Merry Christmas from the WHI

(HT: Riddleblog and Mark Vander Pol)

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  1. Hi Dr. Clark,

    As I have mentioned in my earlier comments, I am new to the Reformed faith. I think it was months ago when I discovered that the celebration of Christimas is something even Reformed believers debate about. From what I have observed so far, there are those who are for it while others are against it. I am not familiar with the history of how Reformed believers in the previous centuries dealt with this issue, and am not sure yet where I stand. Should I celebrate Christmas or not? Any comments? Thanks.

  2. Albert,

    Yes, there is a division of opinion going back to the 16th century. It’s a matter of Christian liberty. I would not judge one for celebrating it or not celebrating it.


  3. Albert,

    The following is taken from William Ames’ The Marrow of Theology, Bk. II, ch. xv.

    49. Opposed to the ordinance of the Lord’s Day are all feast days ordained by men when they are considered holy days like the Lord’s Day.
    51. The Jews had no formally sanctified feast days except by divine institution
    52. Any day may be piously turned into an occasion for advancing the worship of God.

    From my understanding the Reformed disliked the Roman Catholic view of Holy Days of Obligation hence Ames’ point 49. However some of the Continental Reformed felt it was fine to celebrate the birth of our Lord on Dec 25th. The Puritans disagreed.

    What I would like to know is how the Continental Reformed ‘celebrated’ Christmas. It would be daft to read 21st Century celebrations into the 17th Century.

    I did find Danny Hyde’s article helpful, I am not sure I agree 100% though.

    May God bless you in whatever you decide.

  4. Richard, thanks for the quote and the link to Rev. Hyde’s article. I appreciate the concern.

  5. The limits of ecclesiastical power (related to the RPW and sola Scriptura). One of the objections the Reformed had to the Roman calendar was the unjust imposition of holy days upon the church. The church may not impose days upon the church that are not imposed by God’s Word. The Sabbath is a divinely instituted holy day. It’s the only one. Remember the medieval Roman calendar was quite extensive and created an enormous burden on pious Christians seeking to observe all the fast days etc.

    Thus it would be one thing for a congregation to hold Christmas services and another to make them mandatory. I have no objection to the church meeting to observe the incarnation and birth of our Lord but, if it is meeting apart from the sabbath, I would object to it being mandatory or a matter of church discipline.

    My first clue to the continued observance of Christmas or other “evangelical feast days” (see Pastor Hyde’s essay) was a collection of lectures by Olevianus on the gospels which were arranged according to the church calendar, including Christmas. Whether he gave them in the church calendar in mind or whether they were later arranged that way doesn’t matter since, in either case, the church calendar was being observed in the late 16th century by people who were devoted to the RPW.

    Many of the British Reformed were adamantly opposed to Christmas and other such days largely because they resented their imposition by civil or ecclesiastical authorities.

    The distinction between the European and British Reformed in the 16th and 17th centuries was largely one of circumstance not theology. All the Reformed held the RPW and they all articulated it in the same way. Practice varied because of circumstance more than because of principle. Rhetoric varied because of circumstance more than principle.

    It is also the case that the application of sola Scriptura developed from the 1540s to the 1640s. A century makes a lot of difference. What might not have seemed like a significant problem in the 1540s might have seemed like a greater problem a century later. My own thinking has changed considerably in the last 8 years. In 2000 I was willing to do things in worship that I’m no longer willing to do because I’ve had time to think and read about the history and implications of Sola Scriptura and the RPW.

  6. Dr Clark, thanks for that, are you aware of what the Continental Reformed celebration of Christmas actually consisted of?

    Old’s chapter on the Lord’s day in his Worship is good especially in that he gives some background.

    My own practice is pretty much that of ‘early’ Strassburg, I will commemorate Easter and Pentecost (both are Lord’s Days anyway) but I am yet to be convinced about Christmas and so erring on the side of caution I don’t keep it.

    God bless!

  7. There were Christmas services (see Danny Hyde’s essay) but I don’t know much beyond that.

    I enjoy the season but, like a lot of folk, I’m ambivalent about it. I did get some nice presents this year, however!

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