Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

When Christmas falls on the first day, Lord's Day worship takes precedent.

Every few years (depending, I think, on leap year) Christmas falls on the first day of the week. Recently, at least, many churches in America have chosen to cancel their Lord's Day worship services, or move them to a different day, in order that families may stay home and celebrate Christmas. This year it seems that fewer churches have taken this option than the last time Christmas fell on Sunday-- in 2005-- because of the outcry at that time. Still, as Keith Whitney reports, "as many as one in 10 churches by some estimates will be empty this Christmas."

The common critique aimed at churches closing for Christmas is that, for Christians at least, Christmas is supposed to be centered on the celebration of Christ's birth, so failing to meet together with the body of Christ (Col 1:24), is a direct capitulation of the interests of the Church to the interests of pragmatism and convenience. This critique is on point, but I think that Christians may overlook another facet regarding this issue: to wit, Lord's Day worship takes precedence over Christmas celebration.

As mentioned in yesterday's post, the birth of Jesus was not celebrated on a particular day by the earliest Church: when the Church did begin setting aside a day of the year to reflect on Jesus' birth, the date for Christmas celebration was originally January 6, and some communions still celebrate Christmas on January 6. Furthermore, virtually no New Testament scholar today believes that Jesus was actually born on December 25 (it is clear that December 25 was established as Christmas for other historical reasons). And so celebrating the birth of Christ on December 25 is fairly arbitrary.

On the other hand, the worship of the Church on the Lord's Day was established directly by Christ and His apostles. As the Baptist Faith & Message confesses:

The first day of the week is the Lord's Day. It is a Christian institution for regular observance. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should include exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private. Activities on the Lord's Day should be commensurate with the Christian's conscience under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Exodus 20:8-11; Matthew 12:1-12; 28:1ff.; Mark 2:27-28; 16:1-7; Luke 24:1-3,33-36; John 4:21-24; 20:1,19-28; Acts 20:7; Romans 14:5-10; I Corinthians 16:1-2; Colossians 2:16; 3:16; Revelation 1:10.

And so, I would argue, it is entirely appropriate to set aside a day, or a season, to specially focus on the Incarnation and birth of Jesus. It is entirely appropriate to give gifts and enjoy time with family during this season. But it is idolatry if we set aside worship on the Lord's Day, instituted by the resurrection of Christ Himself, in order to honor the arbitrary traditions of men.

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