ADVERTISING
 
Sunday, June 24   Sign in or Register
 
Evangelical Focus
 

 
 
 
FOLLOW US ON
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google +
  • Instagram
  • Soundcloud
 

Newsletter
Newsletter, sign up to receive all our News by email.
 
 

POLL
Migration
Do Christians in your country have a Bible-based understanding of how migrants should be treated?




SEE MORE POLLS
 

 
TOP 10 MOST VIEWED



Will Graham
 

Luther, Calvin and Zwingli on Christmas

What did the three main Reformers think about Christmas?

FRESH BREEZE AUTHOR Will Graham 10 DECEMBER 2016 10:10 h GMT+1

The leading Protestant Reformers –Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli and John Calvin- had different perspectives regarding the celebration of Christmas Day. Their three viewpoints are all alive and kicking in the contemporary Evangelical world.



Today we are going to briefly outline what our three acclaimed Protestant forefathers thought regarding the festive season.



 



1.- Luther, Pro-Christmas



Martin Luther.

Luther, the fieriest, funniest and most charismatic of the three Reformers loved celebrating Christmas and he often preached upon the birth of Christ as 25th December drew near.



Given that Luther embraced the normative principle of worship, namely, that all that the Bible does not prohibit may have a place in the church, the German felt entirely justified upon celebrating the incarnation of the Son of God in a special way at least once a year.



In his sermon entitled ‘To Us a Child Is Born’ (preached on 25th December, 1531), Luther honed in upon the faith of the shepherds who, “in spite of what their five senses told them […] concluded: this is the King, the Saviour, the great joy of the people. There was nothing great in the hearts of those shepherds save for the words of the angel. In fact, they were so great that except for them the shepherds saw nothing else. They were filled with those words just like drunkards and they made them known without being in the slightest bit concerned about what the great lords in Jerusalem and the Sanhedrin would have to say. On the contrary, without an inkling of fear, they preached of the poor Christ”.



The sermon, which was characterized by a sweet pastoral spirit, makes much of the perfect righteousness of Christ as the source of a Christian’s justification before God. “In and of myself I am a sinner,” preached the German, “but in Christ, in baptism and in the Word, I am holy”. That is the real message of Christmas. He who is Wonderful and Counsellor cleanses us from all sin by means of his expiatory death and resurrection.



Luther took advantage of the festive season to declare the Good News that had so enthralled the Bethlehem shepherds.



 



2.-Zwingli, Anti-Christmas



Ulrich Zwingli.

At the other end of the Evangelical spectrum was Ulrich Zwingli. There can be no doubt that he was the most radical of the three leading magisterial Reformers. Nevertheless, the even more radical Anabaptists ended up splitting off from the Zurich preacher for two reasons: 1) Zwingli continued baptizing children; and 2) Zwingli did not believe that the church had to be independent from the State.



According to van Dellen and Monsma, Zwingli got rid of every ecclesiastical festive day in Zurich. Given that Zwingli embraced the regulative principle of worship, that is, churches should only do that which is explicitly commanded in Scripture, he opposed any celebration which was not mentioned in the Bible. This conviction, of course, is one of the key differences between Lutheran and Reformed churches.



It was this same belief regarding the regulative principle that led the Scottish Presbyterians and English Puritans to do away with Christmas celebrations. When the Protestant Oliver Cromwell served as Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland between 1653 and 1658, Christmas was outlawed on a national scale.



 



3.- Calvin, Neither For Nor Against



 



John Calvin

As in the case of the Lord’s Supper, the one who had to mediate between Luther and Zwingli was the French refugee John Calvin.



Although Calvin accepted the regulative principle of Zwingli and not Luther’s normative principle, he believed that each local congregation could decide how best to celebrate (or not celebrate) the festive season. In spite of the fact that some have asserted that Calvin was in the anti-Christmas camp, the Frenchman wrote two letters in January 1551 and March 1555 outlining his stance with respect to Christmas.



In the January 1551 letter, Calvin explained that the Geneva authorities had done away with festive days before he arrived in the city whilst openly confessing that he did –personally speaking- celebrate “the birth of Christ”.



In the March 1551 letter, Calvin hit out at those who criticized certain churches which opted to commemorate the festive period. According to the Geneva Reformer, such questions were “matters of indifference”. Each church could take the best decision after mediating long and hard upon the issue at hand.



In other words, the church has the liberty to decide whether or not to celebrate Christmas. But by no means should any church slander another congregation which takes the opposite course.



 



Conclusion



These three perspectives are still with us today in the Evangelical world. So there is no one definitive Protestant stance with regards to Christmas.



Personally I, Will Graham, side with Calvin on this topic as I find his approach to be the most mature, sensible, pastoral and the closest in spirit to the wise words of the apostle Paul: “One man esteems one day above another: another esteems every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regards the day, regards it unto the Lord. And he that regards not the day, to the Lord he does not regard it” (Romans 14:5-6).



So:



- If you are a Lutheran or a pro-Christmas Calvinist, I wish you a very merry Christmas this year!



- If you are a Zwinglian or an Anabaptist or an anti-Christmas Calvinist, I hope you have a wonderful month of December!


 

 


0
COMMENTS

    If you want to comment, or

 



 
 
YOUR ARE AT: - - - Luther, Calvin and Zwingli on Christmas
 
ADVERTISING
 
 
AUDIOS Audios
 
Ruth Valerio: A lifestyle that cares about creation Ruth Valerio: A lifestyle that cares about creation

Are Christians called to make a difference in environmental care? What has creation care to do with "loving our neighbours"? An interview with the Global Advocacy and Influencing Director of Tearfund.

 
Kathy Bryan: Online sex trafficking in the USA Kathy Bryan: Online sex trafficking in the USA

“Prostitution is nobody’s dream,  it’s a very traumatic lifestyle”, says Kathy Bryan, director of the Elevate Academy. She mentors former victims.

 
Christians in politics? Christians in politics?

What is the role of Christians serving in politics? An interview with Auke Minnema, the new General Director of the European Christian Political Movement (ECPM).

 
Michael Ramsden: Communicating the Gospel in today’s societies Michael Ramsden: Communicating the Gospel in today’s societies

RZIM International Director Michael Ramsden responds to questions about the secularisation of Europe, the role of Christians in public leadership and the new ‘culture of victimism’.

 
Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe

The economist summarises the manifesto “Confederal Europe: Strong Nations, Strong Union” and explains why personal relationships should be at the centre of our economy, education and democracy. 

 
Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues

The World Evangelical Alliance Secretary General participated in the Italian Evangelical Alliance assembly (Rome, 8-9 April). In this interview with Evangelical Focus, Bp Tendero talks about the need to listen to local churches and to face challenges like the refugee crisis and climate change. 

 
Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum

Pritchard explains the vision of ELF, comments on the 2015 event in Poland and reflects on what it means to have an "evangelical identity".

 
PICTURES Pictures
 
Analysing current issues in the light of the Bible Analysing current issues in the light of the Bible

At the 2018 Apologetics Forum in Comarruga (Spain), Michael Ramsden, Pablo Martinez, Ruth Valerio and José de Segovia analysed how society and the Bible approach the issues of personal identity, integrity, sexuality, pop culture, and environmental care.

 
European “Bridges to Inclusion” gathering 2018, in Riga European “Bridges to Inclusion” gathering 2018, in Riga

The network of Christian ministries working for the inclusion of people with disabilities, celebrated its tenth continental meeting in Latvia with the participation of 12 countries.

 

 
Coexistence in the church - a model for society Coexistence in the church - a model for society

“Gospel, identity and coexistence” were the themes of the General Assembly of the Spanish Evangelical Alliance. Two days in Palma de Mallorca to reflect about the role of evangelical churches in society.

 
'Ungi kulimi changana' 'Ungi kulimi changana'

Educator and journalist Jordi Torrents shares images of the Sekeleka social centre in Mozambique. About 50 children live there, many with some kind of disability. All photos were taken with permission.

 
The President in an evangelical church on Christmas Eve The President in an evangelical church on Christmas Eve

For the first time, the President of Portugal attended a worship service in an evangelical church. It was in Sintra, on Christmas Eve.

 
Stamps to commemorate the Reformation Stamps to commemorate the Reformation

Poland, Lithuania, Namibia and Brazil are some of the countries that have issued special stamps on the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 theses.

 
VIDEO Video
 
Trailer: “The Peace Between” Trailer: “The Peace Between”

A film about the experience of refugees in Europe. Churches, small groups and individuals are encouraged to use it during Refugee Week: 17-24 June.

 
How can churches better support singles? How can churches better support singles?

Tina Tschage, on some areas in which other Christians can encourage singles.

 
The Church of Scotland debates historic doctrines The Church of Scotland debates historic doctrines

The Kirk has begun official procedures to investigate the status and the role of the Westminster Confession of Faith within its denomination.

 
Be safe on social media Be safe on social media

A video about the way traffickers target teenage girls online, produced by anti-slavery gorup Abolishion.

 
In Mission In Mission

A 360º lyric video about how all followers of Jesus Christ are called to serve God. Duo in Spanish (Alex Sampedro) and Portuguese (Marcos Martins).

 
Heart Heart

A short animation film by Swiss cartoonist Alain Auderset tells the message of the Bible in four minutes.

 
Philip Yancey interview Philip Yancey interview

An 8-minute interview with Philip Yancey on the role of Christians in a secularised society. Recorded in Madrid, September 2016.

 
An interview with Prof. John Lennox An interview with Prof. John Lennox

New atheism, the definition of "faith", Christianity in Europe, the role of the Bible in mission, and the need to listen more. An exclusive interview recorded at "Forum Apologética" (Tarragona, Spain) in May 2016.

 
 
Follow us on Soundcloud
Follow us on YouTube
 
 
WE RECOMMEND
 
PARTNERS
 

 
AEE
EVANGELICAL FOCUS belongs to Areópago Protestante, linked to the Spanish Evangelical Alliance (AEE). AEE is member of the European
Evangelical Alliance and World Evangelical Alliance.
 

Opinions expressed are those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Evangelical Focus.