the real sabbath
'Tis the Season:
Help for Our Young People
Forerunner, December 1998
Almost everyone knows that members of God's church do not celebrate Christmas or New Years' Day for several reasons. Among them are the absence of a biblical command to do so along with the divine injunction to have nothing to do with pagan practices, which these holidays possess in great numbers.
In some respects, the Christmas season seems to get easier for God's people as each year goes by. In other ways, however, it seems to get harder! Maybe it is because those in television, radio, magazine and newspaper advertising are working earlier and more diligently to promote the "Christmas spirit" and to rake in higher profits for their clients. Maybe our society is making more of it than ever before. Maybe Satan is working harder to get his enemies off track!
Local charities report that donations have been way down in recent years, yet local businesses selling high-priced electronic luxury items say that they have enjoyed bumper Christmas seasons! What does this say about the "season of giving"?
Sometimes we forget that this time of year is especially difficult for the young people in the church. With God's Holy Spirit dwelling in us, we adult members have learned to reject this season with its pagan trappings. We may have diligently passed these teachings on to our children, but because of their natural, youthful need to "belong" to a circle of friends at school and in the neighborhood, the holiday season is much harder for them to handle. To them, being thought of as "different" is worse than getting the plague!
We need to let our children know that we appreciate their courage in what they must endure at this time of year. It never hurts to give them a few tips on how to make it through these few difficult weeks without giving in. During a church kid's struggle with peer pressure, he can use all the appreciation and encouragement he can get!
We can begin by making a plain statement to the young people of God's church: We love you!
We really do care about you, and we do not want you to be hurt by anything. We do not want you to be negatively affected by any of the ways of Satan's world, including the lure of the Christmas and New Year's season.
We truly appreciate your courage in enduring the hardship of being different from the other kids in your school and in your neighbourhood. We adults really do understand how hard it is for you in school when all the other kids are participating in Christmas parties, Christmas plays, Christmas concerts, and Christmas crafts, when you have to separate yourselves and go do something else—and everyone knows it. Many of us experienced it when we were in school.
We understand how hard it is for you to be the only one on your block without Christmas lights adorning your house. One son of a church member felt guilty about thinking how pretty the lights look. There is no need to feel guilty about such feelings! They do look pretty! To deny it would be a lie! We do need to remember that one of Satan's traits is to make his ways and his holidays attractive, especially to children: "And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light" (II Corinthians 11:14).
We understand how hard it is to return to school after the Christmas break, when all your friends are telling each other what they got for Christmas! You feel left out, different and cheated. That is hard to take.
But you young people are not alone! You have the support of your parents—plus that of the other members of your local congregation or group—people who feel and believe the way that you do. They will help fill the void if you let them.
The prophet Elijah once felt as if he was all alone in his true beliefs and ways of worship. God helped him by putting him in contact with other true believers (I Kings chapters 19 and 20). So, if you feel like an alien from another planet when you are around your non-church friends at this time of year, seek the support of your parents and get together with some of your church friends. They will not make you feel odd or alone.
Points to Remember
When we think about celebrating these holidays, we have to keep certain facts foremost in our minds. Arguments from feelings or emotions only tend to cloud the issue, but with facts at our side, we can be decisive about keeping Christmas and New Year's Day. We will look at three facts that prove we are doing right by not keeping them:
1. Jesus was not born on December 25.
2. Jesus, the apostles and the early church did not keep Christmas.
3. God will bless you for keeping His way.
The date of December 25 to celebrate Christ's birth was chosen to conform to the old, pagan Roman holidays called "Saturnalia" and "Brumalia." The ancient Romans kept these holidays around the time of the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice. Here are some excerpts about this festival from The Book of the Bible by Riedel, Tracy & Moskwitz:
Because the Roman emperor Aurelian fixed December 25th for the winter solstice holiday in AD 274, it is thought that the early Christians adopted this day for their Christ-mass so that they would be less conspicuous in the observance of their holiday.
Most scholars believe that the birthday of Jesus was never known and that the December date was chosen solely for convenience.
The earliest known observance of Christmas on December 25th was the year AD 336 in Rome, as recorded in a calendar of the period.
Throughout antiquity other dates for the birth were advanced: March 25, April 19, November 17, among others, but there is no evidence, literary or historical, that supports any of these dates.
Almost everywhere in Europe, in both Roman and Teutonic [northern European] countries, the period around the winter solstice was celebrated with lights, to celebrate the increase of sunlight to come, and with greenery, usually evergreens, to represent the coming of spring and eternal cycles of growth. At the Saturnalia festival (December 17-24), Romans would present each other with sprigs of holly as gifts for the holiday. When Teutonic tribes began to usurp power from the Romans in Europe, they brought their Yule, or winter feast, traditions with them. The Yule log and wassailing (i.e., toasting each others' health with alcoholic drinks) are two of these traditions.
The origin of the Christmas tree is usually traced to Saint Boniface, who in the 8th century persuaded the Teutonic tribes to abandon worship of the sacred oak of Odin, a remnant of Druidism, and to confer it instead on the fir, a more appropriate symbol of Jesus and eternal life. [Trees, however, have been used in pagan, idolatrous worship for many thousands of years. Numerous references to this can be found throughout the Old Testament (I Kings 14:23; II Kings 16:2-4; 17:10; II Chronicles 28:4; I Samuel 40:18-20; 57:5; 66:17; Jeremiah 2:20; 3:6,13; 10:1-5; Ezekiel 6:13).]
Surprisingly, Christmas was not celebrated in New England until a hundred years ago. The Puritans, like Charles II, who abandoned the practice of Christmas in England in 1644, were suspicious of its pagan origins.
Now let us see what God's Word has to say about the timing of Jesus' birth: "Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night" (Luke 2:8). Not in late December! December nights, even in Israel, can be cold and wet with occasional snowfall. Shepherds in that area were known to have brought their sheep from the fields into the folds in the fall of the year. The evidence currently available indicates that Jesus was born in the autumn of the year 4 BC—perhaps on the Feast of Trumpets!
No Clear Date or Instruction
If God wanted us to celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ, He would have given us a clear date and instructions on keeping it, just as He did in Leviticus 23 for His true holy days:
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, The feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts. Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings. These are the feasts of the LORD, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times. On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the LORD'S Passover. (Leviticus 23:1-5)
God continues throughout this chapter, giving His people detailed instructions on when and how to keep His feasts.
Because God's church does not observe Christmas, some get the impression that we do not believe in the miraculous nature of the human birth of Jesus Christ. But that is not so. We believe that the biblical record of the human birth of Jesus Christ is absolutely true. We can read it with interest and believe that it happened precisely the way Matthew and Luke tell us. Nowhere in the whole Bible, though—Old Testament or New—can we find any command to observe and celebrate Jesus' birthday.
The world has the whole event twisted around. They have the wrong year, the wrong date in the year, and even if God wanted His people to observe His Son's birth, it certainly would not be kept with a myriad of symbols from pagan, heathen, idolatrous religions:
When the LORD your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, "How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise." You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it: you shall not add to it nor take away from it. (Deuteronomy 12:29-32)
No New Testament Practice
Jesus, the apostles and the early church kept the same holy days that we keep. God's church in the 20th century should be endeavouring to preach and practice the same things that the early church did. When anyone asks what our church believes, it is a good practice to tell them that we look into the Bible to find out what Jesus and His early church believed and practiced, and that we try, as much as we can, to emulate them.
Jesus and the members of His early church kept the weekly Sabbath, and the holy days that God commanded in Leviticus 23. The biblical writers refer to God's true festivals throughout the New Testament. If other holidays like Christmas, Easter, New Year's Day and Halloween were being kept—or were to be kept—then the New Testament writers would have mentioned those holidays prominently. But they were not!
Notice the overwhelming evidence of Scripture! Jesus and His early church kept:
» Passover (Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 2 and 22; John 2; 6:4; 11:55; 12:1; 13; I Corinthians 5:7; Acts 12:4).
» The Feast of Unleavened Bread (Matthew 26:17; Mark 14; Luke 22; Acts 12:3; Acts 20:6; I Corinthians 5:7-8).
» Pentecost (Acts 2:1; 20:16; I Corinthians 16:8).
» Atonement (Acts 27:9).
» The Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:2, 14).
» The Last Great Day (John 7:37).
We are to keep the Holy Days that God commanded us to keep forever (Leviticus 23:14, 21, 31, 41). These are the same holy days that Jesus kept, and the same ones that the apostles and other members of the early church kept. In fact, as annual Sabbaths, they are signs of God's true church throughout the ages (Exodus 31:12-17)!
Even though it is tough for young people to go through these trying Christmas seasons, God will richly bless you for having the courage to stand up for what you believe: His truth and His holy days!
And all these blessings shall come on you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the LORD your God. Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country. Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out. The LORD will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face; they shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways. The LORD will command the blessing on you in your storehouses and in all to which you set your hand, and He will bless you in the land which the LORD your God is giving you. . . . The LORD will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand. You shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. (Deuteronomy 28:2-8, 12)
What wonderful promises! We will have God's blessing and protection wherever we go. Our children will be strong and healthy, and our work will be successful. Our enemies will be no match for God's strength. We will have enough to give to others in need, and we will not need to get heavily into debt. Any amount of discomfort now is worth receiving these blessings in the future!
So young people of God's church, please remember these things:
» We adults are very proud of you for enduring what you do at this time of year.
» Jesus Christ was not born on December 25—nor anywhere near that date!
» Jesus and His early church kept the holy days that God had commanded His people to keep—the same holy days as we in God's church keep today.
» God will richly bless you for rejecting the wrong holidays and for keeping His true holy days.
So let us all help each other to make it through this Christmas and New Year's season. Thankfully, it lasts only about two months! Through it all, we can look forward to the resumption of God's days—which fall only about three months later— and all the joys of keeping God's feasts!
© 1998 Church of the Great God
PO Box 471846
Charlotte, NC 28247-1846