Holiday or Holy Day? That Is The Question

There are two things I aim for in issues, particularly Christian-related topics: the balance that God gives it, and the larger overall view of its implications and causes.
I am beginning to think that this clash on Christmas celebration is something of greater impact than it first appears.

Yesterday, as I was hurrying to get myself out the door to an appointment, I noticed my twixter daughter reaching for one of my volumes of Francis Schaeffer. I remarked, “That is pretty heavy reading, you know… it takes a little time to digest”… but not wanting to discourage her from looking into it I meantioned how helpful those books were in helping me to distill the cultural questions of the day in discussions with unbelievers. It has been a bridge between my saturation of Christianese and Christian culture and the world outside it.

Then she shared with me, the issue that was on her mind: ” What do you think about Target censoring the mention of “Christmas” and forcing the adoption of the term “Holiday”?”

Falwell fighting for holy holiday | He’ll sue, boycott groups he sees as muzzling ChristmasFanning the Yule log of discontent against what the Liberty Counsel calls “grinches” like the American Civil Liberties Union are evangelical-led organizations including the 150,000-member American Family Association. It has called for a boycott of Target stores next weekend. The chain’s crime, according to the group, is a ban on the use of “Merry Christmas” in stores, an accusation the chain denies.

As I answered her off the top of my head ( not knowing about this news item, and not giving much attention to the controversy that seems to arise annually about Christmas) I started to put 2+2 together. The essence of that is the idea of this push from the culture to strip out Christmas from the season’s festivities is perhaps an indictment of the way the Christan message has been promoted.

That, perhaps instead of this conflict and debate coming from demon ranks, it is God trying to regain our attention. Maybe God has some things to say -not only about Christmas and how we celebrate the Good News, but about how we promote His message of Salvation, in general.

In tandem with this line of thinking is the previously posted topic, whether we have a problem when Churches cancel Sunday service for Christmas family time. So how do these two issues interact?

I’d say we are going to have to look at things that we have taken for granted. That is what a controversy does: forces the issue. As Christians we have adopted the adversarial view, and this has resulted in a highly negative manner of portraying the Gospel, which really only means “Good News”. Yet, for the large part we are centered on how bad things are, we are people who have adopted a critics eyes and it has taken away from our mandate to preach the solution. We are supposed to be solution-oriented people, and the context of our criticism ought to be towards that end.

Because I don’t know if I will come back round in this topic, let’s look at Falwell. One of those Christians greedy for the spotlight. In the news item I found, the accusation is based on circumstantial evidence, and Target Stores denies any such policy. It is sort of hard to address this. Stores are highly sensitive to doing whatever sells, but they aren’t immune from the big mouths in the media. Big Mouths like the ACLU who litigate every form of Christian reference they can find, and the atheist flanks who cry victimization and whose voice belies their relatively small numbers, as well as scene-stealers such as Falwell. It’s all just one big stage for them, but for the rest of us? We have to think a little, and we ought to be rational in our approach- the Bible says ” Don’t fret yourself” and those guys thrive on fretfulness in the masses. And, anyway, what business is it of ours to promote evangelization through political boycott campaigns? If we are large enough numbers to buy the product – the product will conform to our desires. That is how the free economy works. The gospel, dare I say it? is not a product for sale. So why are we intent on merchandising it?

I think this culture war has impacted the way the Church functions within, but added to this is the age-old contention of the Galatians, the legalistic Pharisee vs. the New Wine of God’s Grace through Christ. Some of this is percolating into our views of Sabbath and of Holy Days… So what is the true and the tradition?

Looking at history:


What is the history on Christmas, is it the most important holiday in an ecclesiastical sense? Or in our our society’s culture?

There were times when sincere Christians, Puritans by name, legally banned Christmas- for religious reasons. And in the Church calender it is Easter that is the high point. So how did Christmas morph into what is being debated today?

And how do we want to orient ourselves toward this? Do we ignore the celebration of the holiday to make sure we have a consistancy of Sunday services? Do the modern churches ever even keep their doors open the way the Catholic Church traditionally has ( I don’t know if they bolt the doors now or not)? Or is it just not OK to close the door on Sunday, but ok to protect all that sound equipment on other days of the week?

How open and available is the church required to be?

What about the early church, which suffered persecution and was underground? It was not always open to all, and then there is the debate on which day is actually Sabbath. What if it is really Saturday as some Christian sects insist? This is certianly not an issue for the Jews, they have scripture that says it is a specific day- why did the Christians feel they could change that, if it offended God to change around Sabbath? Is it a sin to cancel the service for Sunday, if another day is substituted?

You see, lots of things get taken for granted, and we get the message that God is offended when -possibly- we haven’t conferenced with Him about it. We use our logic and our intellect, which serves to an extent, but it isn’t the last word.

Christmas wasn’t always so high on everyones list…. but it has become so. Perhaps now we can get to the post I originally had in mind for this topic today.

Why do people love Christmas without loving Christ? And in extrapolating the direction that the society is going with this, what should the Christian approach become?

As I said previously, I think the problem might be ours, and that God is speaking something to us through the conflicts in our society. I believe I will make this point in another post.

To go back to the controversy of Christmas in the culture, this is said:
further on the Falwell topic,

“….how to negotiate the “December dilemma,”…..”

“The issue is a dilemma for the Anti-Defamation League, too. It commissioned a poll last month of 800 adults, 57 percent of whom said Christianity was under attack. Among evangelicals, the figure was 76 percent.

“There’s a lot of fear out there,” said Finn Laursen, a retired school administrator who is now executive director of the Christian Educators Association International.””

Can the Church have it both ways? Can they have society’s version of the holiday, AND a holy day within the Church experience? Is it a burden for those who minister in the church to be expected to put on services- with all the behind the scenes work that modern church demands…just to keep up appearances?

Or can there be flexibility in our observation of Sabbath?

Now that last question, for me, is one that supercedes the Christmas season. How far do you take ‘observation of Sabbath” Is it ok to have restaurant workers benefit you…do you go to stores on Sundays? Do you watch secular movies or TV on Sundays? How far do you take this idea of giving worship to God on a particular Sabbath day? Or is it just about keeping Church going so that you feel like things are stable in your sense of the world?

I have lots to look into… and so do you, if you care about the subject.


If you want your own volumes of Francis Schaeffer, check out Amazon. I highly recommend them for the Christian bookshelf.

4 thoughts on “Holiday or Holy Day? That Is The Question”

  1. Huge questions. I’d be inclined to back up the boat and look at why there is a Sabbath, Who instituted it, How Christ kept it, and how it got changed 300+ years after Christ’s death. That might shed a wee bit of light on today’s Sabbath keeping.

    Thanks for the thought-provoke.

  2. Good questions and good thoughts. I have some of my own I plan on blogging over the weekend.

    In the meantime….. you’ve been tagged 🙂

  3. Christians celebrate the sabbath on Sunday because it’s the day that Jesus was resurrected. Further, celebrating on Sunday rather than Saturday helped to differentiate the early Christian community from the Jewish community. That’s a distinction we take for granted now, but one that was not so readily apparent in the second century. The shift from Saturday to Sunday was not arbitrary or a substitution of convenience only.

    I have a hard time with a church that would close down on Christmas when Christmas falls on a Sunday. Popular culture – even individual Christians for that matter – might have a hard time deciding what Christmas is all about, but the church never should.

    In general, this question seems to be getting at some pretty serious base questions about the nature of Protestantism. How far should we follow tradition? Who/what is our authority? I personally have a hard time answering these questions. I know the pat answers: “The Bible is our authority, and we should only keep traditions we find in the Bible!” But they ring sort of empty when I think about the thousands of traditions and beliefs that are central to what I believe to be Real Christianity that aren’t spelled out anywhere in scripture (example: doctrine of the trinity, altar calls, celebrate Easter not Passover, etc.).

    I think Protestants have a problem with authority that Catholics and the Orthodox do not, and that’s a big part of what makes issues like this so cloudy.

  4. The issue does bring up some deeper questions. I look forward to checking out your blog, Brian.

    Sarah, while I had understood the change to Sunday to be a reflection of the Resurrection, I hadn’t ever seen it attributed to “making a difference from the Jews”. Could you attribute that piece of info? If it were true, it couldn’t have happened in the early Church, and would’ve been one of those matters that were a perversion within the Church.

    Also, I don’t think the Catholics are immune to those women in the priesthood, birth control, …. and many more. Their acceptance of doctrines on the attendance @ mass preclude this particular one.

    Will try to follow up on this topic…first have to clean out spam trackbacks….

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