A Holiday Question — Scott Crawford

“I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.  For who sees anything different in you?  What do you have that you did not receive?  If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Cor. 4:6-7)

There are always questions about Christians and the celebration of various holidays, but those questions become even more intense around the time when many of those in the denominations celebrate Christmas and Easter. One question that came up this past December, among the many, was presented in this way, “Does it matter to you that the Bible is silent about Christmas?” Of course, the point of this question speaks to the authoritative stance one takes regarding the silence of Scripture. On one hand there are those that regard the silence of Scripture as being prohibitive while on the other hand there are those that regard the silence of Scripture as being permissive. A discussion of the authoritative nature of silence is certainly important, but at this point it might be instructive to deal with the above question as it stands, even expanding the scope of the question to include Easter. Sadly, the question itself is not as precise as one might like.

If the question is asking about remembering the birth of Jesus the Christ – then no, the Scriptures are not silent. The birth of the Messiah of God is spoken of in the Old Testament and points not only to the faithfulness of God but also to His consideration and love for His created beings. From the promise made to Abraham so long ago (Gen. 12:1-3) to those scriptures that point to the Messiah’s birth: His lineage (Gen. 49:10-11; Jer. 23:5-6), His birthplace (Mic. 5:2), His mother (Isa. 7:14), even what His birth meant (Isa. 49:5-8). Angels sung about Him at His birth (Luke 2:13-14), gentile wise men came to give Him gifts (Matt. 2:11-12), and the common shepherds of the field came to see and left with proclamation and praise on their lips (Luke 2:15-20). The birth of the Christ is well attested to in the Scriptures, recognizing and repeating that historical fact is something that Christians should always be willing to confess and promote.

The same can be said about the resurrection of Jesus – the Scriptures, regarding that resurrection, are anything but silent! The resurrection of Jesus Christ is part of the great theme of the gospel as expressed by Paul: “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). When one couples this with Romans 1:16-17 it is discovered that Paul placed the utmost importance on this gospel theme “for it is the power of God to salvation.” Of importance is also the emphasis that is placed on future events made certain by the resurrection. When speaking to those at Mar’s Hill in Athens the resurrection of Jesus is noted to be the “assurance” of a future judgment of “the world” (Acts 17:31). According to Peter, the resurrection of Jesus Christ has given us a “living hope” which points to our inheritance which is “reserved in heaven” (1 Pet. 1:3-4). The truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is presented throughout the pages of the New Testament, so clear that if the resurrection is not true, then, as Paul says, both our message and our faith is “empty” (1 Cor. 15:14).

If one is asking if there is a problem observing a traditional holiday when family is celebrated – then no. Family is such an important concept it the Scriptures that it becomes one of the avenues to describe the people of God. One of the best loved parables of Jesus speaks of a father that rejoices when his son comes home (Luke 15:11-32). Paul makes it a point to teach us that we have “received the Spirit of adoption” and those that were not part of the family previously “shall be called sons of the living God” (Rom. 8:15; 9:26). That language is reinforced in the home setting when throughout the Scriptures there is a premium placed on teaching and raising children to become a faithful member of that greater family.

By loving their children parents teach about a sacrificing God (John 3:16; Rom. 5:8); by disciplining their children parents teach about a righteous God (John 15:2; Heb. 12:7-11); by giving to their children parents teach about a generous God (Matt. 7:11; Jam. 1:17); by remembering the resurrection of Christ with their children parents teach about a God that has plans for humanity (John 14:1-4; 1 John 3:2). Only teaching these things on 3-4 hours on Sunday and perhaps a couple of hours on a Wednesday night is a terrible waste of time for a parent. Traditional family holidays, even if those holidays are presented in religious forms by many in the world, should not and do not have to be avoided.  Instead those days should be used as a time to reinforce the truths about the earthly life of our Lord. There is no harm in social gatherings or the exchange of gift between individual families or church families if they are not done as a religious service.

Based on Romans 14:5-6, one person is given the latitude to observe a day as others are given the latitude to disregard that same day. Sadly, that some wait till only those times brings us to the last point.

If the question is asking about some contrived religious observance that is presented as somehow “pseudo-mandatory” by various denominations – then yes, the silence of the Scriptures should be bothersome. One of the great truths articulated in the Protestant Reformation was sola scriptura and by that identified the single authority for both belief and practice. As an aside, it is a terrible thing that the authority of the Scriptures had been so corrupted that such an important biblical truth had to be re-introduced to the religious community at large. Yet, with taking the Scriptures as one’s guide, it is easily recognized that a specific day of religious ceremony to remember the Savior’s birth, or that the resurrection of the Christ should be elevated in importance on a particular day, is not indicated by God via the inspired writers – one regards this as beyond dispute.

When a day like Christmas or Easter enters the communal religious landscape, presented as a special worship day, part of the error is indicating that special worship is somehow necessary for a “good Christian” to observe so they may remain in “good standing” with God or the church. This is no less odious than the Judaizing teachers condemned by Paul that were demanding circumcision by the new Gentile converts (Gal. 5:1-6). We are blessed to have a record of the worship of the first-century church of Christ from the hand of inspired men. We can put a finger on the place in the Scriptures which tells us when they met to worship and what they did as part of that worship. Elevating one day to be observed either alongside of, apart from, or somehow above the indicated worship of the church each and every Sunday is done strictly by the will of man, not the will of God. Regardless of the perception that it might be a “good thing” for the church to do; regardless of the argument that “the Bible doesn’t say I can’t”; when observances like this are added they go beyond what is indicated by the Scriptures.

The silence of the Scripture is a serious matter.  That cannot be denied, but in this short piece it is hoped to have been shown that even for those that find the silence of Scripture to be prohibitive there is more to consider. Are the Scriptures silent on the birth of the Christ? Absolutely not. In fact, much is written in the Scriptures predicting and recording the actual event. Are the Scriptures silent on the importance of family and events that promote coherence and teaching? Absolutely not. In fact, many of the most important religious festivals in the Old Testament emphasized the importance of family. Is that authoritative for us today?  No.  Is that instructive?  Yes. Are the Scriptures silent on the addition of a man-made religious observance regarding the birth or resurrection of Christ? Absolutely. No earthly council, association, or individual has the right to add any religious observance to the worship of the people of God.

As with any good question, “Does it matter to you that the Bible is silent about Christmas” has both a yes and no answer, and implication for more than just application to one instance. Questions like this lead one to a deeper examination of the Scriptures which often leads to a fuller understanding, and for that one is grateful. One might even ascribe to those that introduced the special worship occasions of Christmas and Easter so long ago the best of motives, desiring to keep these two wonderous events firmly implanted in the thought and life of the church. Yet with any extra-biblical activity introduced by mankind, these two days have become little more than a check box for some and a chance to make merchandise of the people for others. Let Christians everywhere take the Scriptures as their sole guide and seek to adore, worship, fear, serve, obey, and proclaim our great God and Savior Jesus Christ as we have been given example and instruction in that great Book.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s