“Are Holidays Holy Days?”

GLEANINGS — May 18, A.D. 2014

The word HOLIDAY, like much else in our society, has been secularized. The word derives from holy day: a day considered special or more important than other days for spiritual reasons. Along with godly civil observances such as Memorial Day, the world around us now counts days once filled with religious significance as no more than days for being off work and partying…or for waiters, waitresses, and others as days of more work and being the servants and providers for the party goers!

In His Law which He gave through Moses, God established various annual holy days such as the Day of Atonement. (He ordained the weekly sabbath at the end of creation, and in the Mosaic Law commands us to remember it). As were the animal sacrifices and other elements of worship which God then commanded, those yearly observances and their rituals were abolished by way of their fulfillment in Christ our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7).

What about New Covenant believers in Christ? The former holy days having passed away, has God ordained new ones for us? Other than the first day of every week, i.e. the Lord’s day or the New Covenant, resurrection-observing sabbath which we see exampled in the book of Acts (see also Revelation 1:10), one will search the New Testament in vain for the establishment of any new holy days at all. Good Friday, Palm Sunday, Easter Sunday, Christmas, and the customs associated with them all originated by human tradition, not in the God-breathed Bible.

The chronic problem the Church has found with such extra-Biblical traditions is that they can be like big government. They grow and grow; they lose their simplicity. What was intended to adorn eventually obscures. For example, the imaginary coming of a fictional being called Santa Claus (apparently based on a real person) overshadows what Christmas was intended to memorialize: the real, historical, first coming of Jesus.

Does this mean that we should not regard as special in any way any days besides the weekly Lord’s day? Let’s look at Jesus’ words and behavior to be enlightened about how to think and act Biblically about such observances as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day (which both take place annually on the Lord’s day) and other modern holidays.

As we see in Mark 7, Christ was righteously angry over man-made traditions of that time that overthrew God’s commandments. Yet, He also attended the Feast of the Dedication (now known as Chanukah or Hanukkah), which was not established by God, but by human tradition.

In both preaching against some traditions and participating in others, His focus was the glory of God. Whatever others might have been doing at the Feast of the Dedication, Jesus was walking (cf. John 10:22,23) in the temple that was the reason for the feast! And He was not casting aside the commandment to honor father and mother when He upbraided the Pharisees for using their traditions as excuses for not doing so. So just as God is not opposed to all repetition in prayer but to vain repetition, so He is not opposed to all tradition but only to corrupting tradition.

Let’s apply this to Mother’s Day which most observed in some way just last week. God’s word commands us to honor father and mother. Mother’s day is probably one of the few vestiges of our nation’s once prevalent Christian world view: on that day, people deliberately seek to honor their mothers. That’s good!

At the same time, Mother’s Day always falls on a Lord’s day. Jesus said, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37). If we put parents or other close relations above God…if we honor them more than we honor Him, that’s bad. And using Mother’s Day as a cloak for that sin only makes it worse. Yet the perpetual obligation to honor one’s mother does not vanish once per week, nor on that one Lord’s day that comes along each May.

Here is the application of the reasoning above: as this year’s remaining holidays come around: Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Halloween (only recently elevated in our society to “holiday” status!), Thanksgiving, Christmas, and others, let’s think Biblically about them, and determine that we will handle them with deliberation and in a way that will make manifest that we are not just like the world in this arena of life.

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