Christmas and Other Religious Holidays
Should We Observed Christmas as a Religious Holiday? by Bryan Gibson
Why No Special Easter Service? by Bryan Gibson
What Shall We Teach About Jesus' Birth? by Doy Moyer
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Should We Observe Christmas as a Religious Holiday?
by Bryan Gibson
To help us in answering this question, let’s begin by looking at a very important Biblical principle. This principle is found in Matthew 21:23-27. The chief priests and elders confronted Jesus and asked Him, “By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?” In response to their question, Jesus asked them a very revealing question, “The baptism of John, where was it from? From heaven or from men?”
What this question shows is that every religious teaching or practice must come from one of two sources: heaven or men. But what if it should come from men? Is there any problem with that? YES, according to Jesus in Matthew 15:9: “And in vain they worship me, teaching as doctrine the commandments of men.” It is indeed a serious thing to teach or practice anything which has its origin with man (see also Colossians 2:22; Titus 1:14). Now, what about the practice of observing Christmas as a religious holiday, that is, celebrating it as the birth of Jesus? Is this practice from heaven or from men?
If this practice comes from God, we should expect something to be said about it in the Bible. But when we look carefully throughout the Bible, frankly, we cannot find a word about Christmas. Nowhere is there a command to celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25. We have no examples of it being done. In fact, the Bible says nothing about exactly when Jesus was born. With nothing in God’s word about this practice, we must conclude that it comes from man. That being the case, we simply cannot turn his birth into a religious observance.
It seems ironic, in looking at the celebration of Christmas, that the birth of Christ receives almost more attention than the death of Christ. The birth of Christ was a wonderful event, but the focus of the gospel message is the death of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:2; 15:3-4). In fact, the death of Christ is something God does teach us to observe. We do this every first day of the week when we eat the Lord’s Supper (see Matthew 26:26-28; Acts 2:42; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 10:16-21; 11:17-34). This practice clearly comes from heaven, or from God. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same about the observance of Christmas as the birth of Christ.
Why No Special Easter Service?
By Bryan Gibson (edited by Dave Brown)
Did you know that there are some churches that do not have a special Easter service? This is probably surprising to many since millions of people commemorate the resurrection of Jesus on this day. Since Easter is considered “the most holy” of all religious holidays, why would these people not be consistent with what is generally accepted?
The reason is really quite simple. Christ did not give us the authority to create this (or any other) holiday. The local churches in the New Testament, who serve as our pattern today, did not participate in a yearly observance of the Lord’s resurrection. To put it another way, this practice was started by man, not by Christ. There are no annual religious holidays given to us in the New Testament.
The word “Easter” is found only one time, and only in the King James Version of the Bible, in Acts 12:4. However, the word in the Greek is actually Pascha, which is properly translated “Passover.” This is how it is translated in all other cases in the King James Version. Even in Acts 12:4, it is translated Easter in no other scholarly translation. If Easter were celebrated in the first century there would be some reference of it in the New Testament, since the scriptures furnish us with every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
The word “Easter” actually comes from “Eastre,” the Anglo-Saxon name of a Teutonic goddess of spring and fertility. Why would such a name be applied to the observance of the resurrection of Jesus? Can we have any assurance at all that God is pleased with our applying a pagan goddess’ name to a holiday that is supposed to honor Jesus?
We would like to challenge our readers with the following questions. Where in the Bible do you find a command to observe the resurrection of Christ on a yearly basis, a day known as Easter? Where in the Bible do you find a example of such being done? Where in the Bible is it even implied that we should have a day like this? Listen to what Jesus said about teaching as doctrine something that originated with man (Matthew 15:9): “But in vain do they worship me, Teaching (as their) doctrines the precepts of men.
While the first century Christians did not observe Easter, they did do something else that was quite special not only on this day, but on every first day of the week. They commemorated the Lord’s death by eating the Lord’s Supper, something the Lord clearly both authorized and commanded (Matthew 26:26-28; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:23-30). Can it ever be wrong to follow exactly what Jesus has commanded?
What Shall We Teach About Jesus’ Birth?
by Doy Moyer
At this time of year, some people, who may rarely otherwise do so, will think a little bit about Jesus. There are many errors that float around concerning Jesus at this time, but Christians should seize upon the opportunities to teach the truth. If people take this time to think a little about Jesus’ birth, then let’s teach the truth about it. While it is unlikely that Jesus was born on December 25th, the truth is that He was born at some time, and the implications of His birth reach far beyond a particular time of the year. If they are willing to do so during this season, why not take people to the Scriptures and let them see the truth of what His birth means? Truth in its purest form will always debunk the errors that find their way into culture. Yet our goal is not just to debunk errors. Our goal is to get people to understand what really happened so they can appreciate what it means for their salvation. Here are some biblical points we need to be reminded of:
1. The birth of Jesus was the fruition of God’s plan from the beginning. Isaiah prophesied His birth (7:14; 9:6), and Micah named the place (5:2). The Chief Priests and Scribes understood that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem (Matt 2:4-5). This was no accident. Paul said it all happened “when the fullness of the time came” (Gal 4:4).
2. The birth of Jesus was necessary as God carried out His plan for redemption. Paul wrote that Jesus was born “so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Gal 4:5). He was born in order to redeem. Joseph was told not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife because the Holy Spirit had caused her to conceive. She would bear a Son, “and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt 1:21). God’s actions were planned and deliberate, and this plan included entering this world so that He might redeem and save the lost. A few days after the birth, when presented at the Temple, Simeon held Jesus, and he recognized what this meant: “For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a Light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel” (Luke 2:30-32). Then Anna, a prophetess, “came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38). If we speak of Jesus’ birth, we ought to think of redemption, salvation, and glory. These are continual themes of the Christian regardless of the season.
3. The birth of Jesus created very different reactions. Simeon told Mary, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed—and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35). To the shepherds, angels spoke of glory to God and peace among men (Luke 2:14). The shepherds made their way to where Jesus was born. Their reaction was to praise and glorify God (vs. 20). The magi, who came from the east a bit later, sought for the Messiah, the King of the Jews (think about the implications of Gentile wise men doing this). Their reaction was one of great joy, and they worshiped Him and presented gifts (Matt 2:10-11). Herod, on the other hand, sought to kill Him, initiating a terrible slaughter.
The reactions toward Jesus are similar today. People love Him or hate Him, but they cannot be neutral about Him. We can choose to glorify God, praise Him, and worship, or we can seek to destroy His influence. People still fall and rise because of Jesus. What shall it be for us? Now here is what people need to know at this time of year: Jesus is not seasonal. Once done, we cannot pack Him back away in a box until next year. If we seek Him now, we must seek Him always. If we worship Him now, we must continue our worship through every season. Salvation is not seasonal. Jesus was born to redeem us from sin. This is not about a cute little baby. This is about the God of heaven and earth becoming flesh so that we might be saved from our sins. Unless that message is stressed, we have merely turned Jesus into a seasonal commodity. Let us never forget the true message of His incarnation: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
What are the conditions of salvation given by Jesus?
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