Christmas in His Fear
This article first appeared in the December 15, 1955 issue of the Standard Bearer (vol.32, #6) under the rubric "In His Fear."
It will be challenged, but we will say it anyway: There is so very little celebration of Christmas left in the world today.
Indeed, there is more Christmas celebration than there ever was before. That is, there is more celebration at Christmas time than there ever was before. The newspapers are full of it. Magazines point to it in their advertisements. Store windows, street decorations, rows upon rows of "Christmas" trees in what formerly were vacant lots are only a few of the many, many things that already indicate that in a few days there will be much Christmas celebration: celebration at Christmas' time.
But celebration of Christmas itself will be difficult to find.
And we put the, word Christmas in quotation marks above when we wrote of "Christmas" trees, because so men speak. Yet Scripture indicates no tree that has any symbolism for Christmas and does not single out a pine, a fir, a spruce tree for the proper observance of the birth of the Savior. It does not specify tin foil, candles, brightly colored ornaments and the like for the proper observance of so wonderful a thing as the coming of the Son of God in our flesh.
If any tree has symbolism for Christmas; if there is any tree that belongs to the idea of the birth of the Savior; it is the tree of the cross with nails and blood and a crown of thorns for which He came into our flesh and for which He was born as one of us.
Christmas as celebrated today by the overwhelming majority of men, women and children is positively antichristian. It has no place for the Christ but centers around the antichrist.
Is the child's mind focused upon the fact that "unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior" (we italicize) when we take them to Santa Claus and perhaps keep him out of catechism on Saturday morning or afternoon, to see the Santa Claus parade or to see him in the store in some distant city Is the child taught that for Christ's sake God "is the rewarder of those that diligently seek Him"? (Hebrews 11:6). Or do we teach him that Santa Clause will reward him if he obeys his father and mother, eats his oatmeal, goes to bed when told, washes the dishes without grumbling and a host of other things?
Do we let Santa Claus take the place of a sovereign and righteous God? Do we take Christ out of Christmas? The Scriptures teach us that Christ will come quickly and that His reward is with Him; and He will render to every man according to his works, Revelation 22:12. And shall we by this antichristian Santa-Claus-business teach them that Santa Claus is the rewarder of every boy and girl according to his and her works? It is so easy to fall into the anti-Christian philosophy in the pre-Christmas days and tell your children that if they do not behave, Santa Claus will not give them the presents they want. But by so doing we destroy the whole idea of Christmas for our children and teach them anti- Christian philosophy.
The same is done with our lavish meals under which the table groans; and for mother or older sister Christmas celebration reaches no loftier spiritual (?) plane than tending a hot stove, polishing the silver for the company that is expected and behaving as though for the rest of the family what Paul says is true that their "God is their belly," Philippians 3:19. That "belly" must be served, and therefore there can be no appearing before His face in Divine services.
And instead of gathering with our covenant seed in a program wherein they in song and speech utter words that tell of the true significance of the birth of the Savior we resort to that modern and most subtle of all tools of the devil, the TV set, to be entertained (corrupted would be a better word) by those who have no part in Christ, have no room for Him in the inn of their carnal and fleshly program. Nor would He ever consent to take part in any of their evil programs that glorify the flesh: that portray the evil philosophy: "Let us eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die."
Let us not be self-righteous Pharisees and dare to say that we are free from all this corruption!
If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that for us also it simply would not seem like Christmas without all these unscriptural decorations and an especially sumptuous meal. In fact should it please God to give us who live in the northern climes an exceptionally mild day, the weather even would militate against our conception of what ought to be on Christmas. The world sings its silly songs: "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas." And in our flesh is that same unchristian and unchristmas, or shall we say Christless idea, concerning what is necessary and what belongs to celebration of Christmas. A Christmas without turkey or chicken does not seem quite right. But a Christmas without Christ means one with joy and merriment for the flesh!
"A Merry Christmas to you" often means, and always means when uttered by the world, a day with merriment because it is not "spoiled" by the things of Christ and His kingdom. Of course the world speaks of Him as the Prince of Peace.
Of course the world sings many carols about His birth. But do not forget that the same godless Jews who crucified Him and gave money to the soldiers who watched His tomb and were witnesses of the fact that He was risen from the dead also continued to sacrifice and pray in, the temple and to declare and claim to look for the fulfillment of all God's covenant promises. Today they still reject Him and call Him an imposter and yet they sing and speak of a prince of peace, of a Son of David who shall occupy his throne. For them there is no Christmas-except as a money making project. And they will exploit it to the utmost as a money-making adventure. They will even hire groups or individuals to sing these carols—which, by the way is not as pious and sweet as it looks either—though they believe none of the message in them.
We say that this practice of playing or hiring others to sing and play Christmas carols to attract business to your store is not so pious and sweet as it looks. How dare we make merchandize of the things spiritual? How dare we use spiritual things as an attraction for business adventures? That surely is not In His Fear! By doing so we take Christ out of Christmas! For He drove the money changers and sellers of cattle out of the temple. And you may be sure that were He to come and visit us in what we call Christmas celebration He would strongly rebuke us for bringing the things of the temple, the spiritual things of the salvation He has come to bring to His people, into our stores for the sake of making a few more dollars of filthy lucre. We may take Him into our store, into our place of business. Indeed! That we ought to do but not in order to use Him and the things of His salvation for a material, worldly advantage. Let us take Him along with us in our hearts to our place of business to teach us how to serve God therein and not to serve our flesh. We may take Him into our business as our Lord and master whom we will serve in every transaction. But we may not take Him into our business as some handy servant and slave whom we use together with His benefits for our material advancement. Similarly, we may tell the world that we conduct no business on the Sabbath. But when we advertise thus in order to win the approval and the business of fellow Christians, we make merchandize of spiritual things and sin therein.
When we celebrate Christmas In His Fear then we go to Him and praise Him for the gift of all gifts that He has given us. We go to Him in prayer. We go to Him in His house of worship. We acknowledge this great and glorious gift and do not hide it from ourselves and from our children by a host of worldly, material gifts that we give and receive from men. When we celebrate Christmas In His Fear, Christ and the loves of God in sending Him to be our Savior occupies the central part of our celebration; and the greater part of our activity on that day revolves about Him. When we celebrate Christmas in His fear we gather in all humility and joy before His feet to be taught by Him anew and more richly the glorious truths of the birth of His Son.
And he who truly celebrates Christmas in His fear will not be able to hold back his songs of praise to God. With the holy angels he shall sing: Glory to God in the highest. He will sing of the true peace that God has wrought in this Son for those who are the men of His good pleasure and will glorify Him for it. And as the shepherds returned glorifying and praising God and telling all whom they met what they had seen and heard, the covenant parent will also want to have the day filled with such praise and glory to God by his children and will take them along to God's house of worship that they too may hear of all this wonder of God's grace.
Christmas celebration In His Fear is celebration before His face. It is celebration in the consciousness that He accomplished all these things that the Church of Christ might live before His face in everlasting glory. And it is celebration that responds to that glorious truth.
Birthdays of men are celebrated. Flags are raised and put on display. Flowers may be heaped upon their graves. Business establishments may be closed for the day. The memory of these men is held in high esteem. And in their honor many things are said and done on that day. But the individual for whom all this celebration is set forth knows nothing of it and is not benefited in the least by it.
On Christmas we celebrate the birth of one infinitely greater and more worthy of our praise and adoration. And He lives and sees and knows what we do to celebrate the day of His coming into our flesh. Celebration In His Fear, therefore, is celebration as before His face and in love to Him.
You need not purchase a "Christmas" tree to honor and praise Him. He does not ask you to spend a tidy sum of money for tinsel and a string of light bulbs of various colors. He demanded of Israel that to celebrate the glorious deliverance from the house of the bondage of sin and death they eat the roast flesh of a lamb. But He does not demand you and me to procure a turkey or chicken to observe the day of His birth. In fact you cannot celebrate His birth by these things ! They have absolutely nothing to do with His birth. In fact that abject poverty into which He came in the stable, in the lowly manger, outside the inn militates against all this gaudy and vulgar display of an event so sublime and heavenly.
He does call us to unfurl the banner of the truth; to meet with His people in His house of worship to hear what He has to say; to sing praises to Him.
He calls us to listen to Him and to make all our celebration subservient to it and not to gifts, toys and meals.
He calls us to believe what He says of Himself; to rejoice in it because of faith and with the angels to sing of the glory of God.
He calls us to bow in childlike reverence before Him in the adoration of love.
In His Fear keep Christ in Christmas.
Keep Him there all day.
Rev. John A. Heys was born on March 16, 1910 in Grand Rapids, MI. He was ordained and installed into the ministry at Hope, Walker, MI in 1941. He later served at Hull, Iowa beginning in 1955. In 1959 he accepted the call to serve the South Holland, IL Protestant Reformed Church. He received and accepted the call to Holland, Michigan Protestant Reformed Church in 1967. He retired from the active ministry in 1980. He entered into glory on February 16, 1998.