We in the Sabbath keeping Churches of God KNOW the truth of the matter regarding the ORIGIN of Christmas. We have such books as THE TWO BABYLONS by Hislop; the book BABYLON MYSTERY RELIGION by Woodrow; there is the book 4000 YEARS OF CHRISTMAS by Earl and Alice Count. We know the plain truth can be found in the ENCYCLOPEDIA in our public libraries. And of course we have had dozens upon dozens of articles published on the subject in all of the Church of God magazines over the last 150 years or more.
We in the Sabbath observing Churches of God KNOW what the Word of the Lord says regarding whether we are allowed to look at other un-converted nations and HOW, in what manner and with what customs and festivals they WORSHIPPED their gods with, and ADOPT and ADAPT those same customs to worship the TRUE Eternal God with. We are all familiar with the passages of Deuteronomy 12 and Jeremiah 10.
So, with all that background to the back and to the front of us, to the left and to the right side of us, under and above us, we tend (if not very careful) to think and even to some degree act, as if the BIRTH of Christ the Lord, belongs only to the religiously deceived and un-converted "pagans" of this world. If we are not careful, we of the Churches of God, in distancing ourselves from the observance of what the Roman Catholic Church, in the 4th century A.D. introduced into the church as a Mass, and so a Christ-Mass celebration, we forget that the BIRTH of Jesus, although not given to us to observe on a regular yearly basis(the date - day and month - not recorded anywhere for us) IS MENTIONED and IS RECORDED for us in the Holy Bible.
If we are not CAREFUL we overlook the fact that GOD THE FATHER with the heavenly host DID CELEBRATE the time, the day, that the Savior of mankind came into this world as flesh and blood. It's there brethren! Just no way around it, unless you have torn out certain pages of your Bible. The fact is that Jesus was not only born at a certain time on a certain day of a certain month, as other flesh and blood babies are born, BUT the fact is very plain to see (for those with eyes to see) that the Father in heaven CELEBRATED HIS BIRTH!!
Now, before you misunderstand what I might to leading to, let me make it plain. I am NOT advocating that we re-consider the Christmas observance teaching like Ralph Woodrow (author of "Babylon Mystery Religion") has done recently, and start observing it along with the rest of the world. By no means am I going to teach such a thing. BUT I DO want us to focus on a simple truth - the story of the Birth of the Son of God, by a virgin woman, at Bethlehem, with all that transpired that evening and that day, IS RECORDED FOR US! Those events took place and they DO BELONG to us the people of the Church of God. The WONDERFUL, MAGNIFICENT, events of the announcing to certain ones of the Birth of the Messiah, and the MIGHTY signs and REJOICING of the Angels of heaven, really did take place brethren, and they really are preserved FOR US in the holy word of the Lord - the Bible!
All the facts of history point to a September/October Birth of Jesus. It is not the intent of this article to go into all the Biblical and Historical evidence that support that statement. Most theologians of any worth, will attest that Jesus was not born anywhere near December 25th, but sometime in the months of Sept/Oct.
Whatever the actual day of Christ's birth, the important thing for us is to note the recorded fact that God does give some time and some space in His word to relate to us that HE was not going to let that day - and He certainly knew the day - go by without REJOICING in that day, and also allowing the righteous angels of heaven to rejoice in it also. Not only that, but the Eternal was going to allow certain physical people on the earth to be a part of that rejoicing day. Again, that does not mean we can set apart some specific day in the year to rejoice over the Birth of Christ, for we do not know on which day He was born, it was specifically hidden from us.
Maybe you may want to re-read those portions of the NT concerning the Birth of Jesus. Probably the better time of the year to do this is around September/October and the fall festivals of the Lord, as this is the likely time when Jesus was born in the city of David.
I have been inspired to write this article in December, as once more I hear the famous and popular "carols" being sung - the "religious" carols, which many of you will have grown up with, like myself.
I have turned to Luke and chapter two and just read verses one to twenty. First an angel was sent to announce the Birth of the Savior to some shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then more angels appeared - a multitude - PRAISING God. Some of their words are recorded for us, but I must wonder if they had many more words of praise that are not recorded.
The shepherds took off to Bethlehem, to see what the Eternal had revealed to them. It was all as they have been told! You will notice they were not told to keep it quiet, so they did not, they quickly started to tell others about what they had seen and been told.
The shepherds returned with PRAISE in their hearts towards God. Well, I guess so, you put yourself in their shoes or sandals. I'm sure their lives must have been changed from that day on, and never the same again.
Now, do you suppose that there was at least one among the shepherds that liked to write poetry or compose songs? I think it is not too big a possibility that that was the case. If it was, what do you think they would write about or sang about? Now, please do not cast aside the possibility songs were written because we have none that were handed down to us through the NT apostolic Church of God. For by the same logic, the day of Christ's birth was never handed down to us, but Mary sure knew the day, and those shepherds also knew it. How would they ever forget that night and that day? I think it was more than possible that songs of praise were written about this AWESOME AND MAGNIFICENT event. I mean it is just a part of the human make-up of the human spirit to so do such things, when events of GREAT importance happen in your life, or the life of your nation. And having Angels appear to you to tell you the Savior of the world HAS COME to earth, is no small matter.
What do you think some of the words of those poems and songs would have been? David wrote poems about events, places, and works of his life, as part of his songs. Do you think one or more of those shepherds would do any less?
I muse a little here. I contemplate and ponder for a while on this matter. Could it be possible that some songs written had words like this:
" Angels from the realms of glory Wing your flight o'er all the earth; Ye who sang creation's story, Now proclaim Messiah's birth.
Do you think someone may have written a poem or sung these words during that time?
With what those shepherds had been told about the Messiah now born in Bethlehem, do you suppose one of them composed words such as:
The shepherds told others about what they had been witness to, do you think it possible one who believed them wrote words like the following:
Maybe a person from those believers wrote and sang words similar to these:
There must have been someone among those believers who knew Israel's history and the prophecy of the coming Immanuel. Perhaps they composed a song with words like:
It is written the shepherds were watching their flock by night when the angels appeared to them praising God for the Birth of the Messiah by the woman Mary. It was quite a night to remember for them. someone could have written very similar words to these:
Ah, remembering the words of the angel, surely a shepherd or a person one of the shepherds talked to about what happened, would have penned and put to music something like as to the following:
Not a few in number knew about those events and that day. Not a few knew what it all meant. Was there an individual among them who may have written, and others sung such words as:
I personally just find it impossible to imagine that not one person who was witness to those magnificent events, or who believed the shepherds as they relayed the events to others, would not have written poetry and songs about those events and the Birth of the promised Messiah. This was not done in a corner! God had kings of the East travel hundreds of miles to pay homage to this King of Kings. One evil ruler had all the boy children under two years of age put to death because he feared this Child was a threat to him personally. The events surrounding the birth of John the Baptist was not done in a vacuum, so the birth of a member of the Godhead into flesh and blood was not done in complete secret, some were told and were to be witnesses, the shepherds among them, and they went forth telling others. Surely some poems and songs would have been written and sung about these events for a number of years.
Now, please do not get all bogged down in your mind with the spiritual songs I've quoted above, in the fact that in some of them other words I did not give may be technically incorrect from a pure biblical point of view. There are many hymns written that we in the Church of God know need changing in words or phrases at times. The point is there are many songs written about the Birth of Jesus Christ and the events around it, that are just fine historically and doctrinally speaking. And with such this article is concerned.
You may want to argue that the NT does not record ONE SINGLE poem/song about the Birth of the Messiah, and so that proves we should have nothing to do with composing or singing such songs. Such would possibly seem to be a logical way to reason, but it is greatly flawed. You may want to argue that the NT nowhere records anyone saying that the early NT church had hymns in their church services that reflected the events of the Birth of Jesus, and so this proves we should also have no spiritual songs in the Church of God that are even close to the words that I've quoted above concerning the Birth of Christ. This reasoning is also weak. Why do I say the above two arguments have really no foundation but sand to stand on. Here's why.
The NT does not record one single poem/song about the DEATH of Jesus that we are told was sung in the Churches of God. The NT does not record one single poem/song that was sung in the Churches of God concerning the RESURRECTION of the Lord. The NT does not record one single poem/song that was sung in the Churches of God concerning the RETURN IN GLORY to this earth of the Messiah. Yet, does that fact prevent us today in the Churches of God, from putting to poetry and song the truths and events concerning the death, resurrection and coming again, of our Lord Jesus Christ? OF COURSE NOT!
Oh, you can find sermonettes, sermons, and written teaching on the above three truths, but not one poem or song can be found in the recorded NT that the Churches of God had as part of their services, on those three subjects. Would that mean they NEVER sang about those events? To say yes would be contrary to all recorded OT Scriptures and history of the Jewish people. The early NT church was Jewish, and the Jews always put to poetry and song large important events in their religious life and history.
Can you find any verse in the NT where anyone said anything about the Church of God having hymns in services that reflected the events of the Death or Resurrection of Jesus? No! It just is not there! Does that mean they did not have such hymns and spiritual songs in their services? No, it does not mean that, or shall we say that SILENCE on that subject proves NOTHING either way.
The NT gives NO INSTRUCTION for the Church of God as to WHAT to sing about, the VARIETY of themes, topics, subjects, etc. for hymns and spiritual songs. There is possibly instruction given that Psalms should be sung, but even then, how many and what kind is not expounded (see Ephesians 5:19).
It would seem the Lord was deliberately UN-specific in the little that is mentioned in the NT about His Church with regards to making melody in our hearts with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. It would seem the Eternal has granted us MUCH FREEDOM in the Church to worship Him and praise Him in melody and song. Of course I speak all this in the context of Scriptural soundness. In the context of this article - the facts of and the events of the Birth of Christ is recorded and is Scripturally sound.
As a way of illustration to the freedom the Lord has given us in song, I will point you to the recorded fact of the gospels, that at the end of the last Passover Jesus partook of on this earth, it is recorded "they sang a hymn..." (Mat. 26:30). We are never told anywhere in the NT WHAT that hymn was, its name, nor are we given one word that the hymn contained. If we had been given either the name or the words of that hymn, CAN YOU IMAGINE WHAT IT WOULD HAVE LED TO?
People in the Church would have made that hymn into an idol. Attached all kinds of mystic power to it. Made it the number one hymn to be sung every Sabbath. What that hymn would have been turned into is fearful to imagine. But, thankfully our heavenly Father knows what human nature is like and in His wisdom and mercy He was not going to allow us to be caught up in that deceptive error. He made sure that hymn was kept a secret from us. Oh, the twelve disciples knew what it was didn't they? But it was not to be revealed to the Church. In so doing our Father was also teaching us that we have freedom in the hymn we choose to finish the Passover service with. The EXAMPLE is there for us to finish the Passover service with a hymn, but the hymn is our choice, naturally the choice will be reflected by the occasion we are celebrating.
You may also notice that there is NO command or instruction in the NT (or the OT for that matter) in regards to anyone, any minister, any apostle, saying that God prohibits the singing of THIS or THAT part of the life of Christ. That also is not there! There is no prohibiting of singing about ANY part of the truth, the gospel, and the words of our God, certainly not if it has anything to do with the Godhead's love, kindness, mercy, character, righteousness, humility, wisdom, power, might, and all other adjectives that can describe the two Deities. The birth of one member of the Godhead into the human family contains all of the above adjectives and more.
Some in the Church of God, knowing the origins of the Christmas season, knowing what the Almighty says about adopting pagan customs to worship Him with, knowing that the day of Christ's birth was deliberately hidden from us, not recorded anywhere, knowing we are not commanded, nor given any example in the NT, to observe the birthday of Jesus on any specific day of the year, AND knowing that the Christianity of the deceived world DOES CELEBRATE the Birth of Christ on a specific day that is not even close to the correct season of the year that He was born during, WILL HAVE A TERRIBLE TIME in "thinking" let alone anything else, that it may be not only within our liberty in Christ, but actually just fine with God, to sing about the truths of the events of the Birth of the Messiah as flesh and blood.
Because of our abhorrence of the false doctrine and evil deception of blinding the minds of hundreds of millions of people to the plan of God, that the Christmas festival has enslaved upon people, we tend ourselves to be blinded to certain facts of truth from the word of our God, and from certain illogical reasoning we have clung to without thinking them through in the light of other reasoning, that would show us our errors.
Let me explain. Just because the world, the deceived world out there, has a specific time to talk about, sing about, put on plays and entertainment productions about, the Birth of Christ into this physical world, many of us in the Churches of God, believe WE cannot sing AT ANY TIME OF THE YEAR, hymns and spiritual songs about the Birth and events of the life of the Messiah, even when we KNOW they are recorded in the Bible and that God the Father with the angels REJOICED in the event!
Now, just a MINUTE! Stop and think! Come let us reason together says the Lord. The deceived Christian world out there, have a wrong time of the year to remember and celebrate an event that we are commanded to observe - the DEATH of Jesus! This deceived Christianity SINGS about the DEATH of Christ. They have the wrong time of the year or month to observe this commanded memorial, they do not understand the real meaning of why He had to die, they turn this grace of God into freedom to sin, they say the law was nailed to the cross, they have all kinds of false and wrong ideas and teachings regarding the DEATH of Christ, yet they SING ABOUT IT! Because THEY do all these things concerning the death of our Lord, DOES THAT MEAN WE DO NOT SING ABOUT HIS DEATH? DOES IT MEAN WE SHOULD NOT SING ABOUT HIS DEATH?
NO! THE CHURCHES OF GOD HAVE NEVER BELIEVED SUCH A THING! The DEATH of Christ BELONGS to US! It belongs to the true people of God! And we have every right to SING about it!
Yet, somehow because of what the world does, and what a false Christianity does to the Birth of Jesus, we too often believe the Birth of Christ does not belong to us, and that we should never sing about it! BUT THE BIRTH OF CHRIST DOES BELONG TO US MORE THAN TO THEM. WE SHOULD NOT HAVE ALLOWED THEM TO HAVE TAKEN IT AWAY FROM US! JUST AS WE DID NOT ALLOW THEM TO TAKE AWAY HIS DEATH FROM US.
The world's Christianity believes it should set aside a particular day to observe the RESURRECTION of the Messiah from physical death. They call it Easter Sunday. We know two basic truths about this. We know the origin of that Easter Sunday and we know that the NT nowhere by example or command, tells us to set any Sunday apart to celebrate the resurrection of Christ, if He was resurrected on a Sunday(which He was not, but that's another topic). The same Christianity in the world also SING hymns and songs at any time of the year, concerning the RISEN Christ, the resurrection of Jesus. Because they have a false festival day and sing songs about the risen Christ, does that mean we in the Churches of God SHOULD NOT SING ABOUT THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST?
The resurrection of Christ BELONGS to us! Others cannot and they should not take the risen Jesus from us!
The deceived Christianity out there often, at various times of the year, SING about "following " the Lord, about "obeying" the Lord, about "walking in the light," about "trust and obey for there's no other way, to be happy in Jesus, than to trust and obey." Because they sing about these things, yet they are blinded to the plain truth of the reality of what all this in actual fact means, DO WE IN THE CHURCHES OF GOD STOP SINGING ABOUT FAITH, WALKING WITH THE LORD, OBEYING AND FOLLOWING HIM?
Of course not, for such things BELONG to us! They are ours, and we have not allowed them to take those things from us!
Are you beginning to get the picture? Are you beginning to see where we in the Churches of God have been thinking and acting to some degree in hymns and spiritual songs, off center, out of balance? Are you beginning to see where on this issue of the Birth and events of that Birth around the first coming of the Messiah, we have, because we did not want to be counted among those who have adopted the largest false festival of the year, been PUSHED OUT, and have had TAKEN AWAY from us the reality and praise in songs to God(at various times of the year) of the BIRTH of our Elder Brother, who, because He was not ashamed to call us His brothers, partook of the same flesh and blood (Heb.2).
Even with all I have said so far, many will be shaking their heads and rolling their eyes with disconcertions if not shock. "Well the NT does not say WE MUST SING about the BIRTH of Christ and the events connected with it" some will argue. And that is indeed true. But remember, as I've pointed out to you, the NT says just about nothing as to the words of hymn and spiritual songs we are to make melody in our hearts and rejoice together with at Sabbath services. Of course it should go without saying (but I will say it anyway) all words of hymns etc. should be scripturally sound in truth and doctrine. Are we anywhere in the NT commanded to sing about the DEATH of Jesus? No! Yet we do. Is it wrong? No, as I'll prove shortly. Not one verse commands us in the NT to sing about the RESURRECTION of Christ, or His SECOND COMING, or the 1000 year reign, or the New Jerusalem, or Forgiveness, Justification, Sanctification, the Power in the Blood, the Deliverance of Israel from Egypt, the Law of the Lord, and on and on. Oh, the Bible gives us many examples where these kinds of themes, issues, truths, are put to poetry and song, but the bottom line is - FREEDOM to serve and praise the two Deities in SONG with the examples given us in the Bible. So, you may not find any command that we MUST worship God with songs about the Birth of the Messiah as recorded for us in the Bible, but ON THE OTHER HAND, there is no command that says we cannot worship the Eternal with thankful praise concerning the Birth of our Elder Brother from the virgin Mary, in Bethlehem, and all that transpired.
And looking at ALL the Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs that are within the Song Books of the Sabbath keeping Churches of God(and I've seen most of them at one time or another, at least the larger organizations), WHAT TOPICS OF THE BIBLE HAVE WE NOT SUNG ABOUT? With the freedom we have been given by God on this subject of worshipping Him in Song, I see just about nothing that has been left out.....EXCEPT......yes......what this article of mine has been about. And I've explained to you why we have probably been fearful and extremely slow in TAKING BACK what RIGHTLY BELONGS TO US MORE THAN ANYONE!
Some are still not convinced we should be, or that we have Biblical authority, to sing about the Birth of Christ. Let me try to show you from some examples in the OT that we do indeed have authority to take the awesome event of a God given moment in history, and translate it into an act of worshipful remembrance towards the Eternal in poetry and song.
Israel had served as slaves in Egypt for a number of generations. They cried unto the Lord for deliverance and He did hear them. Sending Moses to them He brought the children of Israel out of the land of bondage. Not long after they had departed from the land, Pharaoh pursued after them with his army. He finally caught up to them at the Red Sea. The people of Israel were again fearful, it looked like they were doomed to die by the sea, until Moses lifted his rod and told them to behold the mighty arm of the Lord. we are familiar with the work of the Supreme Majesty - Israel crossed the sea on dry ground with the walls of water as mountains on either side of them. When the Egyptian army tried to cross the Eternal smashed the walls of water upon them and they were all killed. Great was the victory! It is then written: "Then SANG Moses and the children of Israel this SONG unto the Lord....." (Exodus 15:1). The words of the song are recorded for us from this first verse to verse nineteen.
This was a NEW historical miracle performed by the Eternal. Something so awesome and mighty it is hard to imagine, but it did literally happen. Moses and Israel were so overjoyed they naturally wanted to remember it in poetic SONG! That's the way it usually is with the mind of man. Songs are made up all the time about real life events, some become a countries National Anthem. The National Anthem of the USA is from a song about an actual event during the war of independence from Britain.
We also see it did not end there with the song of Moses and the people. Moses' sister Miriam took a trimbel and went out with the women of Israel and told them to SING unto the Lord for He had triumphed gloriously (verses 20-21).
IT IS NOT WRONG TO SING ABOUT MAGNIFICENT EVENTS OF THE LORD IN HISTORY!
After Moses had led Israel for forty years in the wilderness, as they were about to enter into the promised land, after Moses had seen the mighty work of the Lord so many times over those forty years, he gave Israel one last SONG to remember all this by. It is written in Deut.31:30, "And Moses spake in the ears of all the congregation of Israel the words of this SONG, until they were ended." The words are preserved for us in chapter 32.
IT IS NOT WRONG TO SEE THE WORKS OF GOD AND TO SING ABOUT THEM IN SONG, TO REMEMBER THEM IN SONG!
The example of DAVID is perhaps one of the finest in the entire Bible concerning this matter of singing the works of the Lord and life's mountains and valleys. There was just about nothing in David's life and walk with the Everlasting One that he did not put into poetry and song. Look at Psalm 3, about when he fled from Absalom. Ps.6 was a prayer in the time of trouble. Ps. 8 about the incomparable majesty of God. Ps.14 about the foolishness of men. Ps. 19 - God's glory in works and word. Ps.23 - the shepherd song. Ps.32 - a song of the forgiven man. Ps.35 - a prayer song for divine defence. Ps.37 is a song about the Eternal's care of the righteous. And on it goes. There is the famous song and words of Ps.51, the prayer of a penitent soul, after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba. There is the longest of all the songs recorded in the Bible - Ps.119 and the praise and adulation of the law, commandments, statutes, precepts, and judgments of the Most High.
So we see that as history marches on within the framework of serving and walking with the Lord, there is no part of our life with Him, the mighty acts He does and performs, that we are not allowed to put into poetry and song. Is there anything that you can think of that God has told us positively and clearly NEVER TO SING ABOUT in the context of what I speak about in this article? Yes, Paul was inspired to say concerning some forms of evil, that we should not speak about them to any degree of amplification, but besides that particular context, is there anything that our Father has forbidden us to put into song? I cannot think of ANYTHING!!
And to be sure, with that fact in our mind and heart, there is probably nothing about the Christian life and character and works and words of the One who invented song and music, that has not by someone, somewhere, been put into the language of SONG!
We see clearly from the OT Scriptures that great historical events in the life of Israel and some of her leaders, were put down on paper and remembered about WITH SONG! Is there anyone who would dare to say that the historical and mighty and mind numbing event of the Birth of God, the "I Am" of the OT, into a flesh and blood human was NOT worthy of putting into poetry and SINGING ABOUT! If there is, then all I can say is that you have MUCH yet to understand about the mind of the Supreme One, and the freedom we have in Christ Jesus to put the works of God into MUSIC and SONG!
With all that I have said, have I anywhere told you that you should start to observe the Christmas season as the world observes it, or even as some of the deceived religious Christian world observe it? NOT AT ALL! If you think I have then you have read into this article things never intended in my wildest dreams. But to sing about the wondrous events of that glorious recorded part of the history of this earth and the plan our heavenly Father is working out here-be-low, that is another matter altogether. The story and the facts of the Birth of Immanuel (God with us) into this physical world of humans, is so GREAT, is so MIND SHATTERING, so filled with HUMILITY that HE would leave the Eternal Glory He had with the Father from the eternal past, and put it to one side, take upon Himself flesh and blood, so WE could be called His brothers and sisters, to be tempted in everypoint as WE are, and to conquer sin in the flesh, to live so WE can LIVE, and to die so WE need NOT DIE, and to be resurrected so WE also can be an heir and an INHERITOR of His glory, all this is within the Birth of the Messiah. That part of the plan of God that was absolutely FOREORDAINED from before the foundation of the world.
It was announced to some, given to those whom the Father knew their hearts were right. It was given to the Church of God, it BELONGS to US! Angels were there to witness that event, they sang praises about it and were not ashamed to say that what the prophets of old had written about and foretold, was now a part of the awesome history of the Most High in heaven.
Am I saying that we in the Churches of God should gather around the piano at THIS TIME of the year and follow the rest of Christianity as they sing about the Birth of the Messiah? No! I am not saying we should do that, for that is part of their trimmings to their false worship season that the Eternal does not accept. BUT should we NEVER in the Churches of God sing with correct words, the truths of the Birth of our God and Savior into the world of humanity?
We know from the facts within the Bible itself that Christ must have been born in either the months of September or October. Would it be wrong during those months to sing about the Birth of our Elder Brother as He became one of us? NOT AT ALL BRETHREN! NOT AT ALL!
Yes, we have different seasons of the year in the calendar of our God. Yes, we have different Festivals portraying different parts of the plan of our God. And yes, we often give emphasis to certain songs that we sing more often during those times of the year. Yet, do we only leave songs about the death and mercy of God through Christ Jesus, until the Passover time? No! We SING about that part of the character and historical event of the death of our Savior and our cleansing of sin through His shed blood, AT DIFFERENT TIMES ALL THROUGH THE YEAR, as the Sabbath service or sermon would dictate, or as the Spirit of the Lord leads the song leader.
So also then, would be the singing from time to time, of the magnificent story and events of how and why one member of the Godhead came to earth to be born as a child from the womb of the virgin Mary, in a little town of David called Bethlehem.
Yes, indeed, something quite drastically new to many members in the many parts of the Churches of God. Oh, are you beginning to see why Jesus said that before He would return in glory to this earth, an Elijah like John the Baptist, would come "and restore all things" (Mat.17 with Malachi 4)?
There is much yet to be restored to the Church of God!
Written December 1997