Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 13, 1951
NUMBER 32, PAGE 2,3b

The Church And Christmas

Clarence C. Gobbell, Tempe, Arizona

Sometimes some of our brethren become confused over whether or not a Christian, or the church as a whole, should have anything to do with such holidays as Easter and Christmas. It is easy to understand that the manner, in which people of every denominational order about us celebrate these days, would tend to influence true Christians to do likewise. In fact, we have learned a good many things from the sects. Some of such things may be all right within themselves, but most of them are only the husks of superstition and paganism, that should be discarded along with the many unscriptural practices of the world.

Most of the many sectarian bodies about us like to make it appear that they are not in sympathy with, but are really opposed to, the practices of Catholicism. Yet it is plain to be seen by the careful observer, that most of them are constantly practicing that which descended from, and had an origin in the councils and decrees of Roman Catholicism. We need mention only a few, such as "original sin," "infant damnation," "infant baptism," "impossibility of apostasy" for one to recognize them as being among the chief tenets of many leading sectarian bodies. And more than that, they are going farther in copying Rome by observing Easter Sunday, the Lent season, Whitsuntide, Trinity, and Christmas, etc.

That the origin of Christmas can be traced, and laid at the door of Catholic scholars, and their ecclesiastical decisions, cannot be denied, and so far as your writer is informed, they make no attempt to deny it. Herewith we are citing a few statements gleaned from Dictionaries and Encyclopedias concerning the origin and meaning of Christmas.

"Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the church. Irenaeus and Tertullian omit it from their lists of feasts. Origin (who lived in the third century—CG) glancing perhaps at the discreditable imperial Natalitia asserts that in the Scriptures, sinners alone, not saints, celebrate their birthday." (Cath. Ency)

Thus, in the third century A. D. the celebration of Christmas as a birthday anniversary of Christ was unknown, and one of the most widely read writers during the first three centuries, condemned the idea. And again we quote:

"Concerning the date of Christ's birth the Gospels give no help; indeed, upon their data contradictory arguments are based." (Catholic Ency) So Catholics themselves are free to admit that the Gospels give no help in establishing the date of his birth, and thus no authority for its observance is hereby admitted. And the same Encyclopedia admits that "Pagan customs centering around the January calends gravitated to Christmas." That is, many of the pagan customs celebrated in January became a part of the celebration of Christmas. And such things as Christmas presents, cards, and boxes are mentioned as well as Christmas trees.

In regard to the derivation and etymology of the name Christmas, we quote again: "The word for Christmas is Cristes maese, the Mass of Christ, first found in 1038." (Ibid) This word first was found used in 1038, and thus for all of those years had not been used in the sense in which it is now. So the idea of Christmas seems to be derived from the observance of the Mass by the Catholics. That is, not the Lord's Supper, but a celebration of the sacrifice of Christ, or eating the "sacrament" or "eucharist," as Christ's being actually sacrificed anew. And even in THE BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER, we have this statement as given in The Century Dictionary: "Canons were made by several councils to oblige men to receive Holy Communion three times each year at least, viz: at Christmas, Easter, and Whitsuntide." Along with the Catholics, the Episcopalians, Lutherans, and Congregationalists stress the observance of the Holy Communion on those days, rather than upon the First Day of the week, as found and authorized in the Scriptures.

In the New Testament we have the record of Christ requesting his disciples to keep his death in memory by partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine. (Mt 26:26-28; Lu. 22:19) And we are told that the early disciples did this regularly, upon the first day of the week. (Acts 20:7) However, we are nowhere told to keep in memory Christ's birth by celebrating in any manner, on any day of the week, month or year. Since the Scriptures have nothing to say as to just what day of the month, or year, he was born it is evident that the Lord never intended that his disciples celebrate any such occasion. Since such is true, we can rightly conclude that the church cannot with authority celebrate any such a day today. Furthermore, for the church to publicly celebrate December 25th as his birthday, is to: 1) Add to what the Scriptures have authorized, and 2) to follow in the footsteps of the "Mother of harlots," Roman Catholic Church.

It seems that we might have a parallel case in the New Testament in regards to the observance of days. Paul warned the brethren in Colosse concerning the keeping of Jewish festivals and holy days, and making them a part of their practices. (Col. 12:16f) And to the Galatians he wrote: "Ye observe days, and months, and times and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain." (Gal. 4:10, 11)

We have above shown that the church, as such has no business in entering into public observances of, and celebrations of the Christmas "high day" of the Catholic Church manufacture. Now the next question that arises, and one that I feel strikes closer home to most of us, is: "Can I, as an individual keep, and celebrate the Christmas holidays"? And how far can we go as individuals in partaking of such practices as, giving presents, sending greeting cards, and putting Christmas trees in our homes? Whether it is right or wrong, many if not most all among us are guilty of some, if not all of these things. It is recognized by all, I feel certain, that we can be free to do many things in our homes, and as individuals, which we are not allowed to do in the church, as an ordinance, or appointment thereof. The sending of presents, though begun years ago it seems, from a pagan practice, is, within itself of no harm, if practiced in the right motive, and purpose. To engage in this, otherwise harmless practice, just because it is the practice at Christmas, or for the fact that we should give because Christ gave, I feel sure could be called a questionable practice. The principle of giving to others, should not be limited to Christmas time, as we all know. The sending of greeting cards has gotten to be a custom rather than engendered by the sincere desire to be friendly. In the main, all of these things, it seems to the writer, can be engaged in to a certain degree, if not for the purpose of vainglory, or trying to outdo the "Jones'." The idea of Santa Claus, is another pagan relic, and we should be careful to let our children know that such is really the spirit of giving and not leave the idea that a certain man by that name lives at any certain place. By regulating our lives in keeping with the principles of right living, and being determined not to let any of these individual and personal practices creep into our church work, becoming a part thereof, we can continue to keep the church free of these Catholic and sectarian entanglements.