Friday, December 04, 2009

No Christmas?

This is a guest post from my fellow elder at Christ Baptist, Tim Dale:

In the late 17th century, the English Parliament banned the celebration of Christmas. For almost twenty years, shops and markets were required to be open on that day, penalties were imposed on anyone holding or attending a special Christmas service, and public Christmas celebrations were abolished. No one could legally celebrate Christmas. No Christmas! What a dismal thought. I love the Christmas season. The special time with family, the Christmas carols, the abundance of food, and even the “holiday spirit” all bring me joy. But as Christians, we know that the central, all-important element of Christmas is the celebration of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.

Have we ever stopped to ponder: What if there were no Christmas because Jesus Christ had not been born? What if God who is fully divine never chose to become fully man? What if Christ had not humbled Himself and left His heavenly throne to be born in a lowly manger in a grotto? What would be lost with no Incarnation?
Without Christ’s birth, there would be

  • no redemption,
  • no reconciliation with a just God,
  • no righteousness of Christ imputed to us,
  • no propitiation of God’s wrath,
  • no restoration after repentance,
  • no salvation unto eternal life,
  • no sanctification unto Christ likeness,
  • no indwelling Holy Spirit,
  • and no living hope, just to name a few.

Without the Incarnation there would have been no cross and no resurrection.

The world increasingly marginalizes the Incarnation. John MacArthur wrote that the emphasis at Christmas tends to be on the infancy of Jesus rather than on His Deity. Even we Christians rejoice at Christmas that Jesus came to live and forget that He came to die. Jesus lived to do the Father’s will and to please His Father. Surely Luke 2 is a grand description of how the heavens glorified Jesus at His birth. But we would do well to be reminded at Christmas of the message of Hebrews 2:9 which describes why Jesus came:

But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

Simply put, Jesus came to die. The cries of the baby became the man’s cry, “It is finished.”

Christmas is a wonderful time of celebrating Jesus’ birth. Thanks be to God, Jesus did come! His blood-bought blessings for His children are real and totally sufficient for life here and for all eternity. He is the Prince of Peace, the Bread of Life, and the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Read through the Book of John in the weeks before Christmas and be amazed at the Living Word who became flesh and dwelt among us. While “Silent Night, Holy Night” plays softly, let us also have in the background of our Christmas meditations “Up from the Grave He Arose!” Thank you, Lord Jesus.

Celebrating Him,
Tim Dale


Joshua Owen said...

I think I understand where MacArthur is coming from, but isn't the true humanity of Christ equally essential to our redemption as the deity of Christ? Why did God not assume a true humanity that was already mature, as He created for Adam? Why was He born of a woman under the law? No doubt, the death and resurrection of Christ should always be central. Does his life between the manger and the cross also have significance for our redemption?
Who controlled parliament during those years? What were the theological convictions that led to the ban on Christmas?

Pastor Dan Rolfe said...

Joshua - It was Oliver Cromwell who did this. An interesting (and controversial) part of English religious history.

Tim - thanks for a great reminder! Excellent post.

BoldLion said...

I love this newsletter and very educational to learn more about 17th century. I know that I will have to read more about that. I love to read history like this to learn how they live through this.

I am so thankful for Christ and His Mission why He came to earth and to save us at the Cross.

Hungry to eat His Word,
'Guerite ~ BoldLion

Joshua Owen said...

My point about the parliament that "outlawed Christmas" was that it was not an abandonment of the incarnation of Jesus Christ, that which is central to Christmas. It was, rather, an attempt to put distance between Protestants in England and Roman Catholicism in its Anglican garb.

Pastor Dan Rolfe said...

Sorry Joshua, I thought that you were actually asking who banned Christmas when you were asking who banned Christmas! My bad. I see what you meant now, but I do agree with Tim that no public celebration of Christmas is a "dismal thought"!

Maybe it was a "baby - bathwater" mistake that Cromwell made...?

Joshua Owen said...

Dan, I appreciate you for following up on my question. I agree with you that the Puritans may have misapplied the regulative principle in the case of Christmas celebration; though, admittedly, I don't know enough about the entire context of those debates to know how I would have reacted if I had been alive then.