Christmas The Romanist Holiday

Thought I’d stir up a hornet’s nest with this tweet from David Reece:

Christmas is a Romanist holy day, not a Protestant or Biblical holy day.

In the New Covenant, the only holy day is the Lord’s Day.

Man has no right to invent holy days.

1 Kings 12:25-33

The second Helvetic may be helpful here:

“If in Christian liberty the churches religiously celebrate the memory of the Lord’s nativity, circumcision, passion, resurrection, and of his ascension into heaven, and the sending of the Holy Spirit upon his disciples, we approve of it highly.”​

—Second Helvetic Confession 24.4.​

Yes, this is frequently what former Cru members and Baptists say. Smiling. We’ve had them in our congregation, protesting worship on the Lord’s Day. What I always notice is how assiduously they observe birthdays. And Sundays as a family day. In other words, if men observed no “holy” days set apart for this or that, I’d maybe listen to their arguments against Christmas, Easter, and the Lord’s Day. But invariably they do reserve their scrupulosity for this day, but not that day. So guys, what say you? Love,


Eh, I don’t think it’s a holy day. I just think it’s a wonderful thing to celebrate. Are we forbidden from gathering n for worship on days other than the Lord’s day?

NT practice says no.


I’ll bite, but only because you asked, and only in a spirit of camaraderie. :slight_smile:

A pretty significant difference between celebrating birthdays vs. celebrating Christmas/Advent/Easter is that nobody is presenting birthday celebrations as a necessary or expected part of Christian worship, while these other traditions are elevated to a place of weighty liturgical reverence. It’s one thing for a person to mark the commemoration of an event privately. It’s another thing for the church to invoke an obligation on the consciences of God’s people. I don’t think this difference should be too readily brushed aside.

God does not require it of fathers to create elaborate birthday traditions for their families, but neither does he forbid it. God also does not require it of the church to create elaborate advent traditions, but does this mean he doesn’t forbid that? Many will say of course not, and insist that whatever is not forbidden is therefore permissible. But I would argue – and I believe the regulative principle of worship is on my team here – that when the church creates and insists upon extrabiblical tradition and the solemnifying of holy days, it lays an undue burden on the consciences of the church that Christ does not lay upon them.

I’ll pause here and say that when I say “extrabiblical tradition,” I am not referring to all the usual petty things that get argued about that have to do with preferences of form that relate to how we practically obey biblical commands. For instance, people argue about whether or not we should use a loaf of bread at the Lord’s supper, or if we use some kind of cracker. Do we have a guitar or just piano accompaniment, etc. These are worthy things to talk about in their place, but the context must be recognized that these don’t have to do with creating new tradition, but rather just trying to establish the form in which a biblical tradition is observed.

Advent is different than these. We bring in all these silly candles and stuff, and ascribe importance to them. And then pastors admonish their churchmen to make sure they go out of their way to do special devotions with their families. Special arts and crafts. Special this, and special that. All sorts of stuff that the Lord does not require of them.

Someone will reply, “Are you saying church’s and pastors can’t require anything of their people?” Of course not. Let the good work of pastors admonishing men to confess their sins and repent continue. Let pastors admonish their men for not doing family devotions, or for general lethargy in raising their children in the instruction of the Lord. The church has an obligation to disciple its people. But let’s stick to what the Lord requires of us, and not create our own sentimental niceties and burden men’s consciences with them.

/ducks for cover :slight_smile:

I won’t speak exhaustively to this right now, but I want to recognize that “Sunday as a family day” has its own issues. Personally, I don’t know any men who try to argue against Christmas, Easter, and the Lord’s Day. The argument would be against Christmas and Easter supplanting the Lord’s Day – which is the closest thing we have to an actual New Covenant holiday.


Personally, I don’t know any men who try to argue against Christmas, Easter, and the Lord’s Day.

It depends if you’re talking to an RP (like the original tweeter) or someone coming from the Hebrew Roots cult. The RP guys are generally peaceable about things and their points about compulsion and conscience are taken.

The Hebrew Roots men start with Saturday Sabbath, then take up observance of the Jewish festivals, then kosher foods. When the homeschool moms are leading, they start with the food laws. These people are always straining out the gnat while swallowing the camel. They are leaving the fellowship of the church because the day of the week is wrong. They despise authority and quarrels about the law give them cover.

And the works of the flesh, well they become manifest. We have a man passing literature around our flock arguing about the food laws, and have come to find out that it’s published by a non trinitarian cult. Do you all know to what extent middle aged men on social media are teaching this stuff to the homeschool moms in your local homeschool group?


Ah yes, the Hebrew Roots stuff. I had a tangle with that about ten years ago, when my best childhood friend’s wife got into that stuff in exactly the way you’ve described it, which is pretty much exactly as Paul described as well:

"For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions… " - 2 Tim. 3:6

It’s a long story, but in the end, after much pleading, the whole ordeal ended up costing the friendship, as I labored with tears to show my friend that he and his wife had fallen prey to a different gospel.

Suffice it to say, there is no Hebrew Roots in anything I’m arguing for, and pray you’d get no whiff of it. I am certainly not arguing for a return to Old Covenant feasts and observance of a Mosaic law which has passed away.

Well said. I pray you and your fellow elders deal with this man decisively and urgently. And may pastors and husbands be diligent and jealous concerning the wild food that the sheep are consuming from social media.


This really feels like a non-issue.

The church I go to marked today the fourth Sunday in Advent. There is no rule, anywhere, that says that we should mark Advent, but we do; we are Anglican, yes, but it comes from long tradition that we mark Advent, and established custom. And tradition and custom do have their place - because tradition is the living faith of those who have gone before; whereas traditionalism is the dead faith of too many who are living!

The same is also true of observing Lent, or is that another hornet’s nest just asking to be prodded? :wink:

… And may pastors and husbands be diligent and jealous concerning the wild food that the sheep are consuming from social media.

Agreed - as I’ve observed before, most of you guys don’t really know what your flock are consuming besides what you give them every Sunday.

Well said, Jason. But…

In arguments about regulative principle, I think of the old saying, “All an Englishman’s preferences are a matter of principle.” In my experience, this is the best way to explain what has long been going on in Reformed worship wars for quite a while now. Weddings or funerals in church or out? Done by ministers or not? Wedding rings or not? Kneeling or not? Lord’s Prayer or not? Instruments or not? Psalter-only or not? Prayer of confession or not? Creed or not? Woman up front helping singing or not? Woman up front leading singing’s beginning with pitch pipe or not (yes, in our local RP church)? Drums or not? Electric assistance with instruments or not? Offering taken or not? E-giving or not?

I’m not going to throw out the basic distinction between Lutheran and Reformed Protestants anytime soon since I believe it gets at a fundamental principle of worship where I am of the Reformed conviction (what is not commanded is prohibited), and opposed to the Lutheran one (what is not forbidden is permitted).

But no, this does not mean I believe I am requiring sacrifices to graven images when I lead my congregation in singing “When I Survery the Wondrous Cross” on Good Friday. Some good souls in my former congregation believed singing about the cross of Christ was idolatry, of the cross. Others thought our prayers of confession were a violation of the new covenant, and this practice was likely one of the more consistent things over which people left our fellowship—some knowing that was the issue, and stating so, while maybe even more not quite understanding what it was about our worship that made them uncomfortable.

After decades of watching and listening to the disparate worship principles among the Reformed, I came to the conclusion it was entirely inconsistent, which means I came to the conclusion most of the hoopla was more a function of preferences than consciences subject to the authority of Scripture.

About holy days. Why did I list birthdays and family days with the Lord’s Day as holy days? Two Scriptures:

But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?

You observe days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain. (Galatians 4:9-11)

Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. (Colossians 2:16-17)

The “day” and “days” referred to above seem to me to fit in with July 4th national birthdays, family birthdays, memorial days, reformation days, days of humiliation and fasting, days of thanksgiving, wedding anniversaries, days celebrating our Lord’s crucifixion, birth, and Death; and certainly not simply sabbath/Lord’s days.

Personally, my conviction concerning holy days is that the New Testament sets us an example without giving us a command. So this is somewhere in between not prohibited and required, and I’m fine with that. Or rather, I believe in that. As I’ve aged, I’ve gotten increasingly tired with young men who neglect camels in their home and church while straining at gnats with a dreadful zeal, then seducing all their smarty-pants friends to become their disciples, joining them in their divisiveness. And yes, absolutely; present company completely excluded, or I wouldn’t be writing here.

After studying it, there’s no doubt in my mind that John Calvin had neither a commitment to exclusive psalmody nor what many consider to be the proper observation of the regulative principle of worship today. The good thing about our Reformed Presbyterian brothers is that they claim they are absolutists, so all I need do is tell them Calvin’s Genevan worship included the singing of the Decalogue.
And that is that.

But go on and examine Genevan liturgy with both Calvin and Knox’s liturgy in hand and you find what, if I were French, I might call a melange. Bordering on an agglomeration. As we have been saying repeatedly, the reformation principle concerning worship was restoring preaching to the center of worship, then simplicity in all things done and sung. (Also simplicity in preaching, I might add.)

What I find telling is that our Reformed Presbyterian brothers have a woman lead their singing (what else would you call it?) by blowing a pitch pipe up front, facing the congregation from the front. Meanwhile, over in Africa, I have it on good authority they have drums and drummers lead their worship. What is blowing a pitch pipe combined with beating a drum other than an organ, I ask you (with a smile)? Put the two together and what I recognize is preference masquerading as principle, and this partly because of its inconsistency. Actually, it strikes me as simple contextualization, which is a good thing. When in Africa, we worship with drums. When among Covenanters who are in America and white and tell everyone they are the real Presbyterians, no drums because if they gave up their American practice of singing (four parts!), were I French I might say they have no raison d’être. And quel dommage.

So back to the argument that the elders and pastor who call the people to join in the memorialization of our redemption through our Lord’s birth, triumphal entry, last supper, trial, crucifixion, death, resurrection, and ascension is (or is tantamount to) forcing the people of God to join the elders and pastor in their idolatry: If we read the accounts of this and similar conflicts during Puritan times (especially those written by Horton Davies) we will be quite sympathetic to their zeal in the matter, and this largely because it was then an issue of freedom of religion when civil authority sought to remove it. But does this mean they discovered Scriptural truths Calvin and Knox had missed concerning the Second Commandment and the regulative principle of worship?

My own answer is no. Just no. I honor them for their defense of worship against the oppression of civil authorities, and I do believe there is truth to the regulative principle of worship in connection with the Second Commandment, and I am on the Reformed side of Protestantism—all the way. But in matters of what the Second Commandment requires and/or allows, I’m with Knox and Calvin in Geneva.

Whenever brittle Reformed brothers want me to adopt Calvin and Luther’s anathematizing of anabaptists today towards, say, Southern Baptists, I take a similar tack—but this time against Calvin and Luther. Baptists today bear little resemblance to Thomas Müntzer’s pitchfork rebels in the days of the Reformers, and so I do not believe we should lump Al Mohler and John MacArthur in with them and respond to them as Calvin and Luther responded to the anabaptists of their day.

Each day has its dreadnoughts that must be sunk. Might I be allowed to say that Christmas has grown awful, and yet doesn’t come anywhere close to what we must prophetically oppose today. It isn’t Christmas that is attacking and sinking the church of our time, but rampant rebellion against authority, rejection of God’s male and female, and the bloodshed of OUR precious children.

I’ve had souls oppose Christmas within our congregation. Also the Lord’s Day, prayers of confession, kneeling and lifting hands (which Calvin said was required by Scripture, but somehow our RP brothers have missed that), but I’ve never had souls oppose Good Friday, Maundy Thursday, Reformation Sunday, or Easter.

Which has been a great relief since I could not live without Good Friday.

Much love,


BTW, I’d intended the above two “Merry Christmas!” posts to go under “Bayly’s Daily.” Sorry. I wasn’t intending them as a thumb in the eye, here.

[Editor: I moved them to the right place.]

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I’m thankful for your response, and as always, continue to glean much from you.

This touches on one of the things I find almost comedic about trying to rigorously “abstain” from celebrating Easter and Christmas. Does abstinence from Easter mean that we take care not to sing certain songs on Easter Sunday about the resurrection? Does abstinence from Christmas mean we take care not to speak of the incarnation or sing certain songs? Do we take care not to be in Luke 2 during Christmas, lest our less-enlightened evangelical brethren get the wrong impression?

I told my kids the other day that trying to abstain from formulating Christmas traditions is sort of akin to the way the world tries to abstain from Anno Domini in favor of “the common era.” Like it or not, we’re all counting time by the lordship of Jesus Christ. Similarly, regulative principle or not, we’re all doing something with Christmas.

I tend to take four days of PTO between Christmas and New Year, as it affords me nine days off in a row. During this time, certain traditions have formed, even though we don’t observe “Christmas.” I joke that while everyone else gets the Twelve Days of Christmas, I get the Nine Days of Un-Christmas, and I’ll be very happy to speak of the incarnation of our Lord during these times, as at all others, and dare I say even in an elevated way.

In other words, let the record show that I get it. Rigid insistence on the regulative principle about such things, at some level, is simply to kick against the goads of God’s providence. I find it to be completely possible to say, “I reject the popish tradition of Christmas,” while at the same time say, “God’s providence has made Christmas a thing whether I like it or not.”

I think Spurgeon captures this well in a variety of excerpts on the topic.

"This is the season of the year when, whether we wish it or not, we are compelled to think of the birth of Christ. I hold it to be one of the greatest absurdities under heaven to think that there is any religion in keeping Christmas-day. There are no probabilities whatever that our Savior Jesus Christ was born on that day and the observance of it is purely of Popish origin; doubtless those who are Catholics have a right to hallow it, but I do not see how consistent Protestants can account it in the least sacred. However, I wish there were ten or a dozen Christmas-days in the year; for there is work enough in the world, and a little more rest would not hurt laboring people. Christmas-day is really a boon to us, particularly as it enables us to assemble round the family hearth and meet our friends once more. Still, although we do not fall exactly in the track of other people, I see no harm in thinking of the incarnation and birth of the Lord Jesus. We do not wish to be classed with those, “Who with more care keep holiday the wrong, than others the right way.”

Truly, I think Spurgeon makes a good schoolmaster for the overzealous, young, cage-stage regulative principle dude.

I’m thankful for how you frame this, and frankly, for the honesty with which you approach it. It’s a separate topic, but the rigidity in the way the 2LCF and WCF speak of the Sabbath command in connection with the Lord’s Day is – as you may recall from previous forum discussions through the years – a sore point to me. I remain thankful for your example that it is possible to cling to general equity while not freaking out too much over the letter. That is to say, you’ve helped me chill out on that topic a lot, and not descend into being that young man you’re referring to. Though I remain critical of the laissez faire nature in which I perceive most of us in Reformed Baptist or Presbyterian circles interact with our supposed confessions, I don’t feel the need to burn the joint down, and I’d like to think that’s maturity. :wink:

Now that’s funny. I did take it as a thumb in the eye, but only a playful one, and I amen what you wrote.


And as Martyn Lloyd-Jones says in Preaching and Preachers (quoted elsewhere by me on this topic). Emphasis added:

Any Christian who does not respond to a sermon on the Nativity had better re-examine his whole position in Christ. If you yourself as preacher cannot still be moved by a sermon which just deals with the facts and details of the death of our blessed Lord on the Cross on Calvary’s hill, if you do not feel as if you had never preached it before, and if you are not as moved by it as you have ever been, I say again that you had better examine your foundations. And the same is true of the people. So these special occasions have great value in this respect, that they, in a sense, compel us to go back, and to remind ourselves of these things which after all are the fundamentals on which our whole position rests.

I go even further; I believe in using almost any special occasion as an opportunity for preaching the Gospel. So in addition to what I have mentioned I have always taken advantage of the first Sunday of a New Year in this way. You may ask, ‘What is the difference between the first of January and the thirty-first of December?’ And of course in a sense you are right. That is the purely intellectual attitude. To it all days are the same. But to the average person there is a difference. New Year! the time for making resolutions. Of course we know that it is nonsense and that it will lead to nothing. People do it every year and probably do not remember their resolutions even for a week. Nevertheless they do this. ‘But,’ you say, ‘what then is the point of paying any attention to that?’ Once more that is the theoretical view-point.

But we must not take these theoretical views, as I have been trying to show; we have to assess our congregations and our people, and we must deal with them as human beings. Remembering that ‘he who winneth souls is wise’ we must take advantage of anything and everything that will bring home the truth of the Gospel to people. So when you start a New Year there is an obvious opportunity of reminding people of the fleeting nature of life. We all tend to forget this; you can be so interested in great theological and intellectual and philosophical problems that you tend to forget that you are going to die. And the people, immersed in business and pleasure and the family, and ‘the affairs of this life’ are equally forgetful.

Here, then, is an opportunity made for you, presented to you, to bring home to all the fleeting character of life in this world, and to remind them that none can afford to sit back as spectators or as critics of preachers and preaching. You can remind them that they are involved in all this, and that you are not addressing them on some theoretical subject, but dealing with the most vital matter of all, and that, whether they like it or not, they are moving on to an inevitable and unavoidable end, and that the Final Judgment is coming. A preacher who does not take advantage of these things is a fool, and is not fit to be in a pulpit.

I shall never forget my sense of disappointment a few years back when I had the following experience. Being somewhat over-tired I took a rest at the change of the year and went to a service conducted by a young minister on the first Sunday morning of a New Year. To my utter astonishment he began his sermon by saying, ‘Well, you remember that last Sunday we were dealing with such and such a verse; this Sunday we go on to the next verse.’ He made no reference whatsoever to the New Year or to any of these matters at all. I felt sorry for him, sorry that he was capable of missing such an opportunity. Apart from anything else these special occasions help to make our work easier-they are opportunities made for the preacher.

Anything that happens in the world, anything striking, any phenomenon, is something we should always take advantage of. I remember reading of an incident in the life of John Fletcher of Madeley, that great and saintly man who lived two hundred years ago. He was a
vicar in Madeley in Staffordshire, in England. Suddenly there was a terrible disaster on the River Severn. The Severn Bore that year was bigger than usual with the result that large numbers of people were drowned as the result of the flood. This catastrophe led John Fletcher to preach a remarkable sermon in which he made frequent references to that tragic happening and which led to tremendous consequences. I also remember reading how at just about the same time, incidentally, a number of those great preachers of that eighteenth century made use of the earthquake that took place in Lisbon, in Portugal, in 1751.They all took advantage of such events. They did not preach on the earthquake as such but they used it to bring home to the people the fleeting nature of life, and to enforce their call to repentance. An earthquake makes people think, as does a tornado, or hurricane; and so they give the preacher an opportunity. ‘Because thine heart was tender’ is the favourable comment on King Josiah in the Old Testament; and we remember the lines of the hymn, ‘Saviour while my heart is tender, I would yield my heart to Thee’. There are times when our hearts are tender, and we are more likely to respond. It is the essence of wisdom, it is indeed but common sense, that we should take advantage of all these things. Though you may have planned out the greatest series of sermons the world has ever known, break into it if there is an earthquake! If you cannot be shaken out of a mechanical routine by an earthquake you are beyond hope!


Im pro-Christmas, but your comments against caused me to do a double take and reconsider myself. Similar to your comments about science idolatry and vaccines. Not enough to flip my position but enough to think twice. Grateful you are here.


Again, well said, dear brother. Couple additional thoughts. That Spurgeon lampoons Christmas for the fact that it’s surely not the actual birthdate seems pedantic. No one thinks my wife is not celebrating children and grandchildren’s birthdays merely because she delays one of them to the weekend. Although, to be honest, I do get restive over it at times, while recognizing it is the romantic in me causing it. Not principle.

As for looseness with subscription, almost every last Westminsterian today takes at least some exception to the Sabbath. So that’s not exactly loose. What bothers me is that Doug and his churches don’t take any exception to any of their standards on paedocommunion. I told him even RCJR’s Covenant presbyterians took exceptions based on paedocommunion, and he should. He had no answer. From his response, I came away with the conviction he had never seriously considered taking an exception for paedocommunion.

Since writing the above, I’ve been chewing my cud on the Regulative Principle, and what the nature of my commitment is and isn’t to it? I think the problem I have is that so very much of what we fight over is not specified with any real specificity in the New Testament. Yesterday, I was grading a paper for the New Geneva Academy class this past semester on pastoral theology, and the student was arguing for the three office view, partly by interacting with other men who had firm thoughts on it in their writings. None of them were the least bit convincing, and at the last part of his life, I’m glad Iain Murray is willing to admit he used to be certain, and now he’s not. So much of our doctrine and polity goes beyond Scriptural specificity, I think, and in that and other connections, I’ve long been reminding us that even and especially Scripture’s ambiguity is inspired.

But truthfully, many linguists and OT and NT scholars seem to consider it central to their scholarly calling to remove all ambiguity. Often theology profs seem the same. Take sacramentology, for instance: I kind of remember Bannerman once saying the thing to note about the sacraments in the NT is that the NT says almost nothing about the sacraments. I would add nothing other than the very fencing and warnings that paedocommunionists and other neosacramentalists absolutely refuse to give.

When we consider the relentless theme of Scripture that not all Israel is Israel, and that there is an eternal distinction between circumcision of the foreskin and circumcision of the heart, isn’t the current trashing of Calvin and Knox’s table liturgy warnings the worst violation of the Regulative Principle of Worship today?

So to return to Christmas, the only holy day I’ve objected to in any observable way has been mindless rah-rah patriotism on the Fourth of July. Why, I even celebrate Mother’s Day, and do so assiduously. I’ve thought about it and I wouldn’t mind having a sort of “churching” rite when mother and baby arrive back at the worship of God’s people, separate and safe. Shouldn’t we rejoice with those who rejoice?

But I admit I’m weird; and likely on a lot of things, wrong. “Take, for instance, the covenant theology mania” he said, running for the door but shouting back at the mob following him with rifles and guns: “Just remember, I had Meredith Kline for Old Testament Hermeneutics and got an almost-A.” Love,


I agree that if the date itself was the only argument against Christmas, it’s a pretty weak one. I think what’s underneath the notion that it’s absurd to think that December 25th was the Lord’s birthday is the broader context that it was Pope Julius’ arbitrary declaration that would have ever had us to think that to begin with. In other words, the dispute about the birthdate itself is anchored to the larger issue of papal authority. But alas, no need to hash that further. The regulative principle arguments are the more relevant ones.

But that’s exactly my point! :slight_smile: Westminsterians aren’t really very Westminsterian, and 1689’ers aren’t really very 1689’ish. The fact that everyone is loose on the issue just proves to me that broadly speaking, we don’t take our confessions very seriously. If we confess something, we’re supposed to actually be affirming these things to be so, aren’t we?

I respect the fact that a number of Presbyterians will at least formally note their exceptions in their book of church order or other documents, as I know Evangel has done on some points. This effectively amends the church’s commitment to the confession with clarity, in such a way that the commitment to the confession itself may still be understood as sincere. But I don’t think the same is true of the church’s who say they “hold” to the confession in toto without qualification, only to deal fast and loose on the Sabbath in their practice. Our men talk about their work over dinner. We let the kids play kickball and cards between services. We watch the pagans play football on TV, and so forth. When’s the last time a pastor admonished a man – or his own elders – for grabbing milk on the Lord’s Day because he failed to order his common affairs beforehand (WCF 21.7, 2LCF 22.8)? And so on and so forth.

It’s just plain old hypocrisy. I have a hard time trying to see it any other way.

Our confessions ought to be held in earnest or they are no confessions at all. If we can’t subscribe to the WCF or 2LCF as written, then we should have the honesty to either write our own amended confession or at least formally document our exceptions. If there’s a general equity we want to hold on to from these sections of the confessions, then let’s write something which retains the general equity and jettisons the elements we don’t affirm so that we don’t bring condemnation upon ourselves.

But maybe I’m weird, too?


All the talk of Christmas and Calvin reminds of something I read from a Christmas Day sermon he gave in 1551:

“Now, I see here today more people that I am accustomed to having at the sermon. Why is that? It is Christmas day. And who told you this? You poor beasts. That is a fitting euphemism for all of you who have come here today to honor Noel. Did you think you would be honoring God? Consider what sort of obedience to God your coming displays. In your mind, you are celebrating a holiday for God, or turning today into one but so much for that. 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 Sunday. But if you think that Jesus Christ was born today, you are as crazed as wild beasts. For when you elevate one day alone for the purpose of worshiping 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. Let us consider what our Lord has to say on the matter. Was it not Saul’s intention to worship God when he spared Agag, the king of the Amalekites, along with the best spoils and cattle? He says as much: ‘I want to worship God.’ Saul’s tongue was full of devotion and good intention. but what was the response he received? ‘You soothsayer! You heretic! You apostate! You claim to be honoring God, but God rejects you and disavows all that you have done.’ Consequently, the same is true of our actions. For no day is superior to another. It matters not whether we recall our Lord’s nativity on a Wednesday, Thursday, or some other day. But when we insist on establishing a service of worship based on our whim, we blaspheme God, and create an idol, though we have done it all in the name of God. And when you worship God in the idleness of a holiday spirit, that is a heavy sin to bear, and one which attracts others about it, until we reach the height of iniquity. Therefore, let us pay attention to what Micah is saying here, that God must not only strip away things that are bad in themselves, but must also eliminate anything that might foster superstition. Once we have understood that, we will no longer find it strange that Noel is not being observed today, but that on Sunday we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper and recite the story of the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. But all those who barely know Jesus Christ, or that we must be subject to him, and that God removes all those impediments that prevent us from coming to him, these folk, I say, will at best grit their teeth. They came here in anticipation of celebrating a wrong intention, but will leave with it wholly unfulfilled.”

Talk about insisting on “not all Israel is Israel.”

It doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things I suppose, but the idea that Christmas was started by the Roman Catholic Church, that a Pope assigned the day, or that it was arbitrarily chosen, has always been an annoyance to me, mostly because there’s little to no evidence that any of these things are true, and quite a bit of evidence to the contrary. For example:

English, Adam C. (October 14, 2016). Christmas: Theological Anticipations. Wipf and Stock Publishers. p. 70. ISBN 978-1-4982-3933-2. “According to Luke 1:26, Gabriel’s annunciation to Mary took place in the “sixth month” of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. That is, Mary conceives sixth months after Elizabeth. Luke repeats the uniqueness of the timing in verse 26. Counting six months from September 24 we arrive at March 25, the most likely date for the annunciation and conception of Mary. Nine months hence takes us to December 25, which turns out to be a surprisingly reasonable date for the birthday [of Jesus]. Someone might object that the birth could not have occurred in midwinter because it would have been too cold for shepherds in the fields keeping watch by night (Luke 2:8). Not so. In Palestine, the months of November through February mark the rainy season, the only time of the year sheep might find fresh green grass to graze. During the other ten months of the year, animals must content themselves on dry straw. So, the suggestion that shepherds might have stayed out in the fields with their flocks in late December, at the peak of the rainy season, is not only reasonable, it is most certain. […] And so, besides considering the timing of the conception, we must take note of the earliest church records. We have evidence from the second century, less than fifty years after the close of the New Testament, that Christians were remembering and celebrating the birth of the Lord. It is not true to say that the observance of the nativity was imposed on Christians hundreds of years later by imperial decree or by a magisterial church ruling. The observance sprang up organically from the authentic devotion of ordinary believers. This in itself is important. But, besides the fact that early Christians did celebrate the incarnation of the Lord, we should make note that they did not agree upon a set date for the observance. There was no one day on which all Christians celebrated Christmas in the early church. Churches in different regions celebrated the nativity on different days. The late second-century Egyptian instructor of Christian disciples, Clement of Alexandria, reported that some believers in his area observed the twenty-fourth or twenty-fifth day of the Egyptian month of Parmuthi (the month that corresponds to the Hebrew month of Nisan—approximately May 20). The Basilidian Christians held to the eleventh or fifteen of Tubi (January 6 and 10). Clement made his own computations by counting backward from the death of Emperor Commodus, the son of Marcus Aurelius. By this method he deduced a birthdate of November 18. Other Alexandrian and Egyptian Christians adopted January 4 or 5. In so doing, they replaced the Alexandrian celebration of the birth of Aion, Time, with the birth of Christ. The regions of Nicomedia, Syria, and Caesarea celebrated Christ’s birthday on Epiphany, January 6. […] According to researcher Susan Roll, the Chronograph or Philocalian Calendar is the earliest authentic document to place the birth of Jesus on December 25. […] And we should remember that although the Chronograph provides the first record of December 25, the custom of venerating the Lord’s birth on that day was most likely established well before its publication. That is to say, December 25 didn’t originate with the Chronograph. It must have counted as common knowledge, at least in Rome, to warrant its inclusion in the Chronograph. Soon after this time, we find other church fathers such John Chrysostom, Augustine, Jerome, and Leo confirming the twenty-fifth as the traditional date of celebration.”

Some other resources on the history of the Christmas date:

Again, this is not to argue Jesus was actually born on December 25th, or that early church attempts to figure out the date of Jesus’ birth oblige us to observe a modern Christmas, but mostly to correct the record and hopefully counter some unhelpful and incorrect arguments.

Yup, understood. Like I said, the dispute over the date itself is not decisive. I also don’t ascribe any weight at all to the “Christmas has pagan origins because of winter solstice” arguments. We used to be pagans, after all, so almost anything we do can be argued to have pagan origins in some respect.

We may disagree on the extent to which the papal element matters, but for me, the concept of an establishment/declaration of a holy day and the regulative principle are the most persuasive.

Here’s a fun thought. We have the record of at least two holy days being established by the Jews after Sinai (Hanukkah, and the commemoration of the deliverance of the Jews in Mordecai’s day). One might argue that the establishment of these violated the RP in an Old Covenant context. We also see Jesus “participating” in Hanukkah in one of the gospels, and he never indicted anyone for it. One could argue that this gives precedent for the same “unofficial” feasts and days to be established under the New Covenant context. I’m sympathetic to that line of argument. But then we must ask, under the New Covenant, who has the authority to declare it?

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The idea of “December 25th” being one thing historically is terribly anachronistic, not to mention provincial even in a modern context. Dealing with the mismatch between the length of a day, the length of a moon cycle and the length of a solar cycle has had thousands of solutions over time, of which Pope Gregory’s calendar is just one. (Whoops—there are the popes again, mucking with how we mark time!) There are probably dozens of calendars active right now, and innumerable historical calendars. This is why dates like Jewish religious holidays and Islamic religious holidays float around to different places on our Gregorian calendar from year to year. It’s also why George Washington has two birth years and literally nothing happened in British history between September 3, 1752 and September 13 1752.

One could also ponder why “December” is the 12th month and not the tenth (Latin “decem” for ten).


Well, the Westminster Divines did make that very argument using the establishment of Purim in Esther:

beside religious oaths, (Deu 6:13; Neh 10:29); vows, (Isa 19:21; Ecc 5:4-5); solemn fastings, (Joe 2:12; Est 4:16; Mat 9:15; 1Co 7:5); and thanksgivings upon special occasions, (Psa 107; Est 9:22); which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner, (Hbr 12:28). (Bold added)

Since this is from their section on religious worship, I understand that they think the church or (more probably) the local, individual churches have this authority.

I’ve always thought this was somewhat contradictory with their position on feast days, as this seems to me to obviously cover Christmas. Especially considering the verse cited.

As the days wherein the Jews rested from their enemies, and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to joy, and from mourning into a good day: that they should make them days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.

I tend to think this contradiction is an area where they are products of their time (due to seeing the horrible RC abuses), but maybe I’m the one whose a product of his time.

Coming from a Dutch Reformed background, Christmas observance is mandated ( “as circumstances allow”) as the Canons of Dort say:

  1. The Lord’s Supper shall be administered once every two months, as much as possible. It is also edifying, wherever the circumstances of the churches allow, that the same be done on Easter, Pentecost and Christmas. But in places where as yet there is no organized congregation, elders and deacons shall first be provisionally installed.


  1. The congregations shall observe, in addition to Sunday, also Christmas, Easter and Pentecost, with the following days.

Although no Dutch Reformed churches that I am aware of go to this level any more, when I was a boy all of them had services on Reformation Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Old Year’s Day, New Year’s Day, and Good Friday, as well as a couple others I can’t remember offhand. If Christmas was on a Saturday, that meant that we would have church Friday evening (the 24th), Saturday morning (the 25th), and twice on Sunday (the 26th). Then, one week later, we’d have church Friday night (the 31st), Saturday morning (the 1st), and twice on Sunday (the 2nd). I thought it a bit much back then :grinning:! I’ve always said that the old school Dutch Reformed figured any excuse to have church was a good excuse!