DEFENDING CHRISTMAS: LAW OR GRACE?

Posted: November 29, 2014 in HOT TOPICS
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christmas1

This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.” (Galatians 2:4)

There is no worse force than the force of legalism cloaked in the garment of self-righteousness that condemns rather than edifies. But religion never edifies, but actually hinders the believer in their walk, a walk which comes through having a close relationship with Jesus Christ by faith, not of works. Yet, during this time of year, where the church should be showing the love of Christ to a dying and lost world, it has become bogged down in the affairs of rituals and legalism thru a system of works that would condemn anyone who follows Christ for celebrating his birth through the long held season called Christmas.

There is a trend, a growing sentiment within the body who would not only squelch the believer from celebrating Christmas, but deny their very freedom of doing so, all under the guise of the law, namely adhering to the law instead of grace. The truth is, those who would say celebrating Christmas is idolatry need to re-examine their argument and weigh it against the cross. The question is, are we under law or are we under grace? Which is it? If celebrating Christmas is idolatry for the believer based on the commandments of Moses, then do they adhere to the same standard when it comes to pork? To circumcision? To tithing? The facts are these, if Christ has fulfilled the law, then why are we attempting to justify ourselves by doing something to earn that justification which can only come through by faith and not works? If you say you don’t celebrate Christmas and by doing so it saves you, then you’ve already transgressed against the law of Christ, you’ve made your salvation based on what you did and not on faith.

This is the facts the modern day Judaizers who have infiltrated the church have become accusers of the brethren. They want believers back under the law and they use the rigid law of the past to control the church. It’s the same accusation that Paul had to deal with in his day when it came to those men who demanded that unless men were circumcised they could not be saved (Acts 15:1) “Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” It’s the same argument today.

Some Christians Have Been Taught: because there are pagan symbols and origins for various Christmas and Easter traditions, therefore believers should not celebrate such religious feast days, should not use pagan terminology, and should certainly not partake in any custom that has pagan roots.

Here is scripture showing that it is not inherently sinful to use pagan terms. Further, rather than being necessarily dishonored by such, God actively permits and He even employs, along with His people, the use of pagan terms. Finally, the Lord even permits His people to engage in certain superficial pagan practices. Of course God NEVER condones immorality. God would never regulate sin, because He is not double-minded, and because He would never send such mixed messages, and because God would never agree to His people hurting themselves. But then, how could a Christian use various symbolic pagan terms and practices, and yet sin not? Consider:

1. Pagan names for months of the year used in Scripture Neh. 2:1, and all Christians use pagan week day names

2. The Bible uses pagan names for Daniel’s associates. The Book of Daniel

3. Jesus went to Jerusalem for the apocryphal Maccabees’ Feast of Dedication, Hanukkah. John 10:22

4. Pagan philosophical terms co-opted. Hebrews: shadow, types, substance; John: logos

5. God allows us in the Body of Christ to eat meat sacrificed to idols. 1 Cor. 8:4

6. Those who are more mature can even go to, and eat in, an idol’s temple. 1 Cor. 8:10

7. Extra-biblical regulations may have a superficial appearance of wisdom but do not help. Colossians 2:20-23

1. Biblical Calendar, Hebrew Month Names: Scripture uses the Hebrew names of the months eight times. Ex. 13:4 (Abib, the first month); 23:15; 34:18; Deut. 16:1; 1 Ki. 6:1 (Ziv), 37, 38 (Bul), 8:2 (Ethanim, the seventh month)

Babylonian calendar, pagan names: used in Scripture 16 times. Neh. 1:1 (Chislev); 2:1 (Nisan, the first month); Est. 2:16 (Tebeth); 3:7 2x (Adar, the 12th month), 13; 8:9 (Sivan), 12; 9:1, 15, 17, 19, 21; Ezra 6:15; Zech. 1:7; 7:1

European and Roman Pagan Names: Sun-day, Moon-day, Thor’s-day; Saturn-day, etc.

2.  Daniel 1:6-7: “Now from among those of the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. To them the chief of the eunuchs gave names: he gave Daniel (75x) the name Belteshazzar (10x; see Dan. 10:1); to Hananiah (5x), Shadrach (15x); to Mishael (5x), Meshach (15x;) and to Azariah (5x), Abed-Nego (15x).” For example, Daniel 2:49 says, “…Daniel petitioned the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego over the affairs of the province of Babylon…” So the Babylonians took the language that God gave them, and perverted it with symbolism and pagan meaning, not unlike homosexuals taking the color pink, and even, being selfish, taking the entire rainbow, so that now pink symbolizes homosexuality, as does the rainbow itself. But we can take back the rainbow. And we can take back the color pink. So the names of Daniel’s associates had pagan origins, and pagan meanings, but regardless, the Holy Spirit inspired Daniel to use those pagan names, because God is holy, but He’s not uptight!

3. Jesus went to Jerusalem for the apocryphal feast of Hanukkah: The apocrypha at 1st Maccabees 4:56–59 states: “For eight days they celebrated the re-dedication of the altar. Then Judah and his brothers and the entire congregation of Israel decreed that the days of the re-dedication… should be observed… every year… for eight days.” Jesus was a Galilean (Mark 14:70, Luke 23:6; etc. of Nazareth (northern Israel) with His base in Capernaum [Luke 4:23; etc. 16x]) and He would go to Jerusalem to minister for the feasts (John 2:13; etc.). Yet the Gospel of John says that Jesus also went to Jerusalem and even the temple during for the apocryphal feast which the Jews celebrate around Christmas time with the Menorah, the candlestick with nine branches. “Now it was the Feast of Dedication [Greek: renewal; inauguration] in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked into the temple…” (John 10:22-23). Some may criticize a Christian for even attending a religious festival other than an explicitly biblical one, whereas Jesus made it His custom to go to Jerusalem, for ministry purposes, during the Feasts, and He also went for this apocryphal feast.

4. Pagan Philosophical Terms Co-opted by God: Shadow, type, substance, logos (Heb. 8:5; 10:1; Rom. 5:14; John 1:1, 14; etc.)

5. Acceptable for Christians to Knowingly Eat Meat Sacrificed to Idols: 1 Co. 8:4-6. Acceptable for Christians to Eat in an Idol’s Temple : Members of the Body of Christ may even go into an idol’s temple and eat a meal there, paying our money to pagan priests, of Corinth, etc., even though they use our money to promote the worship of false gods like Apollo, etc. 1 Co. 8:10

7. Therefore, If You Died With Christ: from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations; “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using; according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh (Col. 2:20-23). 1. Biblical Calendar, Hebrew Month Names: Scripture uses the Hebrew names of the months eight times. Ex. 13:4 (Abib, the first month); 23:15; 34:18; Deut. 16:1; 1 Ki. 6:1 (Ziv), 37, 38 (Bul), 8:2 (Ethanim, the seventh month)

Babylonian calendar, pagan names: used in Scripture 16 times. Neh. 1:1 (Chislev); 2:1 (Nisan, the first month); Est. 2:16 (Tebeth); 3:7 2x (Adar, the 12th month), 13; 8:9 (Sivan), 12; 9:1, 15, 17, 19, 21; Ezra 6:15; Zech. 1:7; 7:1) European and Roman Pagan Names: Sun-day, Moon-day, Thor’s-day; Saturn-day, etc.

The fact is this, either we are saved, justified by faith and faith alone, or we are saved by the law, but since the law could not save nor keep our salvation, then it is foolish to suggest that partaking of a particular day is both wrong and sinful, to suggest that means one is trying to live by works and not faith. It cannot be by both. Notice this in Galatians 5:1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” The yoke Paul is speaking about here is the law.

In Titus 1:15 the Apostle also warns against those who see evil in almost anything and condemn it. For these people, a lot of things have the appearance of evil, but purity is first of all a matter of the mind and conscience, not merely the external. “To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled.” (NASB).

Just because the world distorts something, that does not make it evil if we avoid the distortions and use it as God intended or in a way that does not go contrary to God’s character and holiness. A good illustration is the beauty of sexual love within the bonds of marriage. Colossians 2:16-17 forbids is the celebration of religious seasons or holy days when they have been prescribed as religious duty and necessary for holiness or spirituality. Christmas is not a religious duty.

In this passage, the Apostle is talking about the Old Testament festivals which were shadows of the person and work of Christ–but Christ has now come. To continue to celebrate them is to dishonor the fact of His coming, or to act as though He were not enough for salvation or spirituality. Note what the Apostle says, “let no one act as your judge in regard to . . .” He is saying don’t let anyone tell you these things are requirements for fellowship with God. They were only shadows of the person and work of Christ, and He has not only come and fulfilled those shadows, but He is totally sufficient.

Colossians 2:16 and 17 in no way forbids believers from commemorating something such as the birth of Christ if it is done out of love, devotion, and the joy the season gives when used as a way of focusing on the Savior and not as a religious duty. The issue is not the observance, but the reason, the attitudes and the spirit in which it is done.

Furthermore, I believe there is scriptural precedent for commemorating and remembering the birth of Christ. This is in keeping with the events that occurred around the time of Christ’s birth These include:

1. The appearance of the angel of the Lord with the glory of the Lord to announce the birth of Christ to the shepherds (Lk. 2:10-12).

2. The response of the angels at the announcement of Christ’s birth (Lk. 2:13-14).

3. The actions of the shepherds who left their flocks to go and see which was nothing short of a celebration (Lk. 2:15-20).

4. And the arrival of the men from the east bearing gifts as much as a year to two years later (Matt. 2:1-12).

There is, of course, the New Testament precedent for believers meeting together on Sunday. In essence this is a celebration of the Lord’s resurrection. The early church automatically did this, but Scripture does not command us to do so. In fact, the early church at first met daily and took the Lord’s Supper daily, but we don’t do that today. Why not? Because these are not binding. We are not under the Law. Believers meet on Sunday because of its significance and because the early church set a precedent for it, but it was never commanded in the Bible. Believers did it out of love and adoration for the risen Savior.

The point is this: If the early church could celebrate the resurrection without a specific command from God, only the spirit of legalism or the letter of the law would forbid the celebration of Christ’s birth as a special season of joy and adoration. Ultimately, the issue is not the season, its the attitude and reason behind it and the distortion of it. Let’s not throw out the baby with the wash.

Hoehner points out that the traditional date for the birth of Christ as December 25th dates back to as early as Hippolytus (A..D. 165-235). In the Eastern church January 6th was the date used for Christ’s birth. But this is still a winter date and not far removed from December 25th.

The facts is this, either we live by the Spirit of Christ and God’s Holy Spirit guiding us or, we fall into condemnation of everything around us simply because we are fearful that by doing so negates our salvation, the only thing which negates ones salvation is losing faith in the only means by which we are saved – the cross. When the object of our faith is no longer in Christ, but in something other than the cross, or we fall into unbelief, then we negate that very salvation which can save us from our sins. Not by keeping to the Torah, nor the Sabbath, or whether or not we celebrate Christmas, but keeping our faith in what Christ did on the cross. That is why we can celebrate Christmas without our faith being challenged. Examine the words of Paul in Romans 8:1 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” God does not bring guilt, accusations, railings or condemnation. He brings freedom through the cross. Remember this season and understand that ours is not to judge one another by what they do or do not do, but to encourage others in their walk, not become a stumblingblock over minor disputes. Personal conviction should never be used as a theological position to guilt trip and condemn others, instead, let us encourage one another in this life we have now so that others may see the love of Christ in our words and actions.

Merry Christmas

Christopher

Contact me at – christopher152@gmail.com

Comments
  1. Sharron says:

    Well put. I frequently use the meat sacrificed to idols to discuss that the meat is still meat and not evil in itself. This is the same as Christmas and other holidays. The holidays are not evil in themselves. I clarify this further by illustrating our freedom in Christ. However, your work provides clarity beyond 1 Corinthians 8.

  2. I do apologize for getting so wrapped up in all that.It is hard for me to comprehend a lot of written material,and I guess,when I listened to what I heard on tht video,I felt guilty,and it made sense about not celebrating Christmas no the same day as the pagans celebrated the birth of their god.I do know that salvation is based on faith,,,Have you watched the video,,,Truth or Tradition? Why,if Jesus was born in the fall,do we belebrate it on December 25th ? Anyway,I really want to stay with the group because I want to learn.Due to health problems,I don’t get out to church,and try to ‘attend’ church online.Do you know anything about Moody Church in Chicago? That is the service I listen to on Sunday mornings when I am able.(I’m trying to take my time typing so I don’t have to use all caps,as I really wasn’t yelling,,,never did understand that,anyway).Thank you for sharing the link with me.I will have to read it a few more times and will also read the scripture that goes along with it.And thank you for replying to my message.

  3. Alexandria says:

    My goodness what twisting of scripture. Not one mention of Jeremiah 10 where God tells us not to fear the pagans or do as they do, then goes on to describe the cutting down of trees. If you really want to celebrate his birth then do it at the same time. He says his people will be a peculiar people, in other words quite the opposite of the world. We are told to refrain from the traditions of man and not to follow them. ‘Making the Word of God of none effect through your tradition, which you have delivered: and many such things ye do’ Mark 7:13
    ‘Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and NOT after Christ’ Col 2:8.

    The names of Daniels friends are not given as they would have been, try looking up how Daniel changed them so that no recogonition would be given to the gods of Babylon it stands to reason that 4 people who refused to do eat and behave as the king wanted would NOT give credence to his gods.

    John does not say that Jesus celebrated hannukah it says ‘and it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication and it was winter’, after that yes it says Jesus walked in the temple but cannot imply anything else to that statement. Paul was at Jerusalem during Passover, doesn’t say he was there to partake of the festival, those times of year were optimal to getting the gospel to as many Jews as possible, to preach to them the good news, that the feasts had been fulfilled.
    As for eating meat etc I agree it is not a salvation issue, but most of it like pork is good sense considering the known facts at how bad pork is and can be. Also why eat animals and shellfish that eat the feces of other animals and ingest other people and animals waste?

    As for the Law, if sin is transgression of the Law and only by theLaw do you know you’re sinning then the 10 commandments are not done away with. He promised to write them in our hearts, either he lied or people don’t want to know the difference between the feasts and ceremonial ordinances nailed to the cross. The 7th day Sabbath is still in the middle of that law, and ironically the only one that states REMEMBER and is the most forgotten. They were written on rock which represented the one who would judge by them and defend his believers from. If there is no law what exactly is he mediating for us for in heaven because it clearly states that judgement begins AT THE HOUSE OF GOD! ‘For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?’ 1 Peter 4:17. ‘If ye love me keep (hold onto) MY commandments’ John 14:15, which commandments is he talking about? again he must be lying as he knew that they’d be done away with……..WRONG!!!!!! He wants us to know them and let him CAUSE us to walk in them in obedience. Jeremiah 31:33 ‘But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel (his church not physical people of Israel); I will PUT MY LAW IN THEIR INWARD PARTS AND WRITE IT IN THEIR HEARTS; and will be their God, and they shall be MY people’. Revelation 14:12 ‘ Here is the patience of the saints: here are THEY that KEEP the commandments of God and HAVE the faith of Jesus’. Many many times throughout the whole of scripture we are told His commandments are forever and eternal, not once does it say that they will be gone after Christ’s sacrifice. He taught his disciples which law was important once he was in heaven and that was the eternal written on Rock Law, his Word. It is not good enough to say that Sunday is kept out of respect for his resurrection, HE DOES NOT COMMAND US TO DO THAT he commands the 7th day, he gave us the last supper with which to remember his work. God abhors anything to do with Sunday, do you not know of the woman and men of Ezekial worshipping to the east with their backs to God Almighty and weeping for the god of the Sun???? There is no command for Sunday, even the author of that day the church of Rome acknowledges that and laughs at those who try to justify it with scripture that just does not exist. The fact that today we use the Gregorian calendar and pagan names for the days etc is something we cannot help, it does not go against the commandments of God, but Sunday worship most certainly does. When God speaks of not letting these names from our lips he means in worship. Otherwise we would not be able to speak, as most words derive from pagan languages somewhere. In Daniel he speaks of the man who would seek to change God’s times and laws and that lawless man has managed to do just that and convince the world that he’s right when in fact he’s wrong and it is written in numerous catholic books just who sanctified Sunday. If you keep Sunday because Paul broke bread on that day, then you are following the works of man and not the Word of God! Colossians 2:16,17 he is talking to those who were being persecuted by the Jews for not following the feasts anymore, the sabbathS is not THE SABBATH they were the holy days to be kept before and after a feast, a solemn convocation, not the Sabbath day.
    And lastly, the fanfare when Christ was born was that fit for a King, the angels were delighting in the miracle of the Son of God being born, Immanuel, coming to save and seek the lost it is NOT to be used as an excuse to follow the world in its shallow worship of Satan, who seeks the glory of God, who puts his throne in the North, is omnipresent etc all of which is stolen from God, a transgression of the LAW by the way.
    Seek and study your scriptures for yourself, look in history for those who God calls out as His enemy and what they would do to his Word and ask yourself if you really want to be seen to do as they do and not obey Him by doing so.
    oh and I see below this box that you have a post of ‘why Christians will continue to struggle with sin’ and that’s an easy one…..WHEN YOU THROW OUT THE LAW WHICH CONVICTS YOU OF SIN AND CALL IT LEGALISM TO FOLLOW HIS EXAMPLE AND OBEY GOD THEN SIN WILL CONSTANTLY BE IN YOUR LIFE BECAUSE SOMETHING THAT DOES NOT EXIST CANNOT CONVICT YOU OF ANYTHING

    • I will live by grace – not law. The sabbath ended at the cross. I keep the commandments perfectly through my faith in Christ, not by doing something, the law was about “doing”, faith is about believing. I say bring on Christmas and let the season fill your heart with joy. And I sleep good at night for doing so.

      • Anonymous says:

        In scripture where does it say that the sabbath ended at the law?

      • The Sabbath was for the Jews – I’m not a Jew. It was for two things, to rest from 6 days of hard labor, and it was a picture of the coming Christ. How much more plainer do you need it to be? Do you keep the sabbath? If you do, do you do any type of work on the sabbath? Do you go online? Do you cook a meal? Do you drive your car? Do you read a book (including the bible)? If you answer YES to any of these questions, then YOU have broken the law, you’ve sinned. Sorry, see how foolish that is? This is why Paul said the ceremonial law (which included the sabbath) was not, nor should be for the gentiles. Read all of Galatians, but you won’t because you hate Paul.

      • Anonymous says:

        Cross.

    • Anonymous says:

      Amen

  4. Alexandria says:

    sorry that should be do it at the correct time. celebrate his birth.

  5. Anonymous says:

    “Jesus” came to fulfill the law, now destroy it. He says that. He also says that until both heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or tittle of the law will pass away. Question: are you still living on earth?. Refer to Jeremiah where scripture warns against the practices of Christmas…cutting down trees, decorating them and bringing them in, it is prohibited. Let me ask this, what is sin then? If we have no law….we have no definition of sin…if we have no sin, there is no need for a savior.. if we are ready born again we are required to transform.to be as Christians was, he kept the law….

    • Anonymous says:

      *not destroy it

    • Your ignorance is overwhelming. #1 Jeremiah is not even referring to Christmas trees (where in the world of the internet did you come up with that observation?) it referred to pagans cutting down a tree, then taking it inside their home where they then cut of all the limbs, and cut it in half to where only a stump remained, then they CARVED it into an actual idol of whatever god they worshiped. That is what Jeremiah was referring to. Second, we are now under grace, and as such, we are JUSTIFIED by faith.

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