Thursday, November 22, 2012

Celebrating the Holidays

Should Christians celebrate holidays? There are those who say it is wrong to do so. But the rest of us can tend to just fall into the world's pattern. Now Scripture forbids making the observance of holidays into a legalistic requirement (Galatians 4:9-11; Colossians 2:16-17). Scripture also says we should follow our conscience, while considering the conscience of others, in deciding such matters (Romans 14; 1 Corinthians 8-10). But what about the objections?

It is claimed that our present holidays are really pagan holidays. That Christmas is really the Saturnalia, that Easter is a feast to the goddess Eostre. It is also claimed that the traditions associated with those days are pagan traditions. It is further claimed that the Roman Catholic Church had a policy of doing this, that Pope Gregory I said to take pagan holidays and replace them with Christian holidays. And there is the problem that these holidays were Roman Catholic. Now what days was Paul saying it was a matter personal choice whether to celebrate in Romans 14? They were either pagan holidays or they were Jewish holidays connected to a legalistic system. Yet Paul said it was a matter of choice whether to celebrate them.

Just because the pope or the Roman Catholic Church says something does not mean it must be wrong. Further, Pope Gregory I stated that anyone who claimed to be the Universal Bishop or Head of the Church had the spirit of Antichrist. Now this does not mean he was right on holidays, but he does deserve a fair hearing. What are your options when you convert a pagan culture? You can cancel all the holidays, but people like to celebrate, and you become a killjoy. This can result in people still celebrating them in secret to the old gods. Or you can try to get them to celebrate different holidays on different days. This is confusing at best and can leave people celebrating the old holidays to the old gods. Or you can take the old holidays and give them new meaning. This was Gregory's plan.

Now this did not work perfectly, but it worked. Who now, except a possibly a few scholars, knows how to worship Saturn and Eostre on their respective days or what the traditions connected to them mean. But well I remember how, as an agnostic, the holidays were a reminder of the claims of Jesus Christ. Therefore, I believe we can legitimately celebrate holidays and do so in the name of Christ where applicable. (Note, this is a matter of personal conscience not a requirement.) It might be useful to trim away questionable traditions and reinterpret things where reasonable and try to avoid too much of what C. S. Lewis calls "the commercial racket." Celebration is a natural human impulse, and God instituted times of celebration for His people in Old Testament times. The New Testament leaves us free, but being free, we can institute our own appropriate times for celebration.

No comments:

Post a Comment