What about Christmas?
About a year ago there appeared in this rubric a quotation from Christianity Today concerning the evils in the celebration of halloween. Trouble was, the quotation appeared more than a month after the celebration of that notorious day. In response to the article, two letters were received which sought to apply some of the same objections to the celebration of our Christmas—but the letters were received after Christmas. Rather than presenting them in this column several months after Christmas, I have held on to them til this season. My apologies to the writers for holding them so long, but I trust they will understand.
Read these—what do you think?
The article by Rev. G. Van Baren entitled, “Happy Halloween” (Vol. 54, No. 6; December 1977) was very enlightening, but conveniently so. After all, it is not likely to affect anyone much when almost everyone is caught up in the spirit of Christmas (whatever that is). Perhaps someone will reflect momentarily and seriously contemplate, “I simply must consider that next Halloween.”
In the meantime, perhaps your readers should seriously consider the equally pagan origins of Christmas. It is well known that pagan Imperial Rome observed weeklong solstice celebrations called Saturnalia and Juvenalia which culminated in Brumalia on the 25th of December. It was a time of merrymaking, exchanging gifts, lighting candles, and wine drinking. Any Ecclesiastical Encyclopedia will verify this.
Consonant with Romish evangelistic methodology the pagan rites of Caesar’s Rome were simply sanctified for the use of Papal Rome. The heathenish “harmless” elements were transformed into the “Christ-Mass” cycle of holidays. This cycle gradually evolved around the day of Christ’s supposed nativity.
Other customs such as the Christmas tree, mistletoe, the feasting on large dinners of pork, mincemeat, etc. have their origin, not in the pagan Roman festival, but from Celtic and Teutonic people’s customs. Again, the Roman Church simply “baptized” these formerly pagan ideas into Christian usage.
If you represent true Biblical faith and in the best Protestant tradition? you will not only refuse to observe Halloween, but Christmas as well. It was the Lutherans, you remember, that maintained that all Romish holidays and observances were permissible so long as they were not prohibited in de Scripture. Luther simply “baptized” the so-called church calendar of the Roman Catholics into Protestant usage. The Calvinists held that no doctrine, church government, discipline, or element of worship should be acknowledged as valid except those which Scripture specified. The most consistent and thorough-going Reformers in Switzerland, France, England, Scotland, and Holland absolutely prohibited the observance of the Christmas.
It is of no use to protest that the rites of pagan antiquity have lost their anti-Christian meaning. That same excuse might be made for the Navaho rain dance (I suppose few Navaho’s really believe it evokes the gods). But since most Reformed people do not do the Navaho Rain Dance, it probably does not touch your conscience. Doubtless the name “Christ”, in vulgar usage has lost its meaning to most people, but I hope you would forbid its irreverent usage anyway.
I realize that this letter comes at a convenient time (Dec. 27), but I hope you will seriously consider it next December. In the meantime, and on Halloween and Christmas and Easter, Protestants must be consistent in their condemnation of the Roman Church for its compromising with the pagan world.
(Rev.) Karl A. Hubenthal
Knox Orthodox Presbyterian Church
P.S. Rev. Van Baren wonders whether we should tell our children about the pagan origins of Halloween, or just let them have fun while they are young. I suggest we tell them the truth! “Jesus therefore said to those Jews that had believed Him, If ye abide in My word, then ye are truly My disciples; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”—
In response to the postscript, I would only suggest that I assumed that all would take the statement as the “tongue-in-cheek” statement it was meant to be. The intent was to bring one exactly to the conclusion of the writer of the letter: “I suggest we tell them the truth!” I do regret that the writer of the letter took this as a serious suggestion on my part. On the rest of the letter I hope to comment later.
A second letter was also received from a member of our congregation at Hudsonville. He raises many of the same points as the earlier writer. He writes:
In the Dec. 15, 1977 issue of the Standard Bearer, you wrote an article entitled, “Happy Halloween.” You quoted from an article which was written in Christianity Today by John W. Howe. His article was very instructive and informative, and I am in full agreement with it.
We discussed this article with several other copies, and each time our attention was taken away from “Halloween” and turned toward “Christmas.” Why do we condemn one pagan holiday and not others? The celebration of “Christmas” has bothered me for several years, and I would like to see some articles about this day in the Standard Bearer.
We have talked about this day with many, many couples, some agreeing that maybe we should not celebrate it, while others disagreeing.
Are we as churches afraid to talk and write about it? Is the origin any less pagan than Halloween? I think not. What about the exchanging of gifts at Christmas time? What about the Christmas tree? What about the date? How and what was Calvin’s ideas about this day? Or did the church and the pagans also have a wedding for this celebration? Is it necessary that the church set apart a day to remember the birth of Jesus, especially December 25? Were the fathers of our Church Order wise in making this decision? Do we tell our children about Christmas, or do we keep silent, and go along with the world with our trees, presents, etc.?
I would like some answers to these questions in a future Standard Bearer article. Remember, to be consistent with the Halloween article, we may not go under the so often heard phrase, “That’s our Christian liberty.” If that be the case, then we may “trick or treat” on Halloween, have Easter eggs and bunnies on so-called Easter, have our trees, presents, and you name it, on so-called Christmas Day.
Where is our separateness, our distinctiveness? Church and Babylon? No, we must be warned against this, of course.
Yours in Christ,
P.S. Maybe this paper can be printed in the Standard Bearer and then a reply by you or some other minister could follow.
I trust that the above will give everyone something to think about as the Christmas season comes upon us. Perhaps some would want to use the above material for discussions on the subject.
Brother Phil expects also my response in this rubric. I intend, D.V., to give some comments on the subject next time.
Mrs. Marchiene Rienstra Resigns
The Banner, October 27, 1978, contains a “letter to the editor” from Mrs. Marchiene Rienstra informing the readers of the Banner that she has resigned her membership in the Christian Reformed Church. She had gone through Calvin Seminary and had applied to the Synod of 1978 for admittance into the ministry—the first woman who would serve in such capacity in that denomination. Though the Synod admitted women to the office of deacon (provided they did not rule within the church), the Synod denied the request of Mrs. Rienstra—a request supported by some of the professors of Calvin Seminary. As a result of that decision, she resigned membership in the C.R.C. and remains affiliated with a United Presbyterian Church in Grand Rapids where she had served as interim pastor (and already had membership while still member in the C.R.C.). She insists that her loyalty to Christ in His call to her for the ministry must be considered greater than her loyalty to a denomination in which she was born and trained. One can only be amazed at a “loyalty” which can so easily ignore the teachings and practices of the church throughout the past thousands of years, and the teachings and practices presented in Scripture itself—the ultimate test of proper loyalty.