‘Tis the season to spout folly. Look around the ‘Net and you’ll find people forbidding you to celebrate Christmas — for mostly spurious reasons. Though there ARE problems in many celebrations of the day (that’s another post), I’d like to answer some silliness that appears at this time of year. We’ll start with this post on the “Christ-Mass” argument.
“We Shouldn’t Celebrate the Christ-Mass”
This argument says that the very name proves we shouldn’t celebrate Christmas. It is obviously a Catholic holiday, a celebration of the Catholic Mass, which is an idolatrous perversion of the Lord’s Supper.
I am in complete agreement with this assessment of the Catholic Mass. The Lord’s Supper is a commemoration (“This do in remembrance of Me,” He said). It isn’t a re-sacrifice of our Lord’s body and blood; His sacrifice was completed once, and that is sufficient. The Roman Catholic Mass is a horrible twisting of a wonderful commemoration of our Lord and His death. If this holiday is indeed a celebration of the Catholic Mass, we shouldn’t do it.
Learning from the Dictionary
Unfortunately for those who make this argument against Christmas, the English name doesn’t prove what some people want to make it prove. A simple look in the dictionary can help here. The word “Christmas” comes from Late Old English, dating to 900-1066 AD. Yet, the birth of Christ was widely celebrated by the fourth century, at the very latest.
A mostly apostate Middle Ages church, in one language on one island in Europe, used the name “Mass” for a false version of the commemoration of our Lord’s death (the Lord’s Supper). We still celebrate Communion, and are right to do so. We do not adopt their false doctrines, but their errors do not prevent us from celebrating a commemoration.
If that same group also put that name on a commemoration of His birth which Christians had celebrated for centuries, that does not make it wrong to observe the holiday. The name Roman Catholics gave it is irrelevant. We must not adopt their false doctrines, but their errors do not prevent us from celebrating a commemoration.
Historically, this argument would only have any chance of making sense if the origin of the name and the origin of the holiday coincided. That the holiday preceded the name by over 500 years renders the argument ridiculous.
The Error of Doctrine by Etymology
II Timothy 3:16-17
16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
The Scriptures provide all the doctrines we need to be completely equipped to serve the Lord. They are complete. I’ve never found where Scripture teaches us to determine right and wrong by figuring out the etymology (origins) of the word by which a thing is known.
Whatever the origin of the name, it does not mean the Catholic Mass today. I checked multiple dictionaries — they only mention the Catholic Mass in describing the origins of the word, not in what it means today. People sing, “I’ll be home for Christmas” — they don’t mean they will be having Mass at home. They don’t celebrate Mass around their Mass tree, and they aren’t giving Mass presents. It simply doesn’t mean the Catholic Mass anymore, if it ever really did.
If our teaching of right and wrong is based on the etymology of words, rather than their meaning, we practice doctrine by etymology. That is something for which Scripture gives no basis, and thus it violates the sufficiency of Scripture.
Truth is Not Confined to One Language
The holiday is called Navidad in Spanish and Natale in Italian, Natal in Portuguese, names meaning “birth.” In French, it is Noel, perhaps from words for “news” or “birth.” In Latin, it is Nativitatis (“birth”), in Greek Christougenna (“Christ’s birth”), in German Weinacht (“holy night”).
All these lands had the Gospel, and their believers celebrated the holiday, before English even came into existence. People in these countries would be mystified at the suggestion that a word derived from Late Old English has any bearing on what they should do.
Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
God does not have one set of truth for one group of people and another truth for another group. His truth is for all people of all languages. The “Christ-Mass” argument is entirely language dependent, and not all believers speak a language that uses a form of “Mass” in the name. There is a unity of truth for all believers. Any teaching which is dependent on the wording of a particular language fails the doctrinal test of the unity of truth across all peoples and languages.
The “Christ-Mass” argument is historically and doctrinally bankrupt. A person could perhaps say we should use a different name for the holiday, but the argument has no merit at all when claiming it is wrong for believers to observe a commemoration of our Lord’s incarnation. God’s truth is true in any language.
The best to say for someone making the “Christ-mass” argument is they haven’t thought it through very well. We can appreciate their zeal to honour the Lord in all things. We can applaud (and join) their willingness to behave differently from the world. We are not to be “conformed to this world,” so we certainly will be different in the things we do, and value. But we don’t have to respect the “Christ-Mass” argument. Don’t deck your halls with folly.
Flawed Reasons to Abandon Christmas — #2 “It is Pagan/Catholic!”
Misused Reasons to Abandon Christmas — #3 “God Didn’t Command It”
Silly Reasons to Abandon Christmas — #4 “It’s the Wrong Date”
Solid Reasons to Scrutinise Christmas
Still later, an interesting historical note on the Puritans and Huguenots:
Puritans, Huguenots, “Christ-Mass,” and “Immanuel’s Day”
Thank you for this, Jon. Syd and I had already settled it in our hearts, but these are very helpful things to remember. We do wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas (or “commemoration of Christ’s birth”!). Greetings from the states!
Hi, Cyndy! Thank you. I respect the decision not to celebrate — no one should if they can’t, as you say, settle it in their hearts. But it is good to examine the arguments Biblically and “shoot straight” if they fall short.
Greetings and love to all in your neck of the woods, both to those who regard the day unto the Lord and those who don’t regard it unto Him.
“Silly”? Why is it silly? I know why … because YOU … LIKE … CHRISTMAS! That is the ONLY reason you call reasons to not observe it silly. It’s your personal preference over Biblical and historical fact. It’s funny that all of a sudden I see pastors and bloggers fighting to not keep “Christ” in Christmas but to keep Christians themselves celebrating the holiday. There is a huge awakening going on! Thanks to the Internet and other forms of media, God’s people are coming out of Babylonian worship. You should join us.
I applaud your honesty in the Catholic Mass however your so-called “Lord’s Supper” or “Communion” is a rip-off of the Mass, not the other way around. When Messiah said “Do this in remembrance of Me”, He was referring to the Passover tradition as a whole. Not a cracker and grape juice after a Sunday (not Sabbath) church service.
Your Colossians 3:11 argument is just absurd. First of all, there is nowhere in that verse that implies that pagans can keep their traditions of idol worship if they incorporate Yahuwah into it. On the contrary, Deuteronomy 12 is clear as day that the God of Israel FORBIDS the mixing of pagan worship with worship of Yah.
12:30 for example:
“beware that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How do these nations serve their gods, that I also may do likewise?’ “You shall not behave thus toward the LORD your God, for every abominable act which the LORD hates they have done for their gods; for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.”
The Catholic Church is nothing more than the ancient Roman/Babylonian religion painted with a Christian mask. Your Messiah was Jewish and observed Yah’s appointed feasts because He was utterly committed to His father. We are to be like Yahusha and do the same.
Doug, thanks for the comment.
This post was about the silliness of using the name to argue against Christmas. If you think the English name is a reason to abandon a celebration of Christ’s birth, you are being silly.
The followup post deals more with your objections — that it is a pagan / Catholic holiday. I called that a “Flawed Reason.” In it, I answered much of your argument here. If you want to read that and then comment further there, I’d be willing to discuss it with you.
I entirely agree with you on the evils of syncretism in worship, and I said so in that post.
My Messiah was Jewish and went to the temple for the Jewish Feast of Dedication, also known as Hanukkah, which was not one of the LORD’s appointed feasts.
Dear Bro. Gleason,
I recognize that this is a somewhat older post but somebody just recommended it to me. I find it difficult to reconcile my historic Baptist position with the celebration of Christmas, though I would love to be able to go with the modern flow instead of with the universal position of my Baptist heritage against the holy day. Lord willing, I will read your entire series and make some comments, which, hopefully, you may have some time to respond to. Thank you so much in advance for whatever you may have time to say.
I confess that I find it astonishing that you would argue that Christmas was created by people who “had the Gospel, and their believers celebrated the holiday,” rather than being the invention of Roman Catholicism. Is a source like the Encyclopaedia Britannica making up fables in its description of the invention of Christmas? (http://faithsaves.net/encyclopaedia-britannica-on-christmas-and-epiphany/) Could you please give me a single historical source that indicates that ancient Anabaptist dissenters invented Christmas, rather than the Roman Catholic State church? Did the Roman Catholic Church-State have the gospel? Why is it that standard histories of the Waldensians, and Baptists up until the 20th century, universally or almost universally rejected Christmas as a Catholic holiday, and historical sources indicate that groups like the Waldensians, and Baptists historically, rejected all festival days and celebrated only the Lord’s day?
You also stated: “The best to say for someone making the “Christ-mass” argument is they haven’t thought it through very well.” As a personal testimony, while it is possible that somebody gave me the Christ – Mass argument and I just cannot recall who did it, from my own recollection I was simply thinking things through – that is, trying to think things through carefully – and I concluded that I could not in good conscience connect the infinitely precious name of my Lord Jesus Christ with the filthy abomination of the Catholic mass in one word and wish people a happy one. Would you find it acceptable to celebrate in the Church of Jesus Christ an English holiday called “Chrisatan” that was widely celebrated, being invented by Satanists, if in modern times most people did not think about the satanic connection of it, and other languages it had a different name? Since most people do not think about worshiping Satan on Halloween, is it also acceptable to wish people a happy Halloween?
Finally, I likewise find it astonishing that you would argue: “It simply doesn’t mean the Catholic Mass anymore, if it ever really did.” If it ever really did? So even when in English it was called the Christ Mass it might never have had anything to do with the Catholic mass? Was its celebration outlawed in Scotland, the country where you minister, after the Reformation, because deluded people somehow mistakenly thought it was associated with Catholicism when it was not? And if it was, can you please tell me when it stopped being a Catholic holiday? Please let me know the year that it stopped being a Catholic holiday in English-speaking lands.
I agree with you 100% that: “The Scriptures provide all the doctrines we need to be completely equipped to serve the Lord. They are complete.” The key issue, of course, is whether we have scriptural warrants to celebrate Christmas – and that, of course, is the issue of post number three here, which Lord willing, I will look at and comment on at some point in the relatively near future. At this point, I must answer the question a definitive “no” based on arguments such as those made in “The Regulative Principle of Worship and Christmas” here:
Thank you very much.
Brother Ross, thank you for the comment.
Much of what you’ve said is concerned with whether or not this is a pagan / Roman Catholic holiday. I’ve written on that topic in the second article, and I’d like to defer answering that part of it until you’ve read / commented on it.
This article was focused on the argument that the English name proves this is a Roman Catholic holiday. At the most, it proves that 1000 years ago, Roman Catholics in England gave the observance a Catholic name. A name given more than 500 years after it started may say something about the people giving it that name, but it says nothing of the origins or nature of the observance.
I respect the decision not to use the name “Christmas.” Originally, if the dictionaries can be believed, the old word “mass” meant “feast.” I don’t believe the name is inherently evil. I do agree that if a person cannot use it in good conscience, they should not use it. (A friend of mine once suggested “Immanuel’s Day.”) But the name has nothing to do with whether it is appropriate to set aside this day to commemorate the Incarnation of our Lord.
That is why I have characterised this as a “silly” reason. I have not used the word “silly” for the second and third articles, which are the substantive questions that must be answered. I very much look forward to your thoughts on them, for while this series of articles has received quite a bit of attention, they have been given no serious critique.
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I’m afraid your understanding of the Mass in deficient as is what remembrance signifies, especially to the apostles who, as you know, we’re Jews.
I apologise for the delay in clearing this from moderation while the blog was dormant.
I’m afraid, however, that I don’t see how this provides any substantive information or argument that will help anyone. The apostles being Jews has nothing to do with the Roman Catholic practice known as Mass, or whether Christmas, as it originated and is used in non-English speaking countries, has anything to do with the Mass. And that is the topic of this post.
Reminds me of the claim that the name Easter derives from Ishtar. Even if that were true (and it isn’t), that is only the German/English name for the commemoration of Christ’s death and resurrection, given to it centuries after Christians began keeping it, and thus has no bearing on how pagan Easter is or isn’t. In the rest of the world, it’s known as Passover.
The idea that Easter comes from Ishtar or Eostre comes from Bede who wrote in the 8th century. There is no other evidence for this at all. Even then, Bede called it a Paschal remembrance that took place in the month named for Eostre and so took its name from the month in which it fell. Even if he were right in that, as you say, it would have no bearing on how pagan the observance is or is not.
And yes, in the rest of the world, it’s known as Passover just as the incarnation observance is, in most places, know as the Nativity or a variation of that.