Christmas and Sabbath Day Observance
NCW 28, Special Edition I (January 1996)
Q. I believe I am right in saying that the New Covenant Church observes the Sabbath on Sunday and not Saturday in order to maintain a common worship pattern with fellow Christians and because there is a special "atmosphere" or "spirit" on that day which makes it conducive to worship. This being so, why can you not celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas time like other Christians for the same reasons, viz. that there is a special "spirit" and "atmosphere" which is conducive to preaching the Gospel, whilst acknowledging that the true birth is in the spring? It seems to me that you are losing a valuable opportunity. Doesn't Paul say that we are free to establish our own traditions when he says it doesn't matter what days are set apart to honour the Lord?
This is not an unreasonable question and one which we sympathise with. As Christians we should seek out those things which unite us and which present an opportunity to witness of Christ. We have never said, as one major group does, that we should lock ourselves away during the Christmas season, but rather we should use the "spirit" and "atmosphere" to bear affirmative witness of the Saviour. Bearing witness of Christ's miraculous conception and the events surrounding His birth is something we can do at any time of the year. What we do insist, however, is separating the pagan and secular aspects of "Christmas" from true worship, and since most Christians mix these together liberally, we feel that we cannot take part.
However, wherever the true spirit of Christ's birth manifests itself then we believe it is right to share in that. It is therefore a question of each individual acting according to his own conscience whilst being very careful to discern right and not using this as an "excuse" to continue in pagan and secular ways.
The second aspect of the question -- the right of individuals to honour different days as they will -- we agree with. It doesn't actually matter, in a spiritual sense, whether we honour Christ's birth on 25 December, 6 January or 6 April, to name but three times it is celebrated. We do not therefore condemn other churches for celebrating Christ's birth on 25 December or 6 January -- they have that freedom, according to the apostle Paul -- but we do condemn their adoption of pagan customs .
The New Covenant Church of God observes the birth of Christ on 6 April . It represents the Church's New Year too. We do this for several reasons: (1) Because of revelation; (2) Because it harmonises with what is revealed in the New Testament; and (3) Because the symbolism of spring is better suited to the whole spirit of New Birth than winter. Like the orthodox churches, we have our own religious calendar though it is different, being based on the Old Testament festivals which were themselves types of Christ. Therefore we celebrate these festivals in a New Covenant setting.
We are different from other Christians in this respect and we do observe a different religious calendar. We do this, not to separate ourselves from other Christians, but because we are preparing for the Millennial Order, and because we believe this Order will replace the current traditions of Christendom. I repeat, we do not condemn other Churches for observing different calendars -- all cultures mark the seasons differently. It is an important activity in the physical sphere though of secondary importance to the spiritual content of the festivals we celebrate.
I do not foresee the New Covenant Church ever adopting the orthodox calendar. It would simply have no symbolic meaning for us. We are happy to share in the joy, celebration and worship of other Christians in their calendars provided they are free of paganism. Thus we have similar attitudes towards Easter which, though nearly falling at the same time as our own religious calendar, has become heavily paganised with "easter eggs" and the like.
In conclusion, we must say that our religious calendar is relatively new and that we are not yet "settled" into the new pattern . It will doubtless take a little time. Part of the problem is that the days we celebrate do not usually fall at times when there are secular public holidays and this can cause problems with people trying to get time off work. However, in most cases, when employers realise we are willing to work at other times, such as during the Christmas period when labour is hard to come by, they are very often sympathetic to our needs and will compromise.
As for the Sabbath question, that is not yet resolved amongst us, there being two schools of thought -- the first, that we continue with the Sunday sabbath, and (b) that we change over to Saturday. The Patriarchate has not yet arrived at a decision. Until we have definite revelation on the matter, we will remain as we are, because changing the sabbath would be a big upheaval for us. With so many other changes presently taking place, we do not feel it is right to impose more burdens. Let us wait and see. In the meantime, we can observe the spirit of the one-day sabbath, as we can the true spirit of Christ's birth, at any time.
ADDENDUM ON THE SABBATH
In 1999 the New Covenant Church of God received a revelation commanding observance of the Saturday Sabbath, thus resolving this issue once and for all. The changeover was smooth and the Church has reaped many blessings as a result.
For further reading, we recommend the following excellent books:
- “From Sabbath to Sunday: An Historical Investigation of the Rise of Sunday Observance in Early Christianity” by Samuele Bacchiocchi (The Pontifical Gregorian University of Rome, 1977; Distribution: 230 Lisa Lane, Berrien Springs, Michigan 49103, USA* see ** below).
We recommend our readers to begin with “The Sabbath Under Crossfire” which excellently summarises the whole scriptural-historical controversy. You will never look at the “Sunday Sabbath” again having read these materials!
- “The Sabbath Under Crossfire: A Biblical Analysis of Recent Sabbath/ Sunday Developments” by Samuele Bacchiocchi (1998, Biblical Perspectives, 4990 Appian Way, Berrien Springs, Michigan 49103, USA**)
- “Too Long in the Sun” by Richard M. Rives (1998, Partakers Publications, P.O.Box 23031, Charlotte, NC 28227, USA)
- “Sunset to Sunset: God’s Sabbath Rest” (1996, United Church of God, P.O.Box 661780, Arcadia, CA 91066, USA)
- “Shabbat Shalom: A Guide for Christians to Understand the Sabbath” by Richard Booker (1998, ISBN 0-9615302-6-X, Sounds of the Trumpet, 8230 Birch Glenn Lane, Houston, Texas 77070, USA).
 I have never come across any individual or church who, having discovered the pagan roots of Christmas, have continued to celebrate the birth of Christ on that date. It would, in any case, make no sense. How would you 'celebrate' Christmas without all the pagan trappings? Once you have taken them away, there is nothing left to do except have an ordinary church meeting and hear a sermon about the birth of Messiah. You might like to try it sometime. If you do, you'll discover what the real pull of Christmas is, and it's not Christ.
 This was dropped when NCCG adopted the Lunar Calendar in 1999. Since 2000 the birth of Christ, nowhere commanded in Scripture, has not been celebrated by us.
 This was an abortive attempt to fuse the orginal NCCG Holy Week with the biblical calendar of festivals.
This page was created on 8 May 1998
Last updated on 23 July 1999
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