more important? Christ’s birth? Or, Christ’s Death?” His birth is mentioned in the gospel accounts; therefore, we ought to study those scriptures. However, we must also realize that Jesus was not simply born to live on this earth – perpetually the “Babe-in-the-Manger”. Jesus was born to die for our sins. 1Cor. 15:3-4 “…Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” Jesus was born to live and set an example that we are to follow. 1Pet. 2:21 “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.” His virgin birth fulfilled prophecy, provided proof that He is the Messiah, and began the final stage of the God’s plan to redeem man, which culminated with His death.
People love the “Babe-in-the-Manger” because He condemns no one, judges no one and teaches us only that God loved us enough to send His Only-Begotten Son. The man that the “Babe-in-the-Manger” grew into is not so popular because He condemns and judges all those who do not keep His commandments and all those who practice vain religion. Jn.12:48 “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” Today, the rest of the religious world is focused solely upon the “Babe-in-the-Manger”. Yet today let us focus on the teachings, doctrines and commandments of the “Man-on-the-Cross” And let us be especially mindful of the horrible death He suffered to redeem us, as we partake of the Lord’s Supper – that divinely appointed religious observance we recognize every first day-of-the-week, even when it falls on December 25th.
Note: Even though “Christmas” as a religious holiday is vain religion, December 25th is great as a secular holiday. What could be wrong with giving gifts to and spending time with the people you love the most in the world? What could be wrong with spreading good cheer and hanging stockings? Putting up trees and decorating them? Eating turkey on a paid holiday? Getting your picture taken with Santa? Standing under the mistletoe with your wife or husband? These are all wonderful things that we can enjoy at “Christmas” time. As far as secular holidays go, to quote an old TV commercial, “It doesn’t get any better than this!”
Happy Holidays Everyone! I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy and blessed New Year. May God bless us all, everyone!