How We Fall Into Idolatry During the Holiday Season

SanctuaryAs many of my readers know I’m not a huge fan of the holiday season. I love Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s for the family aspects only, but feel that the reverence placed on these holidays is completely unwarranted for the Christian because Scripture never tells us to celebrate these days. With that in view, this post is intended to help us see how we fall into idolatry concerning  these days.

First, when we hold these days with more reverence than the LORD’s day, we fall into idolatry. The reason for this is that God has given us the LORD’s day to worship Him. The other days are truly man’s inventions and we are exalting that which was created by man over and above that which was given to us by the LORD. We do this all the time as Christians, exalting that which God has not given us to worship Him with, while ignoring the clear things He has. Think of the importance we place on praise bands over and against the LORD’s supper. He never commanded praise bands (or choirs for earlier generations), but He did command the LORD’s supper: “Do this…in remembrance of Me.”

In giving select holidays more reverence than we do the LORD’s day, we show our true hand concerning God’s word to us. What I mean by this is that you will hear all kinds of people complaining about having to work on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but not about working on the LORD’s day. Why do they consider these days so holy and the one holy day of the week He has given us, they are so nonchalant about? This reminds me of my sons when I’m giving them instructions to help around the house. I tell them to do something and (because they aren’t paying attention to what I’ve said) they end up doing something else. And yes, they always have an excuse for doing the “something else.” It may even be a good excuse, but it wasn’t what I asked them to do.

God clearly tells us to keep the Sabbath Day holy (The LORD’s day in the New Testament). But we want to exalt and revere Thanksgiving and Christmas, claiming that stores should not be open on these days because these days are holy. Holy unto who? Not the LORD, but to the self.

Let’s be honest, the days are about self-indulgence, not reverence and holiness to the LORD. I know, we add “thanksgiving” in a general sense to God on Thanksgiving Day, and add the baby Jesus creche to Christmas (thereby breaking the Second Commandment), but we don’t do what He has called the people of God to actually do.

What are we to do as the people of God? We are to worship Him. We are to gather and hear His word proclaimed, pray to Him, and honor Him by keeping that which is holy that He has called holy. This is why He has raised up the church, to worship Him. Yet, when it comes to Christmas, we find that many exalt it over and above the normal weekly worship of the LORD. How do I know this? Just look at the times when Christmas falls on a Sunday. Churches are starting to close their doors when this happens because so few show up. After all, it’s far more important to see if the made-up Santa Claus brought me my new electronic gizmo than it is to actually worship the God of all creation.

This is utter nonsense. And the excuses given are nonsense as well. People will say that it’s about the baby Jesus. But again, is there anything in the Bible about worshiping the day (not the person of Christ) that He was born? We are to worship Christ. But not the day Christ was born or Christ in His infant form. We are to worship Christ, the risen King, who rose from the dead, not the baby in a manger.

Well, it’s about giving! This is the most lame excuse ever given. It is given as if somehow we become altruistic in our nature, as if we have somehow risen to a level of compassion toward our fellow man, that we are going to run up our credit-card debt in order to give trinkets to those in need. Nonsense. Christmas is not about giving, it’s about materialism, building our kingdoms, adding to our junk, fighting at the malls, lights, eating too much, getting more junk, complaining about not getting enough junk, sending and receiving mass-produced, prewritten Christmas cards, etc.

And where is any of this in Scripture? I read the Scriptures daily, and have done so for 25 years, but nowhere do I find Christmas, or Thanksgiving, and especially not the silliness of New Year’s Day.

Our Response

I know that many who read this will not like what I’ve written. But if you have ears to hear, then do something about it. Start by revering the LORD’s day (Sunday). Set it apart in your heart as Christ calls us to do (He gave us the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. As the Second Person of the Trinity, He is the One who spoke the words to Moses and spoke creation into existence).

Use the day to worship as God has ordained for us to do so. Go to a church that truly preaches the gospel, in the fullest sense. In other words, if your pastor never speaks a word about hell, then leave, flee. As J.C. Ryle points out “the same sure word which holds out a heaven to all who repent and are converted, declares plainly that there will be a hell for all the ungodly.”

Maybe if we would quit placing importance on the peripherals and place importance on what God has told us to do from His word, we wouldn’t be so easily deluded into thinking these holidays are anything other than family celebrations at best and idolatry at worst.

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20 thoughts on “How We Fall Into Idolatry During the Holiday Season

  1. Jeanette

    Your posts about Christmas are thought-provoking, and I agree that Sunday should be a holy day. What kinds of things do you think one shouldn’t do on Sunday, thereby taking away from the holiness? What things do you and your family do on Sunday that you don’t do Monday through Saturday? I might learn something from your routine or from another reader’s routine.

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    1. The big “don’t” for us on Sunday is to eat out. By eating out, we are causing “our servants” to labor on the LORD’s day. I’ve said for years if just the Baptist alone would stay home on Sunday, the restaurants would shut down on that day. This principle cuts across other lines too. We don’t watch the NFL, more servant work, shop, etc.

      What we do more of is read more and we will invite others from church over for dinner when we can. That is important to us. Hope this helps.

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      1. Jeanette

        What about things like mowing your lawn, raking leaves, vacuuming? In other words, work at home that is unpaid. I used to do such things on Sunday when I was working full time. I am two years into retirement, and I quit doing such work on Sunday, thinking it should be done Monday through Saturday.

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      2. I agree. We don’t do work at all. Heidi only works at Starbucks as long as they don’t try and make her work on the LORD’s day. I don’t do school work on the LORD’s day. It is a day of rest and mercy.

        Works of mercy are the other things that can be done, visiting sick, taking care of the helpless. Doctors, nurses, etc., fall into this category. People who work to help others in need on the LORD’s day. That is acceptable LORD’s day work (and preaching. 🙂 )

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  2. pms

    Thanks Tim. I DID like what you wrote today. I always knew something was wrong with Thanksgiving and Christmas, but didn’t have the “smarts” or the knowledge of the Bible to put it all together. Now it is my job to keep all the pieces glued together throughout the season.

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  3. As a conservative Lutheran and Christmas curmudgeon, I’m in somewhat of a bind. Your position on holy days comes right out of the WCF, but my exposure to Reformed thinking suggests that your “regulative principle” is really but a nose of wax and an exercise in cherry-picking. Historically understood, the Westminster Assembly proscribed muscial accompaniment, set liturgy, and the singing of any worship songs other than those in the Psalter. The number of denominations which hold to this principle is negligible; the rest still insist upon using the term while doing what they please (ie fallacy of equivocation/amphibole). Just out of interest, do you also insist upon exclusive a capella psalmody, and, if not, why?

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    1. Hi Kirk,
      I let Scripture drive my principles. The WCF supports those positions. However, I don’t fully agree with the regulative principle as it is often presented. In the churches of which I was a pastor, I tried to move the congregations to “inclusive Psalmody” since all of them had abandoned it all together. The difficulty that I have found with that is matching the Psalms with the appropriate musical pieces. Given my lack of musical ability, it has been close to disastrous. But we pressed onward. As for the principle banning musical instruments, I’m not in agreement with it since the Psalms themselves declare the use of musical instruments, so how can we say that a capella is the only way to sing to the LORD.

      Given that, I’m not for musical instruments becoming the center piece of our psalm, spiritual songs and hymns. Congregational singing is the goal, since congregational worship of the LORD is what is commanded. You can see where I’m going with this one: “Praise teams be anathema!”

      I hope this helps, and not muddles. BTW, given that Psalms call for instruments, I don’t really see this being outside the RP. I’m not sure where the banning of instruments comes from when it comes to the RP. I know that some of the off-shoots of Presbyterianism are adamant about not using instruments, as if it were a command from the LORD not to. These sects go so far as to say the OT is not for us. Since Christ, Paul and all the Apostles used the OT to preach from, it’s hard for me to buy their position at all.

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      1. Thank you for your response; the Psalms also call for animal sacrifice, and none of us do that ;-). All kidding aside, though, your riposte backs my argument in that *you* decide what an established principle means because *you* don’t like certain aspects of it. I share your view on worship teams, but a regulative principle type who wants to push boundaries could argue that Levites were the original worship team, and hence worship teams have Scriptural warrant. We’re back to a principle which means what it means to me today, which regulates only according to my whim. Who then decides what goes?

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    2. Kirk(?), good Lord’s Day to you. Arguing for observing a clear command of God, written in stone, is “cherry-picking”?
      I did enjoy your nose-of-wax metaphor since it was often used by a well-beloved pastor back in SoCal. However, I don’t think it applies to Timothy’s argument as he did not cite the WCF nor the regulative principle in his post.

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      1. Timothy may not have named the principle, but you certainly agree that that’s what he’s appealing to. I didn’t condemn the principle, but rather note that it has effectively ceased to have meaning because anyone can redefine it as he so pleases: you don’t like holy days but couldn’t imagine worshiping without Granny banging out “I Come to the Garden Alone” on the old out-of-tune upright ;-), he wants vestments and points to the priestly and levitical garments as proof, she wants a prayerbook, they want smell-and-bells, etc. Where’s the regulation in this principle?

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      2. I don’t know. I’m not arguing for the RP, but for the use of Scripture to guide my belief’s and practices in accordance with the WCF. I don’t believe that I’m out of accord with the WCF or RP in the use of instruments. Revelation 5 shows what true worship looks like and the 24 elders are using harps. Also, my appeal to the Psalms.

        Other than Revelation and Paul’s comments on pslams, spiritual songs, etc., the NT does not say much about signing at all.

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      3. As a Lutheran I have no dog in this fight, but ISTM that everyone uses the Scripture argument to justify just about everything including contemporary worship practices neither of us could stomach. We – that is, those not ashamed of being Lutheran – use a conservative normative principle, removing the objectionable aspects of the mass. The problem is over what is objectionable, by what criteria, and who makes the call. Given the prevalence of contemporary and blended worship in the LCMess, our situation is no better than yours. The major difference between the Lutherans and the Reformed on worship seems to be that we are more honest with ourselves about being normative, while those who range from Tylerite high-churchmanship through traditional Evengelical hymn-sandwich, baptacostal contemporary worship, to Scots bare-bones a capella exclusive psalmody all claim to be worshiping as God commands; ie regulative. Perhaps you can see why I’m confused.

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      4. In no way do I “agree” that Timothy is appealing to the regulative principle as he clearly states that he is not. I thought I made that point clear in my previous reply. The only authority that Timothy references in his post is the Scriptures, and it is the Word of God that informs his thinking on this topic. It seems that you have a “bone to pick” with the regulative principle and/or the WCF and are reading them into Timothy’s argument. Just because the WCF echoes Timothy’s position (not surprising, since both derive their opinions based on the word of God) doesn’t mean that the WCF influenced Timothy’s argument. Your comments on this post are actually “off topic” and you’ve used faulty logic to introduce them.

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  4. babalucy

    I agree with your blog, Timothy. About denominations that Kirk is talking about, when we die, if we are believers that tag will fall off as we go to heaven or if we are not believers, that tag will burn off in hell !!!

    Most people complain about all the doings of the holidays so what is the point- to just think more of self and less of our LORD. Colossians says “Whatever you do or say, do all to the Glory of GOD”. That is what all of this is about- as a Christian, we do all for HIS Glory – holiday or not holiday, etc.

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  5. @HAH: how about asking KS? Just because Timothy doesn’t appeal to *THE* regulative principle as clearly and logically expounded by Westminster and Scots divines doesn’t mean that he’s not appealing to *A* principle of regulation by Scripture – which everybody does, including those who keep holy days (eg James Jordan et Cie),particulary as he is a Calvinist and such a postiion has always characterized orthodox Calvinism. If you know anyone who believes that Scripture prohibits a particular practice but engages in such a practice anyway, please inform me. My point, which I have made abundantly clear, is that anyone can appeal to Scripture to support virtually any worship practice we might find objectionable – and probably has. Specifically, those who hold to holy days believe they do so with divine approbation, appealing to both Scriptural precedent and the God-given discretionary authority of church councils; your characterization of these people – and me – is uncharitable, as if you and yours have some monopoly on orthodoxy and orthopraxy. You might also consider spending some time reading the arguments of those who disagree with you; you might remain unchanged in your opionion, but might even gain some respect for both the positions and their expounders – particularly those of the continental Reformed churches who maintain a church year.

    Yes, it’s your blog and I’m an invited guest, but I’ve been neither discourteous nor obtuse; kindly treat me accordingly.

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  6. I have not been discourteous. I restated your position (that you are confused) and added that your remarks are confusing to me (which they are).
    You have assumed that you know what my reading habits are and have been. I can assure you that you don’t have the slightest notion of what I have or haven’t read on this topic. I am a member in good standing, and have been for the past several years, of a church where the calendar is faithfully observed and the Lord’s Day (as prescribed in the WCF) is not. I have not shown disrespect for the position of others (among whom are some of my dearest friends) but strongly hold to my view that the Lord’s Day is the only day set aside by God as “holy.”

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  7. The question vis-a-vis holy days comes down to the discretionary authority of the church, which you limit more than my church does, although both parties have reason to believe that they act IAW Scripture. Per courtesy, I’ve requested clarification of your position to you and Timothy directly; if you believe me to be confusing or confused (or both), asking for clarification would be appropriate, but merely accusing me of such isn’t. Per your reading habits, my assumption was based upon your responses; what you read is your business. Per your membership, I have been a member of churches which hold to an unaltered WCF position of exclusive a capella psalmody and strict Sunday sabbatarianism, so it’s not like I have a dilettante’s knowledge of this position. I have also been in NAPARC churches which pride themselves on their lack of holy days while singing hymns to instrumental accompaniment, all the while priding themselves on their fidelity to Scripture and symbol and criticizing liturgical Protestants like Lutherans and Anglicans. These former churches of mine also had the practice of emphasizing midweek services – even to the point of requiring officers and officer candidates to attend them – despite lack of Scriptural command to celebrate Wednesday. This is why I am confused when someone appeals to the argument of forbidden unless commanded, which is the heart and soul of the regulative principle in any guise – yours or Westminster’s. I trust I’ve made my points succinctly and civilly.

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