What is a Christian holiday? Are our modern holidays legitimate occasions for special worship or merely Christian adaptations of pagan celebrations of the past?
Genesis 1:14–16 (KJV 1900)
14 And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: 15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. 16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.
God lives in eternity. He created time and placed his material creation within its jurisdiction. God created the heavenly bodies: stars, planets, and the moon for the purpose of marking off time, as well as for light in the day and night. God’s calendar is in the heavens and man, through much trial and error has marked off time in a calendar.
In the calendar there are a fixed number of days, corresponding to the available number of days in a year, approximately 364.25 of them. These days must be used for every human observation, be they routine daily events or special recurring events such as holidays. The point is that every person, saved or unsaved, evil, or good, must use the same calendar and the same days for their observances.
There are ancient pagan holidays whose dates correspond with comparatively modern Christian holidays. Christmas and Easter come to mind. Some of this is because of the actions of various Christian sects to deliberately use these days for their own purposes, whatever they might have been. In some cases, these sects have included some of the pagan traditions within their own celebrations. A common tactic used by those who wish to condemn the believer for recognizing Christmas and Easter is to confuse what Christendom has done with what bible believing Christians have done. Christendom consists with everyone who claims to belong to Christ. It includes both believers and unbelievers, confessors, and true possessors of faith. A true Christian bases his faith and behavior not upon traditions but upon the scriptures alone [John 17.17; 2 Tim 3.16].
No bible believing Christian is worshiping pagan gods on any holiday, let alone Easter and Christmas. The fact that Christians choose to celebrate the resurrection and birth of Christ on these dates is not an attempt on their part to identify Christ with Satan. The critics conveniently forget that the very days of the week [in English and other western languages] are derived from the names of pagan deities. What are we to do about that? Changing the date of Christmas or Easter would not change the character of worship of true Christians on these holidays, nor would their worship become more acceptable to God. There are at least two reasons for this.
Misunderstanding Christian Worship
First, the bible believing Christian does not worship according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
John 4:19–24 (KJV 1900)
19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. 21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
The purpose of holiday observance for the believer is the worship of God. That worship is sanctified by the holiness of the believer who is walking by the Spirit. Christians do not observe ritual and its processes consisting of dates, places, and memorized ceremony. These are the artifacts of the Old Covenant. This is what Jesus was telling the Samaritan woman about the coming age, which now is. Christ is not in a building, a sacrifice, or a day, but is in the worshipper. The people who would tie believer to the pagan calendar wish to obscure this fact. We will see that the very people who like to invalidate Christian holidays because of their dates, are often heretics that strain a gnat while they swallow a camel of doctrinal error.
Misunderstanding the Victory of the Cross
Secondly, the Lord has redeemed every day of the year for the use of the believer. The believer concedes no day, month, or season to the Devil for his exclusive use. The world and its calendar are a part of the believer’s inheritance in Christ [1 Cor 3.21-23], and we must not live in this world as tenants of Satan.
Colossians 2:16–17 (NASB95)
16 Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— 17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.
Some of these same people who are condemning bible believers for recognizing Christmas on December 25 are also those who are attempting to make Sabbath [Saturday] worship evidence of salvation and Sunday worship evidence of apostasy [some, but not all Seventh Day Adventists[i]].
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that it is wrong to celebrate Christmas,[ii] but also deny that Jesus is God Almighty, equal to the Father and the Spirit.
Others who condemn Christians for celebrating Christmas make baptism a condition for salvation and deny the Trinity [Apostle Gino Jennings[iii]] or deny the atonement of Christ altogether [Joshua Maponga[iv]].
Bible believing Christians are not obligated to worship any particular day because the character of worship in the present age is spiritual, based upon the reality of our actual, living communion with Christ rather than ritual, which was a shadow of the present reality. If a bible believer chooses to recognize these holidays, then he must do so according to holiness and not according to the secular spirit of this age.
God has given the believer in Christ victory over Satan and the freedom to worship God in Spirit and in truth. For the true Christian, no part of the calendar is conceded to Satan.
Ephesians 5:15–16 (KJV 1900)
15 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
[i] Sampey, John Richard, and W. W. Prescott. “Sabbath.” In The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, edited by James Orr, John L. Nuelsen, Edgar Y. Mullins, and Morris O. Evans. Vol. 1–5. Chicago: The Howard-Severance Company, 1915.
[iii] Gino Jennings on Christmas: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLmah-78bkQtgFbsG7BgkNe_NuvYKr7nhU