We have just emerged from another series of holidays.
Thanksgiving Day was hardly over, and already we heard the tinkle of Christmas bells. Because of its antichristian commercialization of the day of Christ’s birth, the shadow of Christmas fell across many Thanksgiving Day tables. And men had to hurry away from it to arrange window displays and stock shelves for the rush to buy and be ready to sell “Christmas presents.” Colored lights, decorated trees, houses and manger scenes not only but even Santa Clauses—my fingers slipped on that last one, and it almost came out as Satan Clauses. I wonder if my fingers were going in the way of my mind after all—reindeer and sleigh all remain in place, and add to the electric power companies’ Christmas bonus, until New Year’s Day is also a thing of the past.
No doubt it is quite correct to say that we just emerged from a series of holidays. One cannot help but wonder whether the Church came through all this unspotted and strengthened in her faith in Him Who is the Prince of Peace. We say “emerged” because for the greater part it seems the Church was submerged into all this crass and unchristian commercialization. From church advertisement, printed programs, Christmas greeting cards sent out by members of the churches and the like, we quite expect that “Jingle Bells” is and was the chorus sung to such songs of praise as, “O Come, O Come, Immanuel.” Maybe the churches are coming up for a little air after being submerged into so much carnality and unchristian activity. Certainly the impression is left by what one reads and sees that many went under, and for a time you could not see them as those to whom you could sing, “O Come, all ye faithful.”
What was it, a holiday or a holyday?
The words are the same except for their spelling. Holiday is only a more recent spelling of the word holyday. But that new spelling does make quite a difference. It takes the holiness out of it, and perhaps it does so deliberately.
There is such a thing as a legal holiday. There are national holidays. But the Church has holy days. These are Good Friday, Resurrection Day—there we are again the holiday is called Easter after an old Teutonic goddess of spring. The holiday is Easter; the holyday of the Church is Resurrection Day. In fact you do not find the word Easter in the Word of God. Indeed, you will find in the translation of Acts 12:4 the word Easter, but here too, the translator changed the original word of Passover into the antichristian word of Easter. He may have been moved by the consideration that the Passover could no longer be kept and that as far as Herod was concerned, it was to be after Easter that he would behead Peter. Nevertheless all that day, when the shadows of the Old Testament were gradually fading away, it was the time of the Jewish Passover when Peter was kept in prison. And so, let us begin again. The holydays of the Church are Good Friday, Resurrection Day, Ascension Day, Pentecost and Christmas. The Church observes a Prayer Day and Thanksgiving Day. She pauses on Old Year’s night and New Year’s morning to have her members’ attention called to the end of all things and the confidence the child of God has for divine guidance through all his earthly pilgrimage. Some of these have become national holidays and legal holidays along with Memorial Day, Independence Day or Fourth of July and Labor Day, not to mention such bank holidays as Washington’s Birthday, Election Day and perhaps a few others in certain localities. But the Church of God because she lives in His fear, has only holydays. And she wants her spiritual seed to keep these days holy.
There certainly is something wrong when a little child will conclude his prayers with a request for a sled, a toy of this kind or that and then turn to his mother and say, “I sometimes get HIM mixed up with Santa Claus.” Of course! That is the deviltry of this whole Santa Claus business. Seems as though we were right a moment ago. Such a child’s mind is in the clutches of Satan’s Claws. Anything that detracts from the truth of Christ and changes the holy day (O Holy Night) of His birth into Santa Claus Day is definitely antichristian. A fat, bewhiskered red and white clown has attributed to him God’s and Christ’s glory. That impossible clown rewards little boys and girls for their good deeds, while the Word of God declares that at the end of time Christ comes with His reward to give to every man according to his works.
But is it a holyday when, in place of the truth of the resurrection of Christ being observed and God being praised for it, the day is filled with Easter rabbits and Easter eggs? Probably it would be better to ascribe Christ’s glory to a human being, even though he is dressed up and acts like a clown, than to an egg and a rabbit. But it surely is not an act of the fear of the Lord to introduce all these utterly ridiculous elements into the celebration of holy days. What a commentary on the depraved mind of man! The Virgin birth, the creation of the world in six successive days of twenty-four hours each, the resurrection of Christ from the dead, the miracles of Christ—some even in the church insist should not be taught to the children. But that rabbits lay eggs and that clowns come down chimneys and “bless” all the children over the world in one night by a visit with reindeer and sleigh is quite a harmless fable to illustrate before their eyes with decorations and colored lights and all the rest. They fail to see that “Satan’s Claws are Coming to Town.”
And Christ’s ascension into heaven goes by almost unknown. Pentecost fortunately falls on a Sunday, and, unless the shepherd himself has been lulled to sleep by the vanities of the world, it will be learned from the pulpit that after all it is Pentecost today.
Is it perhaps due to the fact that we do not keep one day out of seven as a holy day anymore? Is it perhaps that we are not hallowing the Sabbath as we ought, and are teaching our children that holiness is hollowness. Are we filling the day with spiritual exercises in His fear or are we making it a hollow, empty day that is deprived of all its spiritual beauty and. we may fill it with satisfaction of our flesh ? Have we changed hallowing the Sabbath to hollowing it?
The word holy means set aside or apart, separate. Is one day in seven really set aside? It is. But for what have we set it aside? Is it set aside for spiritual exercises or to do those things for which we would not take the time during the week because it might cost us a penny? We cannot travel to a distant place because of our work; and so we set aside the first day of the week to make that trip, or to come home from it. It would cost us a penny to take time off from work and the boss might not give us that day. But that it cost us spiritual riches in God’s house, that God forbids it better not be brought to our attention.
No, we are not interested in being a legalist. The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. But is it a Sabbath when we do not enter into and enjoy the perfected work of salvation and instead do our own works and the satisfaction of our flesh? Is it gratitude to God for salvation full and free when we run away from His Word and put ourselves in a position where we have to miss the preaching of the gospel that our flesh may be satisfied on this or that point? One might get the impression that Church holydays are only for men. The women have to stay home to get that chicken and turkey ready. And sad to say, the same thing is so often true of Sunday morning. Mother or one of the children has to stay home to watch that roast and get that salad and dessert ready for the noontime meal. Shame on us! A warm meal at noon is more important than the bread of life? Worship with God is to be rejected for fellowship with friends and relatives? Suppose God would take us at our word (and works) and would give us that instead of everlasting fellowship with Him in the glory of His Kingdom?
Is it any wonder then that the day of Christ’s birth, the day of His death and resurrection, ascension into heaven and return in the Spirit become holidays rather than holydays? It is safe to say that we attach too much significance to Christmas exactly because we attach the wrong kind of significance to it. How can a man (or woman for that matter) attach the proper significance to Christmas when he despises the Sabbath? What does that birth of Christ mean, if it does not mean that which we observe and for which we worship God on the Sabbath day?
If we set aside and apart the first day of the week simply in the sense that we do not go to work, or the beach, or for sports but for eating and sleeping, visiting friends and trips to distant points, we really have not set it aside. It has not been a holy day but quite like the other days of the week. For those things we also do on national holidays and legal holidays.
Holy or hollow! What is it?
Holy or holly at Christmas time! What is it?
We may be able to satisfy man. In fact I am sure that you can always find someone somewhere in the church world of today who will grant you the right to do this and that on the Sabbath and will agree to your celebration of the holydays of the Church. But that is never the question. Does God approve? Does He call you holy in it? Does He say of your works: Holy! Or does He say of them: Hollow! That is His word for sin. There is a word in Scripture for sin that means vanity, emptiness. There is another word that means missing the mark and as a result means that our hands are empty of that which is demanded. We have sins of omission when we omit that which is required, as well as sins of commission when we do that which is forbidden us.
But what is it?
Are our Sabbaths and Church holydays holy or hollow?
The holidays of the world are hollow, for they have been emptied of all spiritual exercise and consideration and are filled with clowns and rabbits and eggs. And do not call this clown Saint Nicholas. No saint is guilty of emptying and making hollow the things of God’s kingdom. The saint is a holy one. That is the very meaning of the word. The saint walks in His fear, and in that reverence and awe before God observes holydays.