“Now, I see here today more people that I am accustomed to having at the sermon. Why is that? It is Christmas day. And who told you this? You poor beasts. That is a fitting euphemism for all of you who have come here today to honor Noel. Did you think you would be honoring God? Consider what sort of obedience to God your coming displays. In your mind, you are celebrating a holiday for God, or turning today into one but so much for that. In truth, as you have often been admonished, it is good to set aside one day out of the year in which we are reminded of all the good that has occurred because of Christ’s birth in the world, and in which we hear the story of his birth retold, which will be done Sunday. But if you think that Jesus Christ was born today, you are as crazed as wild beasts. For when you elevate one day alone for the purpose of worshiping God, you have just turned it into an idol. True, you insist that you have done so for the honor of God, but it is more for the honor of the devil.
Let us consider what our Lord has to say on the matter. Was it not Saul’s intention to worship God when he spared Agag, the king of the Amalekites, along with the best spoils and cattle? He says as much: ‘I want to worship God.’ Saul’s tongue was full of devotion and good intention. but what was the response he received? ‘You soothsayer! You heretic! You apostate! You claim to be honoring God, but God rejects you and disavows all that you have done.’ Consequently, the same is true of our actions. For no day is superior to another. It matters not whether we recall our Lord’s nativity on a Wednesday, Thursday, or some other day. But when we insist on establishing a service of worship based on our whim, we blaspheme God, and create an idol, though we have done it all in the name of God. And when you worship God in the idleness of a holiday spirit, that is a heavy sin to bear, and one which attracts others about it, until we reach the height of iniquity. Therefore, let us pay attention to what Micah is saying here, that God must not only strip away things that are bad in themselves, but must also eliminate anything that might foster superstition. Once we have understood that, we will no longer find it strange that Noel is not being observed today, but that on Sunday we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper and recite the story of the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. But all those who barely know Jesus Christ, or that we must be subject to him, and that God removes all those impediments that prevent us from coming to him, these folk, I say, will at best grit their teeth. They came here in anticipation of celebrating a wrong intention, but will leave with it wholly unfulfilled.”
A sermon preached Tuesday, December 25, 1551, Sermons on the Book of Micah, trans. Benjamin W. Farley (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2003), 302–304.
8 Reasons Christian Holidays Should Not Be Observed
Christmas: An Historical Survey Regarding Its Origins and Opposition to It
3 thoughts on “An XMas Day Sermon by John Calvin”
Does it mean that preaching and worship is not allowed outside of the Lord’s day?
Interesting that Calvin himself thought it was a good idea to “set aside” one day in the year in which to commemorate the Saviour’s birth. Calvin’s dispute appears at the point where the day is “elevated” into an actual holy day.
Two things stand out that make me wonder what Calvin’s real point was. First, he only says, “Noel is not being observed today” which seems to suggest that it could be observed another day. Perhaps he was against the tethering of this celebration to a specific day, namely, December 25th?
It sort of comes across that way, because the very next thing he says is, “On Sunday we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper and recite the story of the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Maybe he’s not against Christmas per se. Maybe Calvin is just saying, “Do not think that just because it’s December 25th, we’re going to celebrate Christmas. No, you’ll have to wait till Sunday for that.”
Admittedly, I should read more of what he says in this matter. But from this quote, that seems to be the most we can infer. Thanks for the post, though. I’m not a huge fan of extra biblical “holidays” myself. So much appreciated.