Thanksgivings on Special Occasions - Second in a series
About two months ago a blog series was begun on SistersSite, “Thanksgivings on Special Occasions.” The first post spotlighted the American Thanksgiving holiday. Now we look toward Christmas.
As was mentioned in the first post, the Reformation turned a fresh page on Church experience. Whereas the Catholics instituted many feast days with no basis in Scripture, the Protestants would only observe Sunday for worship and Thanksgivings on special occasions which would not take place on a Sunday.
Christmas was not one of those days of thanksgiving, for it antedated the Reformation by a dozen centuries. It was banned. But over time, it returned as a Christian holiday for Protestants by popular demand. Perhaps that is one time in history that mob rule in Protestant churches was not a bad thing. After all, Christmas may easily be viewed as a perfect occasion for thanksgiving to God.
Here is a very brief view to the origin of Christmas penned by the late R.C. Sproul, a reformed Presbyterian.
Is the celebration of Christmas a pagan ritual?
That question comes up every year at Christmastime. In the first place, there’s no direct biblical commandment to celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25. There’s nothing in the Bible that would even indicate that Jesus was born on December 25. In fact, there’s much in the New Testament narratives that would indicate that it didn’t occur during that time of year. It just so happens that on the twenty-fifth of December in the Roman Empire there was a pagan holiday that was linked to mystery religions; the pagans celebrated their festival on December 25. The Christians didn’t want to participate in that, and so they said, “While everybody else is celebrating this pagan thing, we’re going to have our own celebration. We’re going to celebrate the thing that’s most important in our lives, the incarnation of God, the birth of Jesus Christ. So this is going to be a time of joyous festivities, of celebration and worship of our God and King."
I can’t think of anything more pleasing to Christ than the church celebrating his birthday every year.
The darkest time of the calendar year approaches. The winter solstice of 2019 will occur on December 21st. Also known as midwinter, it marks the shortest day of the year. One would think that, as a symbol, Christmas might better be aligned with the day after the winter solstice, for the increasing of the light—Glory to the newborn king! But then that date is the very opposite for the southern hemisphere, so it would not be universal.
A good article on the history behind the dating of Christmas is here.