Issue No. 11, November 1926
(Current Events in the Light of the Scriptures)
December is before us, and those in the denominations are celebrating Christmas again. In the opinion of many believers, to celebrate Christmas and to set aside a day during the year to remember the birth of the Savior is a very good thing. I dare not despise the opinion of God's children. However, other than man's opinion, there is still a unique standard—God's Word, the Bible. Our question and what we are concerned with is not what men say, but what God has said. "Thus saith the Lord" is the highest court for everything.
Is there a command in the Bible for us to remember the Lord's birth? If God's children would ask this question, they would be enlightened by God's light. But what a pity that many have forgotten the need to ask this question. According to the Bible, the Lord only commanded us to remember His death at His supper. He did not command us to celebrate Christmas or Easter! These festivals are the poison left from Catholicism! A man who firmly believes in the Bible would surely agree that what God has not commanded is as meaningful as what He has commanded. Many have said: "God has not forbidden us to celebrate Christmas." But has God commanded that we celebrate it? One of the most lamentable things is that believers would search the Scriptures to find justification for their sins and their lust. "Since the Bible has not forbidden this, why can't we do it?" Oh, how I wish that God's children would not say such a word! May God strengthen us to say, "If God has not commanded, how would I dare to do it?"
Oh, in this age of apostasy, God's children have to be very careful. The standard of our walk is not whether or not God has forbidden something, but whether or not God has commanded something. Not only should we refrain from that which God has forbidden, but we should not do that which God has not commanded. If God's children would obey God's word in this way, will there be any ground left for man's tradition and system? But it is regrettable that man always wants to avoid the sharp edge of the sword of the Spirit. As long as something is not forbidden, even though there is no commandment from God, and even though the matter is absolutely contrary to the spirit of the cross of the Lord Jesus, the fact that there is no explicit prohibition means that one can therefore act according to the flesh! How feeble is such a heart in obeying God's word!
Let us come back to the subject of the Savior's "Christmas." Our wise Lord has known that the remembrance of this day is useless. This is why we cannot find from the Bible the month and the day that Christ was born. In writing the Bible, the Holy Spirit purposely obliterated this date. This shows the Lord's intention concerning this matter. What a pity that many people are still conjecturing according to their mind. The Bible did not mention December 25. But how did man come up with December 25?
Mr. Greswell has made an in-depth study into this question. According to his research and reasoning, Christ should have been born on April 5. But this is also a mere conjecture, and it is not a historical fact. Since the Bible has not said anything, no one can say definitely when the Lord Jesus was born. Nevertheless, we can say definitely that December 25 is not Christ's birthday. Luke 2:8 tells us that when the Lord Jesus was born, shepherds were watching over the sheep. According to the custom and habit of the day, when October came, the shepherds no longer kept watch over their flock by night. There could not be such a thing as shepherds being in the wilderness at the end of December. Furthermore, if the Lord Jesus had been born in the heart of winter in December, how could Mary who was pregnant for ten months have traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem? Our Lord's own word says, "Pray that your flight may not be in winter, nor on a Sabbath" (Matt. 24:20).
Since the Lord's birthday was not December 25, where does Christmas come from? Who set the date of December 25?
We can look at the words of the ancient father, Tertullian. What he said characterizes the condition of the Christians at the end of the second century and the beginning of the third century.
If we do not have the right to keep the heathen festivals with the heathen, how sinful it will be if brothers gather together for such a purpose. Who can bear with this? The Holy Spirit caused the Jews to be ashamed of their festivals. He said, `Your new moons, [Sabbaths,] and your appointed feasts My soul hates' (Isa. 1:14). We who do not have these new moons, Sabbaths, and appointed feasts, which God once loved, how can we turn to celebrate the Saturn festival, the New Year, and the winter solstice? Should we have presents, the ringing sound of New Year's gifts, games, and the noise of feasting? Oh, if the heathen were more faithful to the religion they serve, they would have no need for Christians to join their ceremonies! Even if they were to understand the Lord's Day...would they thereby join us? They would be too afraid of being identified by others as Christians. Yet we are not afraid of being identified as heathen!
This passage shows that the origin of many Christian holy festivals is but a transformation of idol worshipping. Christians were not willing to be set on a hill (Matt. 5:14). As a result, they retreated to the deep valleys and tried to be inconspicuous and unnoticed by the world. (Here we would add a word of love: the present Society for the Promotion of Christianity, together with those who are ignorant of God's heart and His Word, try to utilize our national festivals and Christianize them. But this is to secularize the Christians. What a pity this is!) They followed the heathen to keep their feasts with altered names and titles. But why would they set the Lord's birthday at December 25? Three days prior to this day is the winter solstice, which is the shortest day of the year. After the twenty-fifth, the days begin to be longer. Idol worshippers everywhere in the world take this day as the birthday of the sun god. In Rome at that time, the great festivals were conducted at the grand theaters as celebrations of this feast. The Christians tried to take this date for celebrating the Savior's birth. If we read the words of the ancient father ______, we will realize that this date was ordained by men only. He said:
"This day (December 25) was recently made the birthday of Christ in Rome, so that while the idol worshippers are busy with their worldly ceremonies, the Christians can quietly accomplish their holy ceremonies. They call this day the birthday of the unfailing One (i.e., the sun). Yet who can be unfailing as our Lord who has removed death? They call this day the birthday of the sun, but the Lord is the real Sun of righteousness!" This is the way the church at that time adopted the idol worshippers' festival as its own illegitimate child. This is the cause of the defilement of the truth of Christ.
How clear it is that Christmas is made by man! Since it is made by man, why do we have to keep it? God has not commanded man to remember His Son's birthday! Since He has not commanded us to do so, why should we keep it? All faithful children of God should know how to answer this question.
Why do men celebrate Christmas? I am afraid that there is more realization of the flesh than remembrance of spiritual things! The jesting, laughter, amusement, and much other wantonness that disturbs the quietness of the spirit are not only harmful to the body, but inflict deadly wounds to the spirit. After I was saved, I attended some of these services. When I returned home from these meetings, I was not happy. On the contrary, I had to confess my sins before the Lord for participating in these meetings. Strictly speaking, Christmas parties at their worst are nothing but opportunities for the flesh, and at their best are something to stir up the soul and to cause confusion. The most beneficial thing for the spirit is to keep the Lord's Word, to remember only the Lord's death, and nothing else. Hence, in order to receive the greatest benefit, we should not celebrate Christmas.
I do not know when God's children will separate the worldly things from the spiritual things, the human things from the divine things. If our brothers and sisters will one day happily separate themselves from the literary clubs, the concerts, the welcome parties, the entertainment clubs, and the social gatherings, and will make a clear-cut separation from the world, they will receive power to be God's witnesses. Alas, jesting is the greatest destroyer of a godly living, and revelling is a worm in one's spiritual living! Social celebrations and gatherings are the weapons that put the believers' holy life and power under a siege! Young believers should beware of these things!