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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Holidays

Holidays - We take them for granted now, don't we? We just automatically know that early in the year there is Easter, and later in the year you have Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, with loads of smaller and less popular holidays dotting the calendar from January to December. So what is the big deal about Holidays? Why do them at all? Is there a biblical reason for them? Should Christians do them? If so, what holidays are kosher and what are contraband?
I never even considered this massive debate until recently, when some friends of ours went out of state and discovered some friends of theirs didn't celebrate Christmas. Then, I found another friend of mine didn't celebrate Christmas. Another doesn't open presents until after New Years so as not to associate Christmas with materialism for their kids. Others, like me, celebrate Christmas, but with much less typical decorations than most, no trees, with lots of nativity scenes and greenery. Some, do tree, presents, greenery and the whole sheebang, but are no less Christians for doing so. So where's the line? Or is there a line at all?
I had to do some long, hard thinking about this topic to even found my own beliefs in anything more than tradition and "just cause". I will lay out, or try to, the arguments from both sides of this spectrum, show where I draw the line, and let you make the decision on your own celebration yourself.
So far, the best, and most sound argument against Christmas (which is the only holiday that people argue about,  I will talk about that later) is that celebrating Christmas is syncretism.  Anyway, the argument goes like this, and let me tell you, its a good one, and takes some serious thinking to wade through.
Christmas is
#1. Not mandated in scripture.
#2. Totally centered (in the world) around materialism.
Also, if you say this is a day we set aside so remember Christ's birth, why aren't you remembering him just as much on other days? Why one in particular to remember him and then forget about him till Easter? (If you get past the bunny and eggs and remember what it's really about.)
Also, since Christmas started out as a pagan holiday, and you participate in it with a "Christianized" flavor, you are being sycretistic.
That, as far as I can tell, is the basic argument. There may be more points or angles I am not aware of, but that is the gist.
I will address those arguments point by point.
#1. Not mandated in scripture.
True, but saying something isn't mandated in scripture and therefore not doing it has problems. Now, before I get into this, let me make this clear. JUST BECAUSE IT IS NOT MANDATED OR FORBIDDEN IN SCRIPTURE, DOESN'T JUSTIFY YOU DOING WHATEVER YOU PLEASE. I AM NEVER MAKING THAT CASE.
Now that we are clear on that, we can move on. ;)
That being said, if you are making the argument that what ever is not mandated or mentioned in scripture is not allowed, then you can't have cars, iPods, guns, or fried chicken, or anythings else for that matter, that is not SPECIFICALLY mentioned in scripture. But hold on, before you take that and run with it, let me state again. JUST BECAUSE IT IS NOT FORBIDDEN IN SCRIPTURE DOES NOT MEAN YOU CAN DO WHAT YOU PLEASE BECAUSE THE BIBLE DOESN'T TALK ABOUT IT.
Are we clear?
:)
What it does mean, is that you must exercise extreme caution in anything that isn't mentioned one way or the other in scripture, but just saying that it isn't mentioned or commanded by scripture and therefore we shouldn't, doesn't hold up.
That being said, let's move on.  
#2. Totally centered around materialism.
VERY good point. The argument goes like this. Since is centered around materialism, if you celebrate it, you are being materialistic, and not celebrating what you say it's for anyway.
Not bad, but let's analyse that even more. They are saying that if you do something, for good reasons, that somebody else does for definite bad reasons, you are being like them and shouldn't do it.
That argument falls apart as well. How many things can we do for good, biblical reasons, that other people do for bad reasons? Let's take something utterly Christian, and make the point. Going to Church. Going to Church is mandated by scripture, and therefore "good" Christians go to church. Well, how many people do you know that go to church just because it makes them feel good, or just to hang out with friends, or to appease their guilty conscience by making them feel like they are doing their duty towards God? Or lets use preaching. Expositing the word to the saved and unsaved alike. But again, how many stories have you heard of PASTORS who have been PREACHING THE WORD for YEARS and aren't even saved. So again, that argument falls apart, because if you can't do anything that bad people do for bad reasons, you can't even exist. You can't live, because people live for wrong reasons. You can't even die, because people do that for bad reasons as well.
So, that arguments out.
How about the next one.
"If you set aside one day to remember something then you aren't remembering that thing as much the rest of the year."
Ok, not bad, but this one has problems as well. If you take this to its logical ending, you would never celebrate anything for any reason, ever.  If you are going to make the case, that Biblically, we shouldn't celebrate anything, then you are saying that the feasts and days of celebrations and partying in the Old Testament are unbiblical. That's what it comes down to. Obviously, we can't make that statement. God commanded us to set aside certain days to celebrate certain things. For instance, Passover. That was a feast and holiday mandated by God for them to celebrate Gods redeeming grace, saving them from the Egyptians.
What is Christmas but celebrating Gods redeeming grace, saving us from our sin?
Anyway, that argument fell apart at the seams.         
Next, is that by celebrating and participating in a pagan holiday with a Christian flavor, is syncretistic, and therefore not allowed.
Again, not bad on the surface, but lets dig deeper. This argument is saying that you can never use, participate in, or do anything that wasn't started for distinctly Christian purposes. This falls apart in two ways. One, isn't really an argument, but is merely a point back at the person saying it. If you want to say that you can never participate in anything that wasn't started for Christian purposes, then you must grow your own food, make your own clothes, and make your own cars, electronics, etc. The reason that isn't an argument, is because if you use it as one, you are being pragmatic. So therefore, I don't use it as one, just merely saying that if you want to go down that path, you have to take it to the end.
The real argument is that Paul himself said it was OK to eat meat sacrificed to idols! In 1st Corinthians 8, Paul makes it clear that it is OK to eat meat sacrificed to idols, since we know there is only one God and idols are baloney. Now granted, it also says that if a brother stumbles at it, he would rather not do it and help him than exercise his right and make him stumble. So, if one wants to make the case that they do not do it as to not make anyone stumble, that might be a legit argument.
So, after all that theorizing, I had to come down to why we do what we do.
A. Since we know it is OK, under certain times and for certain reasons, to celebrate, we do.
B. Since a tree meant materialism for us, we ditched it, and now nativity's take the lead role as decorations.
For us growing up, we didn't know any better, and we had the trees and Santa on top of the tree, and stockings, etc, and celebrated Christ alongside. When we realized what it meant to us, and what it should mean to us, we ditched it and made a different set of traditions and decoration that pointed us to Christ, not Santa and Christmas Trees. Now, I am not making the statement that trees are bad, I am merely saying it was bad for us. If you can have a tree and have a right heart before God, after diligent prayer and study, more power to you. Get more while your at it and plant a forest in your backyard.
C. We do give presents, as a sign of the Wise-men's gift, and Christs gift to us, but we do it on Christmas eve, not Christmas day. That day is set apart of Worshiping Christ and what he did for us.
So. I've put a lot on your mental plate, I can be sure of that. Take some time, chew it up, and examine your own beliefs and practices, and see what doesn't line up.
As for me, I'm gonna celebrate, and enjoy it. :)    

11 comments:

  1. I think you know my take on the matter already :)
    That was a very good break down of the major issues. Celebrating (or not) any given holiday isn't un-Christian. I like your comment about planting a forest. What matters is that people think and pray through the issues, and not just celebrate mindlessly.
    And so, Happy Holidays to you ;)

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  2. Um.... I actually don't know your stand. I've heard rumors from mom, but nothing definite. I would love to hear your angle on this, (after all, isn't that what blogging is all about?)
    You should talk to pastor Young sometime about this issue. I had a good talk with him yesterday about it, and he brought up even more Biblical points for celebrating that I had never thought about!

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  3. Well laid out, David. You hit on some good points there. And this is coming from someone who doesn't celebrate Christmas at all. :) I agree with your last statement in point B. I know several awesome Christian families who celebrate Christmas, and I don't have an issue with it. However for me and my family, Christmas is something we don't feel in our hearts to celebrate, so we don't.

    It's one of those things that reminds us how awesome it is to live under God's grace. :)

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  4. I know I have never commented on here before, but if you don't mind...

    http://www.letgodbetrue.com/sermons/pdf/christmas.pdf

    Just something for you to consider as you look at this subject :) Thanks!

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  5. Hello David,

    To install your playlist: Click on add a gadget, go to more gadgets, click on project playlist, put the url for your playlist in the title field. You will want to put a url in for a picture in the background of your playlist, or blogger will put one on for you... No good!If you can't find it, there is a search gadgets button (after you click on add a gadget) That will take you to it if you type in "playlists" Hope this helps!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Now that is a very good article. I don't celebrate Christmas or Easter. I don't see that it makes you un-Christian to celebrate, but I think you are better off not. That is just my opinion though. The decision is a personal one, between you and God.

    Have a great day,
    I follow your blog now

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  7. Wow, I need to post stuff like this more often! This is the first post I have had to get some new followers and some good feedback off of. Thanks for reading!

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  8. Hmm...interesting post. It hit home for me because this is something I've been pondering lately. While I've always celebrated Christmas with my family, this year I've asked for less presents Christmas morning. Partially, my reason is that I've often felt overwhelmed with "new stuff" and lack room to store it afterwards. I also feel like I am so focused on gifts that it becomes an idol of sorts in my mind. Nevertheless, I still truly enjoy buying gifts for friends and family because I love them. Christmas is a time when I get to celebrate Jesus and the blessing of friends and family. It's a day of rest and reuniting for our family. I'm still undecided on my position on gifts. I love giving gifts during this season, but I would also love to make it more "Jesus-centered" and less "Santa-centered". :) Thanks for giving me something to think about!
    -Gabrielle

    www.projectpaperie.blogspot.com

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  9. David, check out Scott Brown's blog. He has a 12 days of Christmas series going on. His blog is worth following.

    scottbrownonline.com

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  10. Hey David,

    Good thoughts!

    If you study the history of Christmas you will find that it was a pagan holiday and catholics(i.e. from the catholic church) wanted to "redeem" the holiday, hence Christ-Mas or mas of Christ.

    Also I disagree with you when said,"Now, I am not making the statement that trees are bad, I am merely saying it was bad for us. If you can have a tree and have a right heart before God, after diligent prayer and study, more power to you."
    because the bible says,"Hear the word that the LORD speaks to you, O house of Israel. Thus says the LORD: "Learn not the way of the nations, nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens because the nations are dismayed at them, for the customs of the peoples are vanity. A tree from the forest is cut down and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so that it cannot move."
    Jeremiah 10:1-4
    Yeah someone might think they have a right heart before God, but God forbids trees like that.

    Here is a good article on Christmas by A.W. Pink
    http://www.swrb.com/newslett/actualNLs/christmas-awpink.htm

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