The Great Birthday
MORE WORSHIP QUOTES FOR ADVENT & CHRISTMAS
www.wqotw.org/quote.php?date=2005-12-06 (“O Come, O Come, Immanuel”)
www.wqotw.org/quote.php?date=1995-12-20 (C. S. Lewis)
www.wqotw.org/quote.php?date=2004-12-21 (Ambrose and Luther)
www.wqotw.org/quote.php?date=2005-12-20 (Dutch Carol)
www.wqotw.org/quote.php?date=1996-12-24 (Ulrich Shaffer)
www.wqotw.org/quote.php?date=1996-12-17 ("Gathered Round Your Table")
www.wqotw.org/quote.php?date=2006-12-12 ("The Gift of Gifts")
THE GREAT BIRTHDAY
There is no reason upon earth beyond that of ecclesiastical custom why the 25th of December should be regarded as the birthday of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ any more than any other day from the first of January to the last day of the year; and yet some persons regard Christmas with far deeper reverence that the Lord's-day. You will often hear it asserted that "The Bible and the Bible alone is the religion of Protestants," but it is not so. There are Protestants who have absorbed a great deal besides the Bible into their religion, and among other things they have accepted the authority of what they call "the Church," and by that door all sorts of superstitions have entered. There is no authority whatever in the word of God for the keeping of Christmas at all, and no reason for keeping it just now except that the most superstitious section of Christendom [he means Catholics] has made a rule that December 25th shall be observed as the birthday of the Lord, and the church by law established in this land (the Church of England] has agreed to follow in the same track. You are under no bondage whatever to regard the regulation. We owe no allegiance to the ecclesiastical powers which have made a decree on this matter, for we belong to an old-fashioned church which does not dare to make laws, but is content to obey them. At the same time the day is no worse than another, and if you choose to observe it, and observe it unto the Lord, I doubt not he will accept your devotion: while if you do not observe it, but unto the Lord observe it not, for fear of encouraging superstition and will-worship, I doubt not but what you shall be as accepted in the non-observance as you could have been in the observance of it. Still, as the thoughts of a great many Christian people will run at this time towards the birth of Christ, and as this cannot be wrong, I judged it meet to avail ourselves of the prevailing current, and float down the stream of thought. Our minds will run that way, because so many around us are following customs suggestive of it, therefore let us get what good we can out of the occasion. There can be no reason why we should not, and it may be helpful that we should, now consider the birth of our Lord Jesus. We will do that voluntarily which we would refuse to do as a matter of obligation: we will do that simply for convenience sake which we should not think of doing because enjoined by authority or demanded by superstition.
[He then offers a lengthy exposition of Luke 2:10: "The angel said unto them, 'Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.'" He follows that with a stinging rebuke against the London's holy day merriment: "I slander not our countrymen when I say that drunkenness seems to be one of the principal items of their Christmastide delight." He ends with an encouragement for Christians to "keep the day."]
. . . You may keep his birthday all the year round, for it were better to say he was born every day of the year than on any one, for truly in a spiritual sense he is born every day of every year in some men's hearts, and that to us is a far weightier point than the observation of holy days. Express your faith first, as the angels did, by public ministry. Some of us are called to speak to the many. Let us in the clearest and most earnest tones proclaim the Savior and his power to rescue man. Others of you cannot PREACH, but you can SING. Sing then your anthems, and praise God with all your hearts. Do not be slack in the devout use of your tongues, which are the glory of your frames, but again and again and again lift up your joyful hymns unto the new-born King. Others of you can neither preach nor sing. Well, then, you must do what the shepherds did, and what did they? You are told twice that they SPREAD THE NEWS. As soon as they had seen the babe they made known abroad the saying that was told them, and as they went home they glorified God. This is one of the most practical ways of showing your joy. Holy conversation is as acceptable as sermons and anthems. There was also one who said little, but thought the more: "Mary PONDERED all these things in her heart." Quiet, Happy spirit, weigh in thy heart the grand truth that Jesus was born at Bethlehem. Immanuel, God with us;—weigh it if you can; look at it again and again, examine the varied facets of this priceless brilliant, and bless, and adore, and love, and wonder, and yet adore again this matchless miracle of love.
. . . Come and worship God manifest in the flesh, and be filled with his light and sweetness by the power of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
——Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892). "The Great Birthday" from TWELVE CHRISTMAS SERMONS DELIVERED AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1976, p. 91, 101. ISBN 0-8010-8081-9.
"Let every heart prepare Him room."
Have a great week.
Director, Institute for Christian Worship
School of Church Music and Worship
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
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