23 December, 2005

Tis the Season IV: O Gentile Tree, O Gentile Tree....

Ladies and gentleman, we cannot be grinchy all of the time, so I thought that it would appropriate to sing some carols as we go into Christmass eve... let us start with that old time favorite that glorifies the tree and tells it how lovely it is. I believe that we find that one in the scroll of Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 10.2-4

Thus says the Lord:
Do not learn the way of the Gentiles;Do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven,
For the Gentiles are dismayed at them.For the customs of the peoples are vain;

For one cuts a tree from the forest;

The work of the hands of the workman, with the ax.
They decorate it with silver and gold;
They fasten it with nails and hammers
So that it will not topple.

The famous Baptist Preacher, Charles Spurgeon's thoughts are to be reflected upon on this day which is regarded by 96% of Americans as a high and holy day:

We have no superstitious regard for times and seasons. Certainly we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmass: first, because we do not believe in the mass at all, but abhor it, whether it be said or sung in Latin or in English; and, secondly, because we find no Scriptural warrant whatever for observing any day as the birthday of the Savior; and, consequently, its observance is a superstition, because not of divine authority. (Charles Spurgeon, Sermon on Dec. 24, 1871).

When it can be proved that the observance of Christmass, Whitsuntide, and other Popish festivals was ever instituted by a divine statute, we also will attend to them, but not till then. It is as much our duty to reject the traditions of men, as to observe the ordinances of the Lord. We ask concerning every rite and rubric, "Is this a law of the God of Jacob?" and if it be not clearly so, it is of no authority with us, who walk in Christian liberty. (from Charles Spurgeon's Treasury of David on Psalm 81:4.)

Here are some other fun links for your Christmass enjoyment!

Some Christmass Carols

Origins of Christmass

Christmass and the Reformed Faith

A W Pink on Christmass

20 comments:

Andrew Duggan said...

I wonder what signs of heaven Jeremiah might be referring to? I don't know about you, but I just can't wait until the days start getting longer.

The Jews of Jeremiah's day were corrupt. They weren't spiritual like modern christians. Also if we are Gentiles then this doesn't apply to us, does it?

That was in the "Old Testament". We live under grace!

It must be OK, since it's all done to honor God now, or so I am told.

Are you saying that when God said "Do not learn the way..." that He actually might have meant it?

Mark said...

Ah, the ol' pagan tree. We have one in our living room. It has lights ('twas Martin Luther that had the idea for Christmas lights!) and ornaments and it looks quite nice. We don't worship it, which is what I think Jeremiah had a problem with. Gary Demar had a good article on the paganity of Christmas trees, he makes some good arguments in favor of their usage.

Nate said...

Mark

The tree was decorated long before ol' Martin got to it. He brought it into the protestant movement though. I think that that is a myth so that us reformed people can feel good about something that really we find questionable at best.

Ellie said...

I didn't put my trees up this year.I did buy gifts but mostly items I would have purchased anyway. So for me I'm wrapping items I intended to purchase or needed anyway.I've been thinking more about God and his son Jesus.

Notliberal said...

I don't know if you've heard the story about the local loon who cut down an evergreen tree at the airport to use as his xmas tree, only to have dropped his wallet at the site and get arrested. The link is below, if you want some amusement watched Smolinski's tirade about 11 or 12 minutes into the uncut court hearing. I was there, it was hysterical.

http://www.wzzm13.com/news/grmetro_article.aspx?storyid=48055

Notliberal said...

You forgot a book:

http://entrewave.com/view/reformedonline/Christmas%20(web).htm

shawn said...

Mark,

Thanks for your thoughts. Here are a few of my own. I don't intend to single you out, for many have made similiar statements as you. In other words, no need to take this as a personal attack.

Either you walk, stand, sit as the heathen, or you meditate upon the Law of God, and walk, stand, sit as the godly.

Can you imagine the Israelite that said, "Oh Jeremiah, we don't worship the tree, but our neighbor's tree was so pretty, and so we thought we'd drag one into our home too."

The evil appearance, is still guilty.

The problem with Demar's article, is that he is not dealing with a Biblical tradition, or even a custom that is agreeable to the light of nature or prinicples in agreement with Scripture. Rather, you have to ask what is the Christmas Tree associated with?

It is associated with a Pagan tradition that goes as far back as Jeremiah's day, AND when the Roman Catholic Church "baptized" the day, to unite to it some sacred significance, they never got rid of the pagan custom.

You are right, you don't drag it into your house to worship it, and that is commendable.

However, why do you drag a tree into your home?

If it is for mere decorum, I say fine. Then drag it in January, and keep it there till December - then throw it out.

But if you seek to perpetuate the celebration of the Mass of Christ, or the lies of Santa Claus, by your toleration of the holiday, and participation of it's essence, then you will find no justification from the Bible.

edwardseanist said...

Hmmm. This is interesting Nate. Is this a Reformed thing? I am somewhat new to the Reformed Faith and I have never heard anything like this before. I guess I am okay since i didn't have time to put up lights or get a tree this year. In fact I have never had a tree. Is the part of understanding the regulative principal?

edwardseanist said...

So what about Easter?

Nate said...

ESist

It is an RPW thing. Historically Presbyterians have been opposed to Christmas until as recently as the 1890s. In the RPCNA it did not come in until the 1970s!

I must confess though that there are some good Reformed people in the Dutch tradition who do celebrate the day. The Synod of Dordt liturgy (16**s) allows for the celebration of it.

So, despite my dislike...our great friends who are also very Reformed in the Dutch tradition do celebrate the day.

But it is a great study!

shawn said...

Edward Sean - Great questions. (look out - this is a mini-blog)

I would not say that the "tree itself" is a violation of the RPW, but the celebration of Christmas as a whole is, and therefore to participate in particulars, perpetuates the sinful holiday.

When it comes to worship, it really isn't much about our likes or dislikes. But it is about how we approach God.

The Question should NOT be, "Which Church tradition allows for such Holy Days?"

Rather it should be, "Is God pleased with Christmas? or Easter?"

If Christ is not pleased - you can't hide behind the Synod of Dordt.

WCF 31:4 - All synods or councils, since the apostles' times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred. Therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith, or practice; but to be used as a help in both.

EPH 2:20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.
ACT 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
1CO 2:5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
2CO 1:24 Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand.

I love the Dutch Reformed Church and all of Christ's Church, but as hard as it may be, we must correct our erring brethren, as Paul lovingly rebukes Peter for causing the brethren to stumble after the traditions of men.

Holding to the RPW, we know that we need to find Scriptural justification for elements of Worship, and the keeping of sacred festivals.

Where is the command to celebrate the Birth of Christ? Nevermind the MASS of Christ! When Christ said, do this in rememberance of me, it was concerning the Lord's Table/Supper. Here is Christ's command.

As for Easter, which happens to be another Romish Holy Day, they declare that it is a celebration of the Resurrection.

While Christ gave us a day to celebrate the Resurrection, namely every Lord's Day, or the Day of the Resurrection (Sunday), Samuel Rutherford gives an excellent argument against the celebration of the Mass in both Christmas and Easter.

He says that the celebration of the mass is ultimately a denial of the Covenant of Redemption, bc IF Christ truly needs to be sacrificed upon the Romish Altar hour by hour, and was not truly a once-for-all-time sacrifice on the cross, then Christ has NOT completed His work, and is an insufficient savior, and failure. That doctrine lies at the root of these holidays - the problem is most are unaware of the facts.

Hope this helps. For more of the Reformation doctrine of pretended holy days go to:

http://www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?sourceonly=true&currSection=sermonssource&keyword=swrb&keywordDesc=&subsetcat=series&subsetitem=Christ+Condemns+Christmass

Nate also provided good links.

Nate said...

Shawn

Thanks for that post :)
The question was "is not celebrating the mass of Christ a reformed thing".

Hiding behind the SOD is quite fine in this instance...because the answer th ESist's question is yes it is a reformed thing and no it is not a reformed thing.

The Reformed of Westminster said no to Christmas

The Reformed of Dordt said yes to Christmas.

I say no as well; but I have to answer questions like that in a historical theological manner.

Love you Shawn.
(I know that you think I am an ecumaniac as well.....Notliberal does too!)

edwardseanist said...

Thanks Shawn, I will definitley think about traditions and holy days in a different way. And to answer your question, everything that I have done in the past was done in ignorance now I see that I need to think through these things better.

Blessings

Rogers Meredith said...

The Festivals of Christ and the Saints. Moreover, if in Christian Liberty the churches religiously celebrate the memory of the Lord's nativity, circumcision, passion, resurrection, and of his ascension into heaven, and the sending of the Holy Spirit upon his disciples, we approve of it highly. --The 2nd Helvetic Confession (1566)
As do I.

Rogers Meredith said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
shawn said...

Nate,

Thanks for the comments I see now how you were answering the question. You were definately seeking to be historically accurate, and I agree with your answer.

Mr. Schwertley has a nice historical appendix on his work against Christmas. It does a good job collecting a broad range of reformed views against certain aspects of Christmas.

http://reformedonline.com/view/reformedonline/xmas.htm#C5

So

1) I should "fix" my response in saying that, let's not STOP at the issue of Reformed Tradition, but let's keep going to the heart of the matter, which is what they would teach us to do as well, and determine if we have Biblical warrant.

Also, it s note worthy to say that the Westminster Assembly does diagree with the Synod of Dordt on this point, for those of you who are curious if there are any differences at all between the Continental and British Reformed Churches.

2) It's your blog, but I would totally "can" that James Jordan C*** off my blog. That guy can paste a link, but #1 - it's to long, and #2 - it's total garbage!

3) I think you were once an ecumaniac as I was. I think you are seeing that as inconsistent, and are becoming less of an ecumaniac, and more of an ecumenical, which I am, and of which our Westminster forefathers were. It's not unity for the sake of pretended unity, but rather unity for the sake of Christ's Truth - for nothing else can truly bind us together.

Rogers Meredith said...

Sorry about the length of the post. I tried to figure out how to post a link to it but could not.

Droll Flood said...

Anyone have in hand and care to interact with Turretin's position on "holidays"?

The very name "Christmas" is a violation of the 3rd commandment and a contradiction in acknowledging the validity of the name of 'an accursed idolatry'.

I would not charge protestants who happen to use that name for this holiday with celebrating "the mass of Christ". However, I would admonish against the name...

Would anyone charge the institution of Purim and Channukah (Feast of Dedication) as being violations of the RPW given that they were not commanded by God? Were those days morally binding on one's conscience?

Do we care to draw up distinctions between a "liturgical calender" and "preaching through the catechism" esp. one that has 52 days...corresponding to 52 L.D.'s?
(Yes, I do see distinctions being made in these to things...)

In regards to the tree thing...well, in limited respects at least 'spreading trees' aren't being used ...eek!

James w. Lanning said...

haha nate, i didn't even know you had posted this. good job.

Nate said...

I am post not "pan". The Westminster is "post"....it has been argued that it is "a", but I do not see how!