by Michael E. Brooks
“One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14:5 NKJV).
One result of spending several months each year in Bangladesh and Nepal is that I get to observe (or at least be aware of) many different holidays each year. I am able to observe our traditional American holidays most of the time, but I also recognize some Hindu festivals such as Dashain and the Festival of Lights, and special Islamic observations like Ramadan and Corbani. That is to say, I do not personally celebrate these days, but am often in those countries which do, and my schedule and activities are affected by them.
In addition to these holidays that are related to their religions, there are also national days, such as their own Independence Day, New Year’s Day (according to their calendars not ours), and others.
There is something special about every day simply because it is a gift of life from God (Psalm 118:24). It is also very true that for someone, somewhere, each day marks a special memory or experience (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.). A day may seem ordinary or even gloomy and burdensome to me, but be a day of joy and thanksgiving for you. As a preacher who has always “worked” on Sunday, the common practice of praising Friday as the beginning of free time and dreading Monday’s start of a new work week has never applied. That does not mean that I cannot understand and sympathize with those whose schedule fits that application, however.
This week we have come to the observance of one of the most highly acclaimed of all special days, Christmas. Some who profess a different religious faith may refuse to celebrate or even be offended by greetings of “Merry Christmas”. Even some Christians, recognizing that the date of Jesus’ birth is unknown, and noting that there is no biblical support for an annual celebration of that event, prefer to observe this holiday as a cultural and social event, not religious.
We often see objections to this deletion of “the true meaning of Christmas” from those who choose to celebrate it as Jesus’ birthday. They seem to feel that any such secularization or de-emphasis of the day is an attempt to rob them of that which is important to their faith. They insist not only that others allow them that day, but observe it with them.
One may recognize and respect the rights of people of other nations, races, cultures and faiths to honor those things of importance to them without joining them in full celebration. I refrain whenever possible from public meals during the daytime when in Bangladesh during Ramadan (the Muslim month of fasting). I do this to show my respect for them while in their country. This does not make me a Muslim, or suggest that I endorse and accept all the teachings of Islam. It is simply a way for me to recognize their right to their own faith and customs. My own beliefs are neither threatened nor compromised by such courtesies. Neither are they threatened by the fact that others do not join me in worshipping God on Sunday.
One’s observance of days is governed by two things; God’s specific instructions and one’s own conscience. Where God’s word does not specifically instruct, each one may choose for him or her self what days, if any, are of special significance. As in many such choices, everyone should decide based on the desire to serve and glorify God in all that is done.
by Michael E. Brooks