Observing Holidays


I.         It is that time of year when one holiday after another is observed: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and finally New Years.

            A.        Usually this time of year also brings up the question of how we, as Christians, treat these celebrations?

            B.        Many denominations do special events for these days

                        1.         Christmas being the main one with denominations decorating their lobbies, holding special events, concerts, musicals, etc. One group a few years back advertised a decorated slide that would deliver presents to your little ones ($15 admission fee).

                        2.         Bulletins run articles on being thankful in November and January’s issue is devoted to resolutions for the new year.

                        3.         Even Halloween gets attention by being denounced as a celebration of witchcraft or by groups attempting to modify it by showing the horrors of an immoral world.

II.        The calendar of “Christian” events arose as a result of apostasy from the simple worship of the first century

            A.        “The Christian church year, however, developed itself spontaneously from the demands of the Christian worship and public life, after the precedent of the Old Testament cults, with no positive direction from Christ or the apostles.” (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Third Period, AD 311-590, The Church Year)

            B.        Mr. Schaff states that a strong desire to imitate the feasts of the Old Testament law spurred Christians to create their own celebrations.

                        1.         The forget that the New Law is the greater covenant - Hebrews 8:6

                        2.         Our authority for worship does not come spontaneously from the desires of man. Instead we seek to fulfill the desires of God.

            C.        “The New Testament contains no traces of annual festivals; but so early as the second century we meet with the general observance of Easter and Pentecost, founded on the Jewish Passover and feasts of harvest.” (Philip Schaff)

                        1.         Imagine, after all the arguments by Paul against returning to the observance of the Old Law, the people did so anyway.

                        2.         Colossians 2:14-23 - The feasts were mere shadows of the reality in Christ. Yet people ran back to the shadows to find entertainment. They have the appearance of wisdom, but they are man-made religions.

            D.        Schaff continues to explain that in the fourth century the Christmas festival was added to the two former feasts (Easter and Pentecost), and, in particular, replaced the earlier feast of Epiphany (a celebration of the birth and baptism of Jesus), which then became devoted to the manifestation of Christ among the Gentiles.

                        1.         Notice that the early Christians were adding new celebrations

                        2.         Revelation 22:18 - Adding will add plagues.

                        3.         Proverbs 30:6 - Do not add

                        4.         Galatians 1:8-10 - Seeking to please men by altering the Gospel

            E.        To put it bluntly, these men created feasts which man instituted and not God to satisfy their desire for annual feasts. They saw it as a glorification of God, but God never authorized such feasts!

                        1.         How is God glorified by disobedience to His commands?

                        2.         Matthew 15:8-9

            F.        After glowingly describing the rich symbolism of Christmas, Mr. Schaff states: “Notwithstanding this deep significance and wide popularity, the festival of the birth of the Lord is of comparatively late institution.”

                        1.         In other words, Mr. Schaff admits that Christmas was not a part of the New Testament church as revealed by the Apostles and prophets of the first century

                        2.         Yet, the church is built on their teachings - Ephesians 2:19-22

            G.        “This [the comparative late institution] may doubtless be accounted for in the following manner: In the first place, no corresponding festival was presented byt eh Old Testament, as in the case of Easter and Pentecost.”

                        1.         Again notice that Easter and Pentecost originated in man’s desire to copy the Old Covenant to provide annual feasts for the people.

            H.        “In the second place, the day and month of the birth of Christ are nowhere stated in the gospel history, and cannot be certainly determined.”

                        1.         Adam Clarke, a Methodist minister and noted commentator said the birth of Christ “has been placed by sects and learned men in every month of the year.”

                        2.         So what God did not state, man took upon himself to determine.

                        3.         Man, not God, set the date for a feast that man, not God, wanted to celebrate.

III.       Have you notice how many of the so-called religious holidays distort the teachings in the Bible?

            A.        Christmas is the worse offender

                        1.         Where did the wise men visit Jesus? - Matthew 2:11

                        2.         How many wise men were there? - The Bible doesn’t say. It only specifies that three types of gifts were given

                        3.         Where did the star appear which the wise men saw? - Matthew 2:2 (The wise men were in the east, not the star.)

                        4.         When was Jesus born? - Again the Bible does not say, but (Luke 2:8) since the shepherds were in their fields, it had to have been in the warmer months.

            B.        Why are there errors? Because the tendency for men to embellish the storyline.

            C.        Problems are also caused by mixing myth with truth

                        1.         Children are told about the birth of Jesus and that Santa brings toys to good little boys and girls.

                        2.         They discover Santa is a tale. What do they do with Jesus?

                        3.         Jesus’ resurrection and the Easter bunny are combined with the same problem.

IV.      Can Christians then observe holidays?

            A.        If you want to observe a religious holiday, then you are adding to God’s word since no religious holidays were established by God in the New Testament.

            B.        For example, Christmas, as a religious holiday, is a conglomeration of paganism, human tradition, and Catholic compromise.

            C.        Can we then celebrate them as secular holidays?

                        1.         This we already do with many holidays, such as the fourth of July, Memorial Day, and Mother’s Day.

            D.        Arguments against

                        1.         It began in idolatry, so how can a Christian participate.

                                    a.         The question is does it continue to viewed as idolatry.

                                    b.         The days of our week are named after false gods, but does my use of a calendar imply I am an idol worshiper?

                                    c.         The origins should cause us to pause in consideration, but if the connection of Christmas to the old Roman winter feasts is no longer made, it is doubtful that non-Christians would view us as idol worshipers.

                        2.         Since Christmas and Easter are recognized as religious holidays, some observing us may think we are also keeping it as a religious holiday.

                                    a.         This might be a cause of concern

                                    b.         When you see lights on a house, do you assume the owners of the house are celebrating Christmas as a religious holiday?

                                                (1)       I know of atheist who put up decorated trees and give gifts.

                                                (2)       Actually the opposite seems to be happening in the denominations. They complain that the observance of Christmas has been secularized.

                                    c.         The other problem is the assumption that something is wrong because others might draw the wrong conclusion.

                                                (1)       Paul complied with the ordinance of purification, even though the law of Moses was no longer in effect - Acts 21:20-26

                                                (2)       Notice that Paul observe the ordinance so that others would see him.

                                                (3)       They were weak, as Jewish Christians, and Paul was removing an obstacle from his ability to teach them by doing something that did not violate the new law.

                                                (4)       It would have been a violation to say all Christians must be purified as the Law taught.

                                                (5)       Similarly it is wrong to say that Christians must celebrate Christmas.

                                    d.         In the same way, my parents had me circumcised when I was born, but no one thinks I or they are Jewish.

            E.        I see nothing wrong with celebrating national holidays, such as Christmas, so long as I don’t make it a religious holiday.

                        1.         I don’t need a star on my tree or a nativity scene in my yard.

                        2.         I can sing carols that have nothing to say about Bethlehem, angels, mangers, wise men, holy nights or shepherds.

                        3.         I leave religion out of my holidays because God did not authorize them, but I don’t have to mark those holidays off my calendar.