Issue #226 -------
December 20, 2005
Heap on more wood -- the wind
is chill; but let it whistle as it will,
we'll keep our Christmas merry still.
Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832)
We live in an age of "political correctness," and frankly, brethren, I am sick unto death of it!! It's a "holiday tree" (if it's even allowed at all), and wishing others a "Merry Christmas" is taboo. Christ is shunned, God is banned, and the 95% of Americans polled who love the Christmas season are tyrannized by a bunch of Scrooges backed by the godless ACLU (you don't even want to get me started on them). Well, I'm one American Christian who has had his fill of this swill. So, to each of you on this Reflections mailing list, and to everyone else with whom I may yet come into contact this blessed season, and from the pulpit this coming Sunday morning, I shall say loudly and boldly, and with absolutely no trepidation whatsoever -- MERRY CHRISTMAS!!
I have tip-toed on egg shells around this minority of malicious malcontents for the last time (something I've never been very good at anyway!). Brethren, it is time for God's people to stand up and be heard. Our Christian foundations in this nation are being gradually eroded by only a handful of persons, and if we sit back and allow this to happen, we deserve what we get. I will remain silent in the face of this godlessness no longer, and I call upon all other Christians, regardless of faith-heritage, to do the very same. All it takes for evil to succeed in our world is for a few good men and women to do nothing. I, for one, don't intend to sit silently in some dark corner whimpering while the hellish hounds howl in the streets. My voice will be heard. If enough of us stand firm for our Christian heritage, then this lunacy currently sweeping our nation can be flung right back to the smoking pit from whence it came, and the curs can be sent scurrying.
Am I upset? Yes, I am. I'm furious ... furious at the darkness that is encroaching upon us, and furious at those who profess to be the "light of the world" for not doing more to push it back. I'm tired of seeing my Lord shoved out of our society, and tired of seeing Him mocked and maligned. I'm tired of the smug, sneering faces of those ignorant of the majesty of my Father. And frankly, I'm sick and tired of those within my own faith-heritage who seem to go out of their way to avoid any reference to the incarnation at this special time of year. This is nothing less than legalistic lunacy! Several of the more extremist members of one infamous Non-Institutional Church of Christ Internet "discussion" group have been applauding themselves, within their emails to one another these last few days, on their "godly resolve" to avoid any and all references to the birth of our Lord during this season; indeed, they proclaim Christ Jesus was never a part of it, and never should be. What strange bedfellows these legalists and atheists make! Brethren, I personally shall be preaching on the topic of Christmas this Sunday morning, and I hope every other minister of the "Good News" will be doing so as well. It is time to put the Christ back in Christmas! He's been banned long enough!
Do I believe December 25th is the birthday of Jesus? No, I do not. I have no idea when He was born, nor do I care. What I do care about is the fact that He was born! The Word became flesh, a fact I celebrate in my life daily. If the world about me chooses to set aside this day to celebrate this fact, then thank God we are at least given one day a year where most minds are centered on this blessed event! Take advantage of this opportunity; don't waste it; use it to impress upon the minds of believer and unbeliever alike the joyous "Good News" that Christ the Savior is born!! Will I celebrate the birth of my Lord Jesus Christ this coming Sunday? Yes, I will. Jesus was born! That is a fact. I can celebrate that fact on December 25th just as well as I can on the other 364 days of the year ... and I will do so.
Consider the following rather brief excerpt from a much longer article by Alexander Campbell titled "Musings on Christmas Morning," which he penned in the month of December, 1843 -- "This morning being Christmas ... my thoughts naturally lead me to Bethlehem, Calvary, and the sepulcher of Joseph. And what mysterious, sublime, and animating associations cluster around those three places! How near the point of distance! Eight short miles measured the whole space from the manger to the cross! And how short the interval of time between the first birth from Mary, and the second birth from Joseph of Arimathea's tomb! Not quite the half of three-score-years-and-ten completes the labors and the life of Heaven's and Earth's First Born! And yet what scenes and transactions crowd this narrow space of earth, and this short interval of time. ... This blest child of a thousand hopes and promises -- this wonderful offspring of Divinity and humanity -- this Son of God and Son of Man, was born to be a light of all nations, and of all ages -- to scatter night away from all eyes within the realms of mercy -- to break forever its dark scepter and annihilate its power over all His friends and brethren -- to dry up the tears of a weeping world by washing away its sins and sorrows in a fountain filled with His own blood -- to deliver man from that fiercest of all tyrants, Death; and to bestow honors on a ransomed race, bright as the throne of God and lasting as the ages of eternity" (Millennial Harbinger, January, 1844).
A reader of these Reflections wrote and asked me, "Is it a sin for a Christian to observe Christmas?" I will let the apostle Paul answer this one -- "One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord" (Rom. 14:5-6). Paul also wrote, in his epistle to the saints in Colossae, "Therefore, let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day" (Col. 2:16). What is Paul's answer? Basically, his answer is: It doesn't matter one way or the other! If you want to celebrate Christmas, and you do so in honor of the Lord, then more power to you. If you choose not to observe one day above another, but to celebrate that incarnation every day, then more power to you also. Our worship of our God is an individual matter, and if we offer it with genuine hearts consumed with love for Him, then we are accepted by Him. There is room in the Father's warm embrace for us all, something some among us have yet to comprehend.
Another reader wrote, "Have you written anything regarding whether it is Scriptural for Christians to celebrate Christmas?" In other words, is celebrating Christmas "Scriptural"? That's an easy one. The answer is NO. Those of you who are familiar with Reflections 126 ("Suggesting Another Hermeneutic: Inquiry into an Interpretive Methodology") will understand my answer. I believe most things can be placed under one of the following categories: Biblical -- Non-Biblical -- Anti-Biblical -- Beneficial. In other words, I approach each issue, question, topic, practice, doctrine or belief by seeking to determine exactly how it relates to the Bible. The very first matter to determine, therefore, is: Is this matter Biblical? Or, one could substitute the word "Scriptural" here, as well. What this simply signifies is -- can this matter be found within the pages of the Bible? Does the Lord, at some point within the pages of Scripture, specifically address the issue, question, practice or doctrine? If He does -- if the Lord has spoken -- then all we need do is heed and obey. Thus, the first step in a responsible hermeneutic is to determine if indeed God has spoken.
Has God specifically, anywhere in the Bible, in any passage of sacred Scripture, spoken with regard to the celebration of the holiday we know as Christmas? The answer, of course, is NO. Thus, the celebration of Christmas is not a biblical doctrine or practice for the simple reason: it is never mentioned. That neither makes it right nor wrong; it merely makes it unmentioned, and thus not a "Biblical" or "Scriptural" matter. The celebration of Christmas, then, becomes "Non-Biblical." Again, this says nothing about its intrinsic worth. Just because something is never mentioned in the Bible does not necessarily mean it is wrong; nor does it necessarily mean it is right. All it means is -- "it ain't in there!"
When God's inspired Word offers no specific statement on a matter, we must then begin seeking further clarification by asking some very pointed questions. The first is: Does this action, attitude, issue or practice violate any known principles or inspired advice given to us in Scripture? Is there anything in God's Word that would clearly point to the fact that this matter is "ANTI-Biblical" in nature or focus? If there is, then it must be rejected as being in opposition to God's will for our lives. Thus, we must ask if there is anything in God's inspired Scriptures that would place the observance of Christmas in direct opposition to the spirit or counsel of God's revelation to mankind? If there is, I am not personally aware of it. But, even this does not necessarily mean something should be done. The fact is, sometimes even good things can have a bad effect. Thus, in the determining of our actions and attitudes, we must ask yet another question of that which is "Non-Biblical" but not "Anti-Biblical" --- would this practice or action be Beneficial to the cause of Christ and the Body of Christ? Will it help or hinder us in the fulfilling of our godly purpose in life? Is it beneficial or detrimental to the growth and edification of the congregation of believers?
Paul spoke of this very matter in Romans 14 when he urged us to examine our actions, practices and motives carefully, and not allow a good thing to have a bad result. "Do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil" (vs. 16). Rather, we are to pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of the Body of Christ, even if that means backing off from what may, in different circumstances, be good and acceptable (vs. 19-20). Paul demonstrated his own use of this very hermeneutical principle when he wrote the saints in Corinth, "Everything is permissible, but not everything is helpful. Everything is permissible, but not everything builds up" (1 Corinthians 10:23). In a very similar statement (1 Corinthians 6:12), Paul adds the thought that we must be careful lest we allow such matters to become masters over us, rather than being master over them. These matters are in our control, and thus we must exercise good judgment.
Obviously, the determination as to whether the observance of Christmas, either individually or congregationally, is beneficial or detrimental is largely subjective in nature. For some of us it may well be the former, and for others the latter. Each person and each group must determine for themselves which of these choices will bring the most glory and honor to their God in their given circumstance. What we CAN say, however, is that this observance is NOT one that is ever specifically mentioned in Scripture, thus it is left to our own good judgment as to whether it is shunned or embraced. It is also important, given the subjective nature of this choice, that we not judge or condemn those who differ with us, but that we love and accept them. True fellowship in the Body of Christ is NOT conditioned upon absolute uniformity of preference, perception or practice. Rather, our fellowship with one another is based on our union with Christ Jesus.
We are all at liberty to live by our convictions, but we are NOT at liberty to limit the freedom of worshipful expression of others, even of those with whom we differ. If you choose not to observe Christmas, I respect that choice. All I ask is that you respect mine as well. We live in a nation where the overwhelming majority of the citizens of this land love this holiday season. Yes, some don't, and that is their right, but most believe Christmas is a wonderful time of year. I happen to agree. For those few malcontents who are sick of God and Christ in our society, and want to remove any mention of them, may I suggest they consult their nearest travel agent --- I hear IRAN is accepting immigrants!!
From a Reader in Arkansas:
Bro. Maxey, I am so grateful for your Reflections which I have been receiving for about two years. Merry Christmas to you and yours, and thank you for your always inspirational Reflections.
From a Minister in Arkansas:
Dear Brother Al, You did a wonderful job on your article "Things New and Old." I continue to pray for you in your efforts through this Reflections ministry. It is very edifying, brother! Keep up the good work! Also, you gave me permission to use one of your recent articles in a sermon here. That sermon went very well, and everyone in our small country congregation wanted me to thank you for the great insights you offered on that topic. So, Thank You from our congregation!
From an Elder in Missouri:
Al, Once again you have produced a well-written and thought-provoking reflection on a short passage (Matt. 13:52) that I have not truly given much thought about in the past. The lesson from your article is a good one for all of us who are leaders, whatever the capacity or role.
From a Minister in Barbados, Caribbean Islands:
Al, As usual, I am being inspired and instructed by your Reflections as I pore over them week by week. I am amazed at the humility I perceive as I read and study them. Do keep in mind, however, that daily you are going to be a prime target for the enemy of our souls. My prayer is that God will continually grant you the wisdom to work through these trials whenever they come. The enemy is a strategist of the very highest order. He knows just how to target those whose lives are spent in service unto the Lord and others. I believe that we who are benefiting so tremendously from what God daily lays on your heart should demonstrate our gratitude to God and also pray constantly for your keeping and protection. This is my wish for you and your family. I have a request to make of you, and it has to do with the two major positions on the nature of man. Some hold to the dichotomist view (body and soul/spirit), while others prefer the more traditional stance, or the trichotomist view (body, soul and spirit). Can you give me your own reflections on this, or point me to an earlier article that addresses the matter? Thanks, and may God's continual blessing and illumination be with you always.
From an Elder in Texas:
Brother Al, I ran across one of your Reflections articles in which you spoke of Bro. Leroy Garrett. I became acquainted with him last year when he came to -----------, Texas to conduct a weekend seminar on Restoration history. He came here at our request because our congregation, ----------- Church of Christ, was in the midst of talks with ---------- Christian Church about the possibility of forming a new congregation by means of a merger. The merger was accomplished on Easter Sunday, 2005. Joining an a cappella congregation with an instrumental group has been somewhat of a challenge, but, as one of the shepherds of this new flock, I would not trade this experience for anything! I am convinced we would never have made this happen on our own ... it was of GOD. I love your articles! Keep up the good work, brother.
From Daniel Sommer's Great-Granddaughter:
Dear Al Maxey, My name is Katherine Sommer -------, named after my great-grandmother Kate (Daniel Sommer's wife). They had both passed away before I was born in 1945. I inherited their wedding rings and his rocking chair, but did not inherit the family ideas. While I love and respected my grandfather, Austen (Daniel Sommer's son), and my dad, I always rebelled against their narrow-minded Church of Christ attitudes. In the last year or so I've become much more interested in my family's history. A good friend of my mother, who lives in Indianapolis, has done a lot of research on the Sommer family and I've heard stories from him about my great-grandfather, great-grandmother, and grandfather. Before reading your Reflections article --- Daniel Sommer: Father of Ultra-Conservative Church of Christ Watchdogism (Issue #213) --- I had never realized how negatively great-grandpa was/is viewed by many. I am always amazed that people would listen to and follow such divisive ideas, even from such a charismatic man (as I've heard him described) as Daniel Sommer. I, like my father, grandfather, and great-grandfather before me an going to think for myself. While your article bothered me more than a little, I was still glad to read about the views of others.
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