The consequences of the Coronavirus have been dire, though not so much for public health, as for political liberty. Who could have predicted that for a flu which over ninety-nine percent survive we would lock down, mask up, and by a thousand stringent rules do irreparable harm to countless lives, families, businesses, and churches, all because our leaders told us it was for our good?
Thanks be to God some are standing up against this tyranny, refusing quarantines when healthy, opening their shops, not paying fines. And in the church of Christ, though far too many congregations are still closed, and Christians too content to stream their services at home, some are realizing the panic was overblown, and heading back to church to worship God with unveiled face and lifted voice.
Yet Satan in his subtlety has dug another pit for these brave few, and they are running into it. Those he cannot trap with political tyranny, he labors to ensnare with spiritual tyranny, enslaving them, under pretense of the liberty they love, to man-made superstition. This is no more evident than in the celebration of Christmas, which as we hope to show, is merely human religion, a forbidden addition to the word of God.
The Tyranny of Christmas
It appears Christmas will be the next bright flashpoint in the Coronavirus controversy, with governors discouraging the usual festivities with family and in church, and many Christian freedom-fighters in response buying a larger tree, inviting more friends and family, planning more caroling trips and special services, and putting larger manger scenes in their front yards. Yet this is to betray the very principle by which they stand against government overreach: that men, not being God, have no right to dictate what is true and good. For as lockdowns exceed the limits of the natural Constitution, Christmas exceeds the limits of the spiritual Constitution, which is the word of God. Four further points should make the tyranny of Christmas plain.
1. Christmas Is Spiritual
First, Christmas is without doubt a spiritual matter. The name, from the Old English for “Christ’s mass,” says it all: whatever trappings may surround, the center of the holiday is mass held for the nativity of Christ. The phrase “Keep Christ in Christmas” is unnecessary. Everything about it bears his name, from trees to carols to church services. This is why consistent Jews refuse the greeting, “Merry Christmas,” for it claims to celebrate the birth of the Messiah they reject.
Now granted, the name “Christmas” can mislead as to the holiday’s true Christianity, for the Roman mass is anti-Christian. This is a strong argument under the Third Commandment for rejecting Christmas altogether. But the same name does speak plainly of its inevitable spirituality. For a mass said in the name of Christ’s nativity, though idolatrous, is still dealing in spiritual things. Even if “mass” is taken only in a generic sense, a meeting of the church for worship, its spiritual character is not in doubt. Moreover, though much that is associated with the holiday is in no sense Christian, it still has a religious origin. Debatable is the extent to which, but not the fact, that many Christmas customs had their birth in paganism. For long before Europe was Christianized, Romans were bringing evergreens into their homes to celebrate their winter feast of Saturnalia.
Papists praise their own appropriation of such pagan worship as a conquest of the Christian faith, but more honest readers of the Bible call it syncretism. Even if we ignore the suggestive similarities between the Asherim of ancient Canaan and the decorated trees of modern America, we ought not miss the parallel between Israel’s honoring Jehovah by a molten calf, and the church’s honoring the Lord Jesus by a plastic baby doll. Some argue in response that most modern Christmas customs are rooted not in ancient rites but modern fables and consumerist materialism. But this is no help. Our faceless modern Mammon is no less an idol than were Baal or Ashtaroth, and jolly old Saint Nicholas is no less a lie than Thor or Hercules.
Putting aside the origin and lawfulness of these traditions, the fact remains, Christmas is unavoidably spiritual, religious, sacred, supernatural. It is no mere civil celebration like July Fourth, or Thanksgiving Day. More than a holiday, it is a “holy day,” and should not be considered otherwise.
2. Christmas is Nowhere in the Bible
Second, since Christmas is a spiritual matter, for it to be lawful, it must find warrant in the spiritual rule, the Word of God. But it finds none. There is not the slightest support for Christmas in the Scriptures. No hint that Christ was born December 25. No mention of New Testament annual holy days, but only that the old have passed away (Eph. 2:15, Col. 2:16–17, Gal. 4:9–11). No sacred time remaining but the weekly Sabbath, a permanent fixture of God’s moral law (Ex. 20:8). No trees in church, no Advent wreaths, no call to sing “Noel.” No warrant, anywhere, for man to make such rites, but only warning, woe, and sharp rebuke against “will-worship” and religion taught by merely human law (Lev. 10:1–2, Col. 2:23, Matt. 15:9, Deut. 4:2).
Of course in Scripture we see angels and shepherds marvel at the exceeding wonder of Christ’s incarnation. We ought to do the same, all of our days. But the leap from this to a yearly church commemoration of this mystery, is made entirely in the dark. God has not said to do this, faith rests only in God’s word, and all that is not done of faith is sin (Rom. 14:23, Heb. 11:6).
The ever-present plea for long-established custom should be in principle rejected here. Sin is the most customary thing of all, man’s longest-held tradition, but God hates it nonetheless. It matters not at all that Christmas has been practiced since the early church, that it was tolerated by some venerable men, even some great Reformers, that it is a fixture of the Anglican establishment, and more recently of American religion. In matters of faith, worship, and piety, only one question matters, “What saith the Lord?” As the Lord said through Isaiah in the face of long-held superstition in the church, so must we say today, “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isa. 8:20).
Nor should impassioned pleas for liberty, turning our argument on its head to say that opposing Christmas is true tyranny, make us willing to yield this principle of the sufficiency of Scripture. Sinners always find the law of God a burden, and invent a thousand new escapes from it, claiming the freedom of a Christian. But two paragraphs from the Westminster Confession, chapter 20 on Christian Liberty, answer this false appeal to freedom powerfully:
II. God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are in any thing contrary to his Word; or beside it, if matters of faith or worship. So that, to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands, out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience: and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.
III. They who, upon pretence of Christian liberty, do practice any sin, or cherish any lust, do thereby destroy the end of Christian liberty, which is, that being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, we might serve the Lord, without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our life.
To summarize this second point, God’s religion is established in God’s word alone. But Christmas is not found within that word. Therefore, it is no part of God’s religion, nor may anyone practice it with hope by it to find God’s favor.
3. Christmas Is Enforced by Tyranny
Third, the celebration and defense of Christmas is not only proved tyrannical from Scripture, but it bears all the familiar marks of tyranny in civil matters. Like those who stand on principle against masks and lockdowns, those who conscientiously object to Christmas meet all manner of emotional manipulation, are unjustly ridiculed as proud, divisive, joyless, loveless, and selfish, and uncharitably condemned as despisers of law, order, and authority. It is a poignant irony that many who complain today most loudly of the Marxist “Kafka-trap” will insist, in spite of many earnest, plain appeals to Scripture, that Christmas-deniers speak entirely from hidden prejudice. It is dishonorable that children of the Puritans use their fathers’ venerable nickname to mock those who are most faithful to their historic stand for Christian liberty. It is a shame that sentimental children’s stories give grown men permission to make fun of humble Christians by the name of “Scrooge” or “Grinch.”
This demeaning lack of care for a clean Christian conscience is most sadly seen in the activities of Christian churches. Special Christmas services and fellowship events trap those who conscientiously object, forcing a false choice between loyalty to friends and elders, and faithfulness to God. Even worse, Christmas-themed evangelistic outreach loads objectors with the opprobrium of having no love for sinners, or care for their salvation. As if a deep concern that we win the lost by God’s appointed means, and that we win them to God’s own religion, nothing else, were not indeed a proof of love for souls, and above all for God himself.
4. Christmas Abounds with Tyranny
Fourth, Christmas is not just a form of spiritual tyranny, but an overflowing fountain of the same. It is the yearly height of superstitious ceremonies, a free-for-all for candles, vestments, liturgies, chorales, processions, “sacred art,” statues of Christ, and man-made hymns, not one of which has any warrant in the word of God. Moreover, by adopting all these abject superstitions Protestants fling wide their churches’ doors to welcome the worst tyranny of all, the rule of Antichrist himself, the pope of Rome. For the origin and home of Christmas is the Roman church. This video dramatizes this reality, showing the “Christ-mass” thriving in its native habitat. If Christians who view it find their stomachs turning at the utter wretchedness—a false high priest and his false Levites, adorned with splendid Roman robes, carrying a wooden idol said to be the Lord himself, processing solemnly to swelling strains that overwhelm the senses, with large choirs taking to their lips a pseudo-Psalm, penned by an unknown spirit in an unknown tongue, all with pomp and circumstance expertly crafted to obtain the praise of men—I ask them with all urgency, why even entertain one part of these abominations in your home and church? Diluted poison is no help to health. Partial idolatry is partial spiritual adultery. I call all true believers to see the anti-Christian origin and nature of this so-called holy day, and be done with it entirely, starting this year.
An Objection: “Cultural Christmas”
Before concluding I must answer here the claim for a merely “cultural Christmas,” one said to have no religious element, but still maintain the nice traditions such as Christmas trees and gifts. This is a curious and scrupulous distinction taught only by a small minority: not by papists, Lutherans, or Dutch Reformed, for whom Christmas is a religious fixture, but rather, by a small company of modern Presbyterians, who in reading their Puritan and Scots forbears know better than to support superstition, but who cannot bear the loss of reputation, comfort, and delight that comes from total opposition to false holy days. Now, they rarely hold to this distinction with consistency, for most professing it will still bring Christmas by the back door into church, by choosing “Advent” sermon topics, but the objection still deserves an answer.
I confess that I once clung to this distinction, and many of my brothers still do so, but I say from sad experience, of all men they are most to be pitied. For they of all know better, being taught by their own fathers in faith, the best men in the best ages of the church, who condemned Christmas in all its parts as a pagan, popish, and prelatical invention of the brain of man. In this respect Reformed cultural-Christmas-celebrators stand under Christ’s solemn judgment, as those who build the prophets’ monuments, but will not hear the prophets’ words (Matt. 23:29–31). Historic Puritans and Presbyterians all hated Christmas, including the trees, the presents, the vacationing. When they had civil power they prosecuted Christmas as a civil crime. Centuries later in our own land of liberty, as late as 1916 the Southern Presbyterian General Assembly still pronounced that Christmas and Easter were without Scriptural warrant, and thus not to be observed. More on the history can be seen here and here.
Let us say, however, all these men were wrong. Let us grant, fine as it is, the proposed modern distinction. Let us join atheists in separating Christ from Christmas, religion from the holy day. Let us accept the gifts and decorations as mere things indifferent, or profitable customs. Even so, by their inherent tendency to all sorts of sins, presumption, greed, vainglory, and most of all, the very Christ-demeaning superstition this distinction was invented to avoid, they ought to be rejected utterly. With Laocoön, we ought to fear Greeks bearing gifts, and not welcome the majestic Trojan Horse, even when tied with an attractive bow. With Hezekiah, we should know that even God-given sacred things, which once brought spiritual benefit, proving idols, must be broken into pieces (2 Kings 18:4). With Christ, we must discern when lawful blessings have been turned by sinful hearts into enslaving gods (Luke 18:22). And with the drunkard, knowing our weakness, we should pour out every bottle of our Christmas booze into the drain.
A Concluding Plea
I finish by returning to our present circumstance. Coronavirus tyranny is only one proof among many that we live in an exceedingly ungodly age. Whether for riots, for our lying media, for political corruption, or for outright sexual perversion, no wonder if historians mark 2020 as the beginning of America’s nadir. It is therefore worthy of notice that this year, perhaps the most ungodly year on record, American excitement about Christmas encroached the earliest in memory, well before Thanksgiving. And no wonder if, in part in opposition to the tyrannical restrictions from our civil leaders, Christmas 2020 will prove the most celebrated yet.
Together with all the arguments above, Christians should take this correlation as a chance for sober self-examination. Does it not make you pause to see how much our wicked culture loves a so-called “Christian” holiday? And how the more evil our country grows, the more it seems to lavish its attention on the Christmas season?
For these reasons among others I humbly plead with fellow warriors for Christian liberty, if you hate tyranny, please cancel Christmas. Do not jump from the frying pan of statism into the fire of will-worship, which burned up Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10:1–2). See it rather as God’s mercy that our civil leaders, though with evil intent, want your Christmas celebrations canceled. Despite themselves they are serving in this way as ministers of God to you for good, like Babylon as God’s own hammer (Jer. 50:23, 51:20), used to crush idolatry out of his people’s hearts, and to restore them to true liberty, that of serving him according to his word.