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15378Re: Christmas a pagan festival? Maybe not

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  • gmw
    Dec 28, 2006
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      Tim,

      You're a good man in my book, and you've been a friend to me when I needed one (you might not even have realized this), and I consider you my friend still. PLEASE REMEMBER THIS during this discussion. My fear is that hot things are said during heated discussions which might bring these things into question. I assure you, I hold you in high esteem, and our friendship is not at stake in this discussion as far as I'm concerned. Now that I got that out of the way, here we go, friend!

      >...it is fair to read you as believing that Calvin supported you, a

      >
      supprorter of the Scots view, in your questions.

      No, I do not believe that is fair to conclude something that I was not even implying. I was asking you the same question Calvin asked his audience regarding your observation of this holy day – who told you it was Christmas? You pretend to answer in Calvin's voice below, which far more strongly implies that you believe your views are congruent with Calvin's than I ever attempted to imply. I shall respond to that below.

      But since you brought it up, yes, I do believe that Calvin is more in line with my view of Christmas than yours. To quote George Gillespie,

      "If holidays, in Calvin's judgment, be fooleries — if he gave advice not to approve them — if he thought them occasions of superstition — if he held it superstition to distinguish one day from another, or to esteem one above another — if he calls them Judaical, though kept to the honor of God, judge then what allowance they had from him."

      > The problem is that

      > he did not entirely do so.

      Yes, and I acknowledged that fact. He cries down more than it seems you, or any other Christmas-keeper, is willing to do, but he makes concessions that I would not make.

      > Calvin would answer your questions like this: "The early church told

      > us that we may celebrate Jesus' nativity,

      No, Calvin's rhetorical use of this question was to strongly imply that they had no good answer. The answer is NOT, "God told us it's Christmas," or "The Bible tells us it's Christmas," which concludes that Christmas then must be superstitious in nature, hence Calvin's later statement, "God must not only strip away things that are bad themselves, but must also eliminate anything that might foster superstition."

      Who told you that throwing salt over your shoulder was good luck?

      Who told you to build an altar to the unknown god?

      Who told you it's Christmas?

      God certainly didn't tell you these things. So, who did?

      > and there is no second commandment reason not to.

      No, Calvin clearly appeals to God's Laws against idolatry: "when you elevate one day alone [Context demands that he is referring specifically to Christmas] for the purpose of worshipping God, you have just turned it into an idol. True, you insist that you have done so for the honor of God, but it is more for the honor of the Devil."

      > We may celebrate Jesus birthday in any way

      > that honours God,

      Well, of course we can do that which truly honors God, but the question is how in the world you know that celebrating Jesus' birthday as Christmas honors God. Seems to me you would have to ask the same person who told you it was Christmas, which is … who again? You see, when we do service to God that is not prescribed in His Word, it is entirely our presumption that God is pleased with it (Calvin's view on the Regulative Principle WAS essentially the same as the Westminster Standards, agreed?), and so your "honoring" of God cannot be said to honor God in truth, if it is not prescribed by Scripture. Hence Calvin's statement, "you insist that you have done so [i.e. shown up for worship because it's Christmas] for the honor of God, but it is more for the honor of the Devil."

      > but nobody in Geneva had ever heard of any of the 19th and 20th century Anglo-American

      > accretions that turned the celebration into a commercial racket, so don't attribute those abuses

      > to us.

      I did not intend to attribute all of today's abuses to yesteryear Geneva, but this does bring up an interesting question: Would Calvin approve of today's Christmas along with the commercial racket? Or would he actually condemn today's Christmas even more so, given he is condemning Christmas in his day as being satanic and superstitious when today our abuses are (it seems) much worse?  Do we not have even greater reason to abandon the Christmas nowadays than even Calvin, the Puritans, the Scots?

      > Granted we have some of our own, which is one reason I don't

      >
      entirely approve of celebrating Christmas."

      No, it's more like "Because Christmas keeping is superstitious, not commanded or recommended by God, not to mention all of the abuses which take place "in the holiday spirit," I don't approve of it. What I will concede to is that it is good to read from God's Word about the nativity of Christ (reading from God's Word being a practice approved by God's Word), we shall do so on God's appointed holy day (the Lord's Day), and not on man's self-appointed holy day (Christmas).

      Now, a bit about my own view on this concession of Calvin's – I freely admit that I personally would not change up the regular Scripture reading schedule, as I believe that is too much of an acknowledgment of the holiday. However, if a concession is going to be made (and let's face it, Calvin knew what his people needed, I do not), this is the kind of concession that I do not get too upset about because all he is advocating here is 1). Reading a portion of God's Word. 2). Serving the Lord's Supper. 3). Preaching. 4). And doing these things, not on December 25th because it's December 25th, but on the Lord's Day, because it's the Lord's Day. These are lawful acts of worship anyway, and so cannot be condemned as will-worship or superstition.

      What he is not doing or advocating: 1). Taking December 25th off, or closing all the shops that day, to observe the holiday (to the contrary, he condemns this practice as "the idleness of a holiday spirit" which is a "heavy sin to bear"). 2). Doing any unwarranted act of worship (of course not, Calvin is an RPW advocate that condemns "will-worship." 3). Any of the trappings of Christmas-keeping, either of ancient or modern practice – hanging holly, red and green decorations, nativity scenes, "merry Christmas," exchanging Christmas gifts, caroling, lighting candles, etc. etc. etc. And so, I'm so offended at what Calvin was doing... as it wasn't Christmas!

      Here's the thing as far as I'm concerned. If all people are advocating is reading from the Gospels, observing the Lord's Supper, listening to preaching, and that NOT on December 25th for the sake of December 25th, but on the Lord's Day, regardless of the date… then have at it man! But let's be honest…

      That's not what "Christmas" is, now is it?

      I'm told to have a merry Christmas, by a passer by. What is he wishing me, exactly? Have a good day off? Enjoy my Christmas goose? Don't get too drunk at the office party? I hope Santa brings you lots of stuff? Enjoy watching the kids unwrap their gifts under the Christmas tree? Or does he mean something like, "May the reading of the Word and your partaking the Lord's Supper become effectual means of having the blessings of Christ's redemptive work graciously applied to me?"

      If the former things, then no thank you… I don't do Christmas. If the latter, why must we use a term (with the name of Christ in it, no less) that is commonly understood to include the former things, to describe that? And what are the chances that said passer by means the latter, and not something of the former things?

      Or, to put it another way: If a Christian seeking to honor Christ by "Christmas keeping" is not doing any of the things Calvin condemned, and is not doing any of the worldly and wicked things so closely associated with Christmas today, than what of "Christmas keeping" is he actually doing? I mean, why even maintain the name of Christmas and why wish me a merry one, if there are better ways to say what you intend?

      >
      And you should know that the festival was instituted about 100 years
      > before the name Mass was first applied to the Eucharist
      in 397.

      Was it called Christ's Mass at that time?

      > And the content of that "Mass" included no heresies, the churches would

      > not descend to the unbliblical doctrine of
      transubstantiation for
      > another 700 years.

      So, what date are we at now? AD 1000 or so?

      "The word for Christmas in late Old English is Cristes Maesse, the Mass of Christ, first found in 1038, and Cristes-messe, in 1131." – the Catholic Encyclopedia.

      "Christ's Mass" is where "Christmas" comes from, and apparently the first use of the term occurs when the heretical perversions were indeed understood by that term. Also, when we use the term today, the mass is to be understood that way. This is not guilt by association, this is "blasphemy by association," in that by using the term Christmas, we associate Christ with the mass.

      >
      And please note that you are confusing two questions which should not
      > be confused.

      Ah, but the confusion did not come from me. Shall we celebrate Christmas and how is Christmas to be celebrate are fantastically confused because of everything associated with and understood by Christmas all over the world. You might say, "I think I should be thankful for Christ's birth on the date that I think is the best guess as to the date of his birth." And therefore, what then? "Therefore I should take the day off, and go to church because it's December 25th, and engage in various merriments." No, said Calvin. "Who told you it was Christmas, you poor beasts? You think you're honoring God but you are actually honoring the devil!" (again, paraphrased).

      > One is should we celebrate the Lord's nativity at all,

      Celebrate the Lord's nativity every Lord's Day. And while you're at it, celebrate His resurrection, too. But now are you confusing the issue? You are defending the idea that the celebration is to be annual, and have you not then entered into "how should it be celebrated" territory?

      >
      the other (which I was not initially addressing) is how should it be
      > celebrated?

      Annually, and by special remembrances, or on every Lord's Day by ordinary acts of worship? This actually is the issue, then, isn't it?

      > On the latter question, I agree with you that we should

      > not
      celebrate with the santa myth.

      I would that this list was longer, but I'm glad that you personally do not support the Santa myth. Sadly, the world, and "the Christian world" at that, continues to support it.

      >
      But I would like to see an answer to a question I asked which has not
      > been answered. I would like to see someone address
      Englsma's
      > challenge to provide a Scriptural justification of
      the Westminster
      > view that we may set special services of
      public worship in observance
      > of "notable judgments,"
      "some special blessing," and "days of public
      >
      thanksgiving," as allowed by the Westminster Assembly's "Directory
      > for the Public Worship of God" and as
      actually held by Presbyterian
      > churches in the Scottish
      tradition.

      You do understand that these observances are not annually observed days, right? I mean, what are you asking proof for, that God's people occasionally enter into fasts?

      > But keep in mind, however, if you establish that the Directory is Scriptural at this point, you have

      > also established that the
      church may set special services to mark the
      > Lord's coming to
      earth.

      If you were arguing that the church at the time of Christ's birth would have been justified in celebrating the special occasion of the birth of Messiah, then I will not argue against that. But if you are therefore concluding that the Church may institute annually observed holy days or festivals, than I'm afraid I don't even see how that can be argued.

      >>
      Where did I even imply that Calvin's view was the same as the Scots?
      >> Where did I even mention the Scots?

      >
      Tim-Nowhere.

      Thank you.

      >> In truth, as you have often been admonished, it
      is good to set
      >>aside one day out of the year in which we
      are reminded of all the
      >>good that has occurred because of
      Christ's birth in the world, and in
      >>which we hear the
      story of his birth retold, which will be done on
      >>Sunday.

      >
      Tim-This one sentence is why I say it is not wise to deploy Calvin in
      > favour of the WCF nonobservance of Christmas.

      Yeah, I didn't do that, though. Like I said a few times now, I acknowledge a difference in Calvin's concessions and Scotland's lack thereof.

      > Although Calvin here

      > says that the Genevans will hear the
      story of Christ's birth retold
      > and consider all the good that
      has occured because of his coming on
      > the following Sunday, he
      does agree that it is good to set aside one
      > day out of the
      year in which to be reminded of these things. In doing
      > so he
      allows what the Scots do not.

      What he concedes, though, is NOT Christmas. What he concedes, he contrasts with Christmas. Again, if you want to take this time of year to reflect on Christ's birth, you're not going to get a lot of complaints from me. If you are keeping a festival, or a holy day, or doing any of the other things Calvin rightly rejected by his words we are now considering, and recommending that others do the same, then I will have a problem with that. So would Calvin, so would the Scots, though they agreed not on how much of the season they acknowledged.

      gmw.


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