Thursday, December 8, 2016
WHY THE PILGRIMS REFUSED TO CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS AND WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM THEIR EXAMPLE
“Monday, the 25th day, we went on shore, some to fell timber, some to saw, some to split, some to carry, so no man rested all that day. But towards night we came on board again. That night we had a sore storm of wind and rain.”
The above is from the journal of one of the Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower who recorded their activities for December 25, 1620, their first Christmas in America. There is no mention of Christmas because the Pilgrims, you see, did not celebrate Christmas. They considered it a pagan holiday instituted by the Roman Catholic Church and carried on by the Church of England from which they had separated.
I do not agree with the Pilgrims rejection of Christmas, but I do respect and admire their conviction. You and I would not be enjoying the blessings of freedom and prosperity we have known if it had not been for people like them—people of conviction—who were willing to suffer loss rather than compromise their convictions.
They were willing to be ostracized, harassed and imprisoned in England because of their conviction that Jesus (not the king or the pope) is the Head of the Church and that the Bible (not church tradition) is our primary guide.
These convictions eventually led them to leave home, family and friends and begin a new life in a New World. They were people of conviction and we have been incredibly blessed because of their faith and because they were true to their convictions.
I admire the Pilgrims, not because I agree with them on every point, but because they were people of faith, principle, and conviction. The early American historian, Dr. Samuel Morrison said, “They were equal to any standard of excellence known to history. Their range was narrow, but in it they were supreme.”
The Need for Conviction in the Church Today
It has been said that, “Those who do not stand for something, will fall for anything.” In other words, unless, like the Pilgrims, we have a core set of convictions for which we are willing to die, we are susceptible to being led astray by whatever is popular and convenient at a given time.
This is happening today in regards to issues concerning marriage, life, and even the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. I recently heard a well-known evangelical pastor asked by Oprah Winfrey if Jesus is the only way to God. I was shocked when, instead of giving a clear and direct answer, he danced in circles as though not to offend this entertainment icon who has made known her belief that there are many ways to God.
People of Conviction Shape History
We may not agree with Pilgrims stance on Christmas, but we can certainly follow their example of remaining true to one’s convictions even when it is not the most popular thing to do. By remaining true to their convictions, they played a major role in giving birth to the United States of America.
Speaking of the fruit that came from the Pilgrims and their commitment to follow their convictions, the historian, Benjamin Hart, says,
What Abraham Lincoln described as government “of the people, by the people and for the people,” was inherited from a tradition beginning with the Congregationalist Protestant settlement in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in the 1620s (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 38).
By the way, the Pilgrims did not have the rich Christmas hymnody that is at our disposal today. They lived before “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” “Joy to the World,” “Noel,” and so many others.
As I recently listened to one of these carols that celebrates the coming of Christ, I thought how the Pilgrims probably would have celebrated Christmas if they had known such Christ-honoring Christmas hymns. After all, they had left everything because of their conviction that God had come to save this world in the person of Jesus Christ.
Christmas is a Great Opportunity to Share Our Conviction
If we are convinced that Jesus Christ is the only, unique Son of God who has provided salvation for all people, then we should take advantage of this Christmas holiday to make Him known throughout the land.
It doesn’t really matter that December 25 is not the actual day of Christ’s birth. It doesn’t really matter that Constantine “Christianized” a pagan holiday, just like it does not really matter that the former owner of my Gibson guitar may have used it to play ungodly music in ungodly places.
We as Christians should seize the moment and confront the world with the true meaning of Christmas--that God came to this world in the person of Jesus Christ and confronted this world with His love and a call to repentance.
Paul expressed this to the intellectual elite of Athens when he recounted to them their various misconceptions of God and then declared;
Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead (Acts 17:30-31).
So, this Christmas let’s forget about political correctness. Let’s forget about Holiday Trees and Happy Holiday greetings. Let’s be people of conviction and let the world know the true meaning of Christmas.
Dr. Eddie L. Hyatt is an author, historian, and Biblical scholar. His latest book, Pilgrims and Patriots, documents the unique Christian origins of the United States of America and is available from Amazon and from his website at www.eddiehyatt.com.