First of all, we must recognize that we are not living in sixth century BC Babylon, or seventh century AD Saxony, or first century Corinth, or any other place and age where paganism is indigenous. We live in "Post-Christian America", the verse that sums up this country the best is that they, "have the appearance of godliness, but deny its power." (2 Timothy 3:5) Raised under a Judeo/Christian system of law, no-one this Christmas season in America will be bowing down to trees or expecting that their yule log is anything more than a log, and definitely not a means of grace. I've asked thousands of people why they think they are going to Heaven, and I've gotten some outrageous answers, but not a single wrong answer has remotely dealt with observing Christmas or anything to do with Christmas.
Second of all, my friend Willem pointed out that the antiChristmas sentiments are taking on a definitive KJVO feel, chasing after every manner of myth that remotely supports their position. Everytime I've logged onto Facebook over the past week it's like I'm reading a Gail Riplinger novel...Strawmen seem to be the order of the day, ridiculous caricatures of facts are presented that are easily knocked down, the truth stands against the arguments. I'll leave the name out, because I really respect this pastor, but one pastor set up "Yule" as a Babylonian infant son, only to knock it down with ridiculousness; it sounds legitimate and of course you have to say, "I reject the Yule Log altogether!" But the problem is that it's utterly untrue; Yule means winter in German, I could go deeper into its awesome origins, but I just want to point out that KJVO superstitions are outside of the KJVO controversies, and we must forever be on the lookout for strawmen. Now, I've saved the best superstition for last; did you know that Christmas ends in MASS? It is clearly a celebration of the recrucifixion of Jesus and the Romanists are trying to get us to participate! Ok, let's apply your logic, it ends in Mass, true, which meant festival before it meant recrucifixion, and Christmas was around a lot longer than its name (earlier, Navity, Noel, Advent), but look at what it starts with, "Christ". It doesn't start with Winter, it doesn't start with Babylon, it doesn't start with Solstice, it starts with Christ. Every Papist recrucifixion ceremony is centered around their wrong interpretation of Christ, so ALL masses should be called Christmas, but they're not. The term, Christmas, means "Celebration of Christ", we're loving that God became a man, and dwelt among us.
So what of the date? I'm utterly convinced that my Saviour was born on the Winter Solstice (December 25th on the Roman Calendar, December 21st on the Gregorian Calendar); what better way for the King of Light to explode into the darkness rather than on the darkest day of the year? It's almost like he created it to be so. Were other pagan deities supposedly born on Christmas? Yes, but imitation is the greatest form of flattery. Jesus was born on Christmas. But if he wasn't, then you MUST be celebrating his birth somewhere else, because, beloved, you lose so much doctrine if you refuse to celebrate the Advent of your King. The coming of Christ is spoken of repeatedly in the scriptures, your assignment is to read: John 12:46, Luke 19:10, John 18:37-38, Galatians 4:4-5, Luke 5:32, John 3:16, 2 Corinthians 8:9, and especially Philippians 2:1-11; this list is not exhaustive, but it will give you a good start; your King is your example, he is King and Creator, yet he HUMBLED himself to pass into the world through his own creation, born in abject poverty in a stable.
The early church labeled Mary the "Theotokos", it's a word that really makes Protestants squirm, but it's not a term that venerates Mary, it's a term that defines Christ, it means, "God-Carrier", it's directly against the Eusebian heresy which said Jesus was born a man and only later became God at his baptism; the church invented the word Theotokos to say that Jesus is God now, was God in the womb, and forever will be God; it's a glorious term and I love it, even if it makes you squirm. This Christmas, you'd better remember that your Saviour is the Eternal God, even if you don't celebrate Christmas. Your God came not to be served, but to serve, and give his life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45; another Christmas verse).
Christmas really became popular when a terrible heresy was beginning, one we deal with today under the name, "Jehovah's Witnesses", they were originally called Aryans, and they denied the divinity of Christ; they were a major enemy of Christ in the 4th century. In Nicaea, in Turkey, in AD325, it was overwhelmingly agreed upon by the scriptures that Jesus is God the Son; so much so that Santa Claus (Nicolas of Myra, a great saint) punched Arius, the leader of the heretics, in the head. Christmas, or more accurately, the Feast of the Nativity, was a desperately needed festival to combat Aryanism, and another great saint, Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, wrote several great hymns to preach Christ in song. The KJVO people in his day were radically against his music, but it's beautiful.
O come, Redeemer of the earth,Speaking of music, it's this time of year that people remember that Calvin advocated the "Regulatory Principle", that if it's not in scripture, we're not doing it. They forget that for the rest of the year they follow Luther's "Normative Principle", if it's not prohibited in scripture and it's useful, we're doing it (do you drive a car or use a computer?).
and manifest thy virgin-birth.
Let every age in wonder fall:
such birth befits the God of all.
Begotten of no human will
but of the Spirit, Thou art still
the Word of God in flesh arrayed,
the promised fruit to man displayed.
All praise, eternal Son, to Thee,
whose advent sets Thy people free,
whom, with the Father, we adore,
and Holy Ghost, for evermore.
Very few of us are, like Calvin, Psalm only singers. The greatest hymns of the Christian faith are Christmas hymns, and the only gospel that most unbelievers are going to get this year are in the hymns. I wish I could make every unbeliever sit down and seriously contemplate the lyrics of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and I rejoice that they are so thoroughly immersed in a gospel presence through song during this season.
Unbelievers undoubtedly associate this season as Christian; for a Christian to attack it is both confusing and destructive. We love that our Saviour put on flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14; another Christmas verse!), and we love that a whole nation is confronted with a God who so loved the world that he gave, as a gift, his only begotten Son (John 3:16, Romans 6:23), so I propose, neigh, demand, that we shine the light of Christ during this season, doing our best to ensure that people do not just honor Christ with their lips, but that they actually participate in his grace and are given a new heart which strives to obey his commands.
But is that what the regulatory principle calls for? Are you still holding to it? Then read John 1 and Luke 1-2 and Matthew 1 and Isaiah 9 and Genesis 3 and see that the birth narrative is a VERY real part of scripture, that Jesus having a birthday is hugely important. Like I said, if you reject the December 21st, 25th, or January 6th birthdates, then just make sure you're preaching that the Messiah came into the world in the most humblest way possible, that he held the universe together even as he was being held as a baby.
Do you celebrate birthdays? Did you know that in a PAGAN culture, they thought that birthdays were arrogant and that only kings were arrogant enough to celebrate their birthdays? Do you live in that culture? I don't. I celebrate the birthdays of the ones I love; a dear sweet lady I know and love is celebrating her birthday right now, and I have such affection in my heart towards her and her family that I am telling you that I love her; later this month, and over the whole of the year, I will do the same for my Bethlehem born Nazarene King. Something major happened 2000 years ago in Bethlehem, it was only important because of what happened thirty-three years later when the King of Glory gave his life as a ransom then defeated death; as John Calvin said, "If the gospel be not preached, Christ is, as it were, buried. Let us stand therefore as witnesses, and do him this honor." Let us celebrate and preach the great events of our Saviour, and their theological implications. There are some hugely important events in scripture which we ought celebrate, but they aren't commanded in scripture.
In the Old Testament there is a command to raise ebenezers, or commemoration stones, to great events. Truly, Christians are only commanded to keep Passover (in the month of Easter), but has the regulatory principle so damaged you that you refuse to raise ebenezers? Jesus went to Hanukkah (John 10), which is not in scripture, and therefore I love to stand by ebenezers and preach the great events that happened there: Christmas, Easter (Passover), Reformation Day, John Calvin's birthday (I love birthdays), Columbus Day, etc. etc. My King breached human history on December 25th, 6BC; I'm going to tell you about it, here I raise my ebenezer.
I love Christmas, I hope you will also.
Messiah born so small, asleep in cattle stall
Come to redeem our fall, nailed to a tree
This tiny, helpless child
Through death would reconcile
The holy God and vile, His grace so free
O come, let us adore. - Sovereign Grace Music