The holiday that helps

Thanksgivings on Special Occasions - Fourth in a series

Continuing now in an exploration of Thanksgivings on Special Occasions, a “protestant permission” (see related post), we come to the days leading to Easter.

Any Christian holiday should magnify Jesus Christ. If it turns the spotlight from the Lord to any other thing, it is not a holy day. A minister has the work of helping the flock to renew their inner selves to love Christ more. How might that be done?

Here is a list that amplifies the ways that Jesus humbled himself, as Paul writes in Philippians, He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (Phil 2:8) Reading this list helped me to renew my mind and heart to worship God. It is taken from Pastor David Guzik’s commentary on the Philippians verse.

  • He was humble in that he took the form of a man, and not a more glorious creature like an angel.
  • He was humble in that He was born into an obscure, oppressed place.
  • He was humble in that He was born into poverty among a despised people.
  • He was humble in that He was born as a child instead of appearing as a man.
  • He was humble in submitting to the obedience appropriate to a child in a household.
  • He was humble in learning and practicing a trade – and a humble trade of a builder.
  • He was humble in the long wait until He launched out into public ministry.
  • He was humble in the companions and disciples He chose.
  • He was humble in the audience He appealed to and the way He taught.
  • He was humble in the temptations He allowed and endured.
  • He was humble in the weakness, hunger, thirst, and tiredness He endured.
  • He was humble in His total obedience to His Heavenly Father.
  • He was humble in His submission to the Holy Spirit.
  • He was humble in choosing and submitting to the death of the cross.
  • He was humble in the agony of His death.
  • He was humble in the shame, mocking, and public humiliation of His death.
  • He was humble in enduring the spiritual agony of His sacrifice on the cross.

Jesus Christ is worthy of our highest praise. If you are one who celebrates Lent or Maundy Thursday or Good Friday, did—or would— this list assist you to renew your adoration of Him? It was helpful to me in writing this post. We don’t need to wait for a holy day for a revived heart of praise for the Lord. Yet life becomes routine, and holidays help to refresh our spirits— when renewal in Christ is realized.

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.

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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