Thursday, March 28, 2013

Number 7: Holidays

Since we're in the middle of what some people refer to as "Holy Week," this seems like a good time to deal with the issue of holidays. Although holidays often appear innocent enough, I believe they are part of Ten Church Structures That Hinder Disciple Making.

I'm not referring to all holidays (such as Valentine's Day, Memorial Day, or even Halloween). Rather, I'm specifically talking about the two holidays most Christians celebrate without question: Christmas and Easter. I'll admit to having mixed emotions about this. Additionally, let me say up front that I don't really have a problem with Christians celebrating these days as long as they have thought through what they are doing and why they are doing it.

Why, then, might the celebration of Christmas and/or Easter hinder disciple making? Five reasons:

1. There's simply no biblical support for either. The early church did not observe either day. In fact, Christmas and Easter as we know them did not come around for many years after the bible was penned.

2. It confuses what is pagan and what is Christian. Both Christmas and Easter have pagan origins (which are very old). The annual celebrations of both these days mix pagan with Christian.  Just look at all the churches that have Easter Egg hunts.

3. Legitimate biblical holidays exist. If Christians desire to take part in holidays, then why not celebrate some of the feasts we see in scripture? I remember one time taking part in a Passover meal led by a Jewish Christian man. It was wonderful.

4. The Lord's Supper is a celebration, but is usually not practiced that way. Sadly, many churches have transformed it into a funeral-type snack. When the Lord's Supper is celebrated as intended it feels like a big family party (as it should be!)

5. Celebrating Christmas and Easter artificially focuses the church on one aspect of Christ's life during only one part of the year. For example, how many people do you hear talking about the incarnation right now? All the focus is on the death and resurrection. What about a few months from now? We should be celebrating these great truths all year long.

My big concern is that celebrating Christmas and Easter can be very confusing to new believers. We tell them to search the scriptures for truth. However, Christmas and Easter cannot be found in the bible. Also, the new believers may wonder why the incarnation and resurrection are largely ignored for much of the calendar year.

That said, I do believe these celebrations can be turned to a positive. The key is to focus on the biblical accounts that the celebrations are now based upon. These are great truths to be taught and cherished. It is also important to explain that there is no intersection between the pagan and the Christian. Finally, let's embrace the incarnation and especially the resurrection all year long.

If handled wisely these two holidays offer much opportunity for wonderful teaching. Additionally, lost folks tend to be more open at these times of year to discussing these truths. We must be careful, however, that we do not allow these holidays to become stumbling blocks for the reasons listed above.

What do you think? Do you celebrate these days? If so, how do you handle them?


Aussie John said...


Here's a conversation between myself and another blogger with whom I am in full agreement:

Me: The "special day" syndrome has shriveled the heart of the church,much as the traditional ideas about worship, which leads believers astray, and destroys any thought that the whole of life is worship, along with corporate activities.

Paul: "For me, every DAY is truly a Sabbath, as I rest in His grace from my labors of my own works to be accepted by Him and every SUNDAY is Easter and is a reminder for me that I live in His grace BECAUSE He is alive and He's alive in me".

Eric said...


Well said by both of you. It's amazing that the church focuses on specific days. How much better to simply rejoice all 365 in what Christ has done and is doing for us! He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords all the time.

Randi Jo :) said...

Agree with all of you!!!

I put WAY too much thought into all of this and how to explain all this to my children....they are so young and just look at me like I have 5 heads hehe like why is Mommy so passionate about this? :)

On these "holiday" weekends, I go through waves of frustration/anger for how things are in the Church.... then back to grace & understanding since I grew up with them, too.... then back to annoyance because what in the WORLD are we doing every other Sunday if we are not celebrating the Resurrection each Sunday morning!?!?..... back to love for all involved in the Church no matter their traditions on this holiday, because I'm thankful Jesus is at least the FOCUS of a Sunday Church service.... then back to total resentment for how the whole just feels like a game or masquerade and it's not funny.... back to repentance for my pride & frustration.

I guess the funniest part to me is how much thought I put into exactly WHY I do what I do now. I take very seriously what messages I pass to my children through tradition or celebrations. Everything has to have a REASON. I refuse to pass down traditions without a "what is this we are doing?" answer.... even if it's just "there is NO reason at all. this is just fun!".... I want there to be an answer! So my kids are now 6, 2 and 1.... and they really ** at all why we do what we do.... But I do! and I'm ready if they DO ask!! :)

We have learned how to "do Easter" with our family & friends... I tell them that we celebrate Easter because we love God & love to enjoy Him through His creation. So we are enjoying all the beautiful things of spring... but there is beauty all year long kids! every day we can enjoy nature not just this weekend! hehe :) So since we 'celebrate' Easter at school and it's fun to look for eggs & eat sweets... then we'll do those things.... we do that on the Saturday before Easter(tomorrow) or whenever..... and we don't even talk about the cross or anything...

Once "all that" is over..... then we together do talk about Resurrection Sunday. And how the early Church chose to gather on Sunday mornings because EVERY Sunday morning how could they NOT gather after what they went through and saw?! Every Sunday morning when the sun came up - they thought about THAT Sunday when Jesus ROSE from the GRAVE, WOAH!!! Of course they would want to be with their Church family and remember all Jesus did for them and that He is ALIVE and we can celebrate!! So Resurrection Sunday is a kick off of a new year to remind us to celebrate every Sunday the resurrection and that we are free, reconciled to the Lord, saved & that Jesus is alive and our High Priest & perfect Savior and our Lord!

That being said.... now that I am out of the institutional church and not 'fighting' with "the world" for how THEY have hijacked the "christian holiday" of Easter.....I can appreciate what fun it is just to have fun with our neighbors & friends.... I am so thankful that it's not a battle for me anymore and I am not full of anger & pride & disgust at what the world does with Jesus.....

but unfortunately....I still have the anger & disgust & frustration (and pride I guess.. sigh..) for what the institutional church has done with Jesus.

but.... the way that the institutional are so mad at what "the world" has done with Easter.... it's so silly. Why are they trying to take ownership of something they stole to begin with? why can't we just let the kids enjoy the bunnies? and how does that bring glory to God what they are doing? and is that really the message to send? and if we were spreading Jesus' love & the gospel wouldn't the world around us know Jesus and we would know that they just don't know...cuz they don't know!!

Eric said...

Randi Jo,

I feel many of the things you describe here. Frustration is probably the biggest one (frustration with the institutional church, not secular society).

A good friend of mine told me he is convinced that when it comes to the church, only God can change a person's heart to see all the problems related to traditions. I try to remember that. I find myself wanting to change other Christians' views. I never succeed.

I thank God he has opened my eyes. Now my job is to show more grace to other believers. I need some work there.