Since I haven’t seen this mentioned anywhere else, let me start with this. Jesus celebrated a national holiday that was not included in the Law. The Feast of Dedication began between the testaments and there is no indication at all that God ordained it, yet the Lord attended the celebrations, John 10:22--what we call Hanukkah, ironically enough. Clearly, celebrating a national holiday, even one with religious overtones such as our Thanksgiving, is not wrong.
Already this past week I have been accused of being a part of a group that has a holier-than-thou attitude, and in some cases that person is right. I fear we are too quick to jump on our friends and neighbors when the example in the New Testament is to use whatever opportunities we have to teach, not pontificate with our chests puffed out and thumbs stuck beneath our metaphorical suspenders.
When the apostles preached on Pentecost, they didn’t start out by telling those people they were celebrating a festival that was no longer valid. There were far more important issues at hand, like salvation from sin. The Holy Spirit had no qualms about using their [Providential] attendance at that event to inspire a sermon they all needed to hear, in many languages, no less.
When Paul traveled around preaching, he went to the synagogues on the Sabbath. Didn’t he know that the Sabbath was no longer in force? What kind of example did he think he was setting? He didn’t seem to worry about that. He knew he would find some devout Jews there, so he went.
When he preached in Athens, he used their idolatry to teach them about the true God. He even accommodated their mistaken understanding by talking about the idol he had found “to the unknown god.” Pagan idolatry often included sins like fornication, yet Paul used their incorrect beliefs, and even their own culture, to begin teaching them about salvation. He didn’t jump on them with high-handed zeal about how ignorant and debauched they were.
“But you are not an apostle,” I hear someone saying. Seems like an odd line for people who use approved apostolic example to determine authority in all we do.
“I became all things to all men,” Paul says in one passage. If my neighbor is talking about Jesus this time of year, I am not going to ignore him or tell him that Jesus was not born on December 25. I am going to “become him” by telling him even more about a Savior who came to earth to save us all. Do you think I would ever have a chance to do that if I approached it the other way?
I have known people who say we shouldn’t celebrate Christ’s birth at all. Yet we celebrate that every time we read about Deity “emptying himself” and “being born in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:7); about the Word “becoming flesh and dwelling among us” (John 1:14); about the “body thou hast prepared for me” (Heb 10:5). The sacrifice of our Lord did not begin on Calvary; it began when the Creator of the world (Col 1:16) became a human, when the Holy Spirit conceived him in the womb of a virgin in Nazareth.
If we should not celebrate his incarnation, whenever it was, we shouldn’t just avoid singing what the world calls Christmas carols, but should also avoid songs with lines like, “Why did my Savior come to earth?” We sing several hundred of them. You see, it isn’t that anyone really believes this. It’s that they are inconsistent in their beliefs because they have not considered the full ramifications.
If I give my neighbor a gift of homemade cookies this week, I am not condoning paganism or worldliness; I am reaching out at a time when he might be more receptive. And if he has given me a bag of grapefruit from his tree and I don’t reciprocate, he will not think I have scruples, he will just feel rebuffed and turn away from me.
We have a tendency to make specious arguments that won’t hold water under close observation. We all need to be careful, especially when we are so certain, not that we are on God’s side, but that He is on ours.
For the next couple of weeks, we have an opportunity. Seize it!
Who are you that judges the servant of another? to his own lord he stands or falls. Yea, he shall be made to stand; for the Lord has power to make him stand. One man esteems one day above another: another esteems every day [alike]. Let each man be fully assured in his own mind, Rom 14:4,5