Throwback – 2012
Can it be? Two Dispensationalists in two days…on JM’s blog? lol
IS THE KEEPING OF CHRISTMAS PLEASING TO THE LORD?
by Robert D. Gracey (1935)
Christmas, a name that has lost its one-time charm!
Years ago when we were children, Christmas was to us a name associated with the purest joys of earth. It stood for giving and forgiving, for love, self-sacrifice and neighbourliness. Even the first day of the week, the Lord’s Day, held no charm like December 25th. Such as they were, there were always enough little gifts to go round the large family circle. And, literally, the day was scarcely over before we were laying plans for the next year’s happy family reunion and celebration.
• The Reproach of Being Different
We do not keep Christmas now. It was a terrible wrench to give it up. But, thank God, there are many others who are prepared to share the reproach of being different to the majority of those about them; who are willing to forego the popularity which might be theirs by simply joining in the popular enjoyments of the times; who place faithfulness to Christ in His absence before personal pleasure.
The Scriptures say nothing about the disciples of the Lord Jesus celebrating the anniversary of His birth. On the other hand, there are many references to the commemoration of His death, the Breaking of Bread, which was evidently to take place on the first day of each week. See Luke 22: 19-20; 1 Cor. 11: 23-26; Acts 20: 7.
Like many other things which affect people generally and which have more or less of a connection with Christianity, the kindly sentiment and activities connected with Christmas-keeping have doubtless had a softening effect upon this Godless world. But think how this ostensibly religious festival has become commercialized! Theatres, restaurants, stores and business concerns generally, have come to depend upon it annually as a source of revenue. True, it is still to many sincere persons a time of family reunion and of simple, natural pleasures,
but can any true lover of the crucified Saviour, the rejected Son of God, afford to overlook how He must regard these annual celebrations which bear His holy Name?
• The World’s Idea of a ‘Merry’ Time
As another has pointed out, if on the occasion of celebrating the birthday of a dead patriot one were to arise and eulogize him feelingly in well-chosen terms, those gathered in his memory would be delighted. Alas, how different it would be if a lover of the Lord Jesus Christ were to stand up in any one of most of the Christmas Day gatherings large or small and tell out in simple, heartfelt language the story of the humble circumstances of His miraculous birth; of His pathway of untiring service, yet of rejection, culminating in His vicarious death on Calvary’s cross; of His burial, resurrection and ascension and of the glorious prospect of His soon coming to take those who love Him to be forever with Himself.
Who would hesitate to admit that such a theme, even on Christmas Day, is not the world’s idea of a ‘merry’ time? To venture to tell of the Saviour’s dying love of His hatred of sin yet compassion for sinners, and of His holy perfections so delightful to the heart of God, would indeed be inappropriate and unwelcome in the great majority of Christmas Day parties or audiences.
‘But’, says a fellow-Christian, ‘what you have said so far does not apply to my case at all. The fact that so many leave the Lord Himself out of their Christmas Day activities does not mean that everybody leaves Him out.
‘For me the Day is filled with thoughts of His lowly birth, of the visit of the magi who brought Him gifts of “gold, and frankincense and myrrh”.’
‘The family reunions, the renewing of friendships by means of greeting cards and visits, as well as the providing of food and other presents for the poor, are joys connected with Christmas that are almost sacred.’
‘In fact, I hold the Day itself so sacred that I would give up my position rather than consent to work on December 25th! ‘
• God is Calling Attention to Death of Christ
That is all quite understandable. No doubt your convictions and feelings are perfectly honest and sincere. Your motives too may be the best. But our convictions and feelings and motives, even at their best, are an unreliable guide in themselves. Cain’s motives may have been good enough when he thought to give an offering of the fruit of the ground, but his offering nevertheless was not acceptable to God. The important thing was not Cain’s intention, but God’s requirement what would be pleasing to Him.
Cain’s offering overlooked the necessity of blood-shedding; Abel’s, on the other hand, gave evidence that he valued in type the death of Christ, so he offered a lamb; and it says that “The Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering; but unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect”.
Surely no lover of the Lord Jesus who reads his or her Bible prayerfully and in dependence upon the Spirit of God, can fail to see that God is calling special attention to the death of Christ rather than to His birth.
• A Device of Satan
Not only does the word of God make no request of us to commemorate the Lord’s birth, but, as we have already noted, it gives no intimation that the earliest disciples marked its anniversary. Nor does Scripture indicate the exact date of His birth.
Turning to accredited encyclopedias – e.g., Encyclopedia Britannica – we find the speculation as to the probable date ranged in early centuries from January 6, March 28, April 19 or 20, May 20, November 17 to December 25th! December 25th was evidently a day originally connected with sun-worship. My own suspicion is that Christmas-keeping was a device of Satan – who according to 2 Corinthians 11: 14 is transformed into an angel of light with a view to creating a place where Christian and unconverted might eventually meet on common ground in the Name of the Lord Jesus. If my suspicion is correct, Satan’s plan would seem to have proved to be one of his masterpieces, for Christmas calls supreme attention to the birth of Jesus whereas it is unmistakably evident from the Scriptures that God would have us constantly engaged with the efficacy of His atoning death.
Commemorating the Lord’s death involves reproach, which is true Christian ground. Heb. 13: 13. Commemorating a day which is generally accepted as His birthday involves no reproach whatever; on the contrary, to fail to keep it is sure to cause misunderstanding and reproach.
Evidently, therefore, not to keep the Day as the masses do is consistent for those who “esteem the reproach of Christ”, Heb. 11: 26.
• Three Questions
To those therefore who are really concerned as to whether or not they should ‘keep Christmas’, I would commend prayerful consideration of three questions:
Do I keep Christmas to please myself?
Do I keep it to please others?
Do I keep it to please the Lord?
The beloved Apostle Paul indicated that he felt the need of such concern as to matters in his own life, for he says in writing to the Corinthians: “Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him”, 2 Cor. 5: 9. Of the Lord Jesus it says that He “pleased not Himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached Thee fell on Me”, Romans 15: 3.
I am persuaded that in the face of the word of Scripture, of history and of present-day conditions, the question of Christmas-keeping will not be a difficult one for the Christian whose honest concern in life is to be pleasing to the Lord.
Westfield, N.J., December 7, 1935