Are you a confessional, RPW Christian? If so, you may be hesitant to throw yourself headlong into Christmas festivities. You may not want your church to celebrate Advent, to have Christmas Eve and/or Christmas services. And you really wouldn’t be crazy for that.
It’s well known that the Puritans weren’t fans of Christmas. Broadly speaking, they saw all holy days other than the weekly, Sunday Sabbath as Romish inventions in violation of the regulative principle of worship. We don’t get to be inventive when it comes to worship. We don’t worship God in whatever ways seem fitting in our own eyes. We worship God the way he has called for worship. We worship him according to his word and in ways that have express warrant from the Scriptures.
This is the correct approach not just to ecclesiastical matters, but to all of life. We are creatures in our Creator’s world and are dependent on him to know how to live and move and have our being. But, in disagreement with the Puritan understanding of the RPW applied to the matter of Christmas, I am persuaded that the RPW actually encourages much festal frolicking and feasting throughout this Advent season and into Christmas.
I used to think that the church should not, as the church, celebrate Christmas, except for expressly evangelistic meetings or in the context of applying a sermon text during the unique cultural season that Christmas is. But Stuart Bryan, a CREC pastor in Idaho, changed my mind.
He points to Purim as RPW grounds for Christmas and Thanksgiving and any other holiday the church desires to celebrate in light of the great working of God for his people. When in exile in Persia, God saved his people from Haman’s plot to have them all slaughtered. Haman and his men were instead destroyed. And, in gratitude, Mordecai calls for an annual, two day celebration of God’s deliverance. This holiday was not a requirement directly from God in his law. Mordecai, in one sense, invents it. But narratively we can only conclude that God considered it good. When he brings about something worth celebrating, from the book of Esther, we find that his people have Scriptural warrant to, in an organized fashion, establish holidays of remembrance.
God provided a harvest for the Pilgrims. Let the church celebrate Thanksgiving.
God sent his Son. Let the church celebrate the birth of the King.
Christ was raised from the dead. Let the church celebrate Easter.
None of these holidays supplant the weekly Feast Day that is the Lord’s Day. Rather, these holidays honored in addition to the 52 holidays already in the church’s calendar show just how festive and celebratory this age of resurrection is to be for the saints. Even in the face of trial, we are to be busy in celebrations.