J. G. Vos on The Observance of Days

Below is an extract from an article by J. G. Vos (RPCNA) in 1947, which was republished on Gentle Reformation a few years ago, but the link no longer works:

“Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain.” — Galatians 4:10, 11.

“…As men lose their faith in the truth of God’s Word, and in Christ as truly God, they seem to try to make up for their spiritual loss by putting on a great deal of religious ritual and pageantry. This tendency can be observed in churches large and small across our coun­

“Doran’s Minister’s Manual” enumer­ates over 30 special or holy days that are regularly observed by Catholics, Episcopal­ians and some Lutherans. In addition to listing these the book provides materials for sermons or addresses for twenty special days, which are the following: New Year’s Day, Lincoln’s Birthday, Every Member Canvass Day, Washington’s Birthday, Palm Sunday, Easter, Memorial Day, Ascension Day, Children’s Day, Whitsunday, School Commencement, Missionary Day, Independ­ence Day, Labor Day, Reformation Sunday, International Temperance Sunday, Thanks­ giving Day, Christmas, Old Year’s Day, Armistice Day.

To these we might add others that are coming to be commonly observed, such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Red Cross Day, Go-to-Church Day, etc. One organization after another comes forward calling for a special day or week to be devoted to its in­ terests. When we once begin to add other special days to God’s Holy Sabbath day, we start on a long, long trail, and no one can tell -where the end will be.

Of course there is no objection to ob­serving a day like Thanksgiving Day, to which we are duly called by the civil auth­orities, nor to observing such days as the preparatory days before the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, these being appointed for a special purpose by the officers of the church. That is quite different from the tendency to set apart certain days as special or holy in themselves, thereby adding ele­ments not appointed in Scripture to the worship of God.”

You can read the full thing here.

No carol service – are we missing a trick?

Not according to Phillip Jensen (in ‘Why People are Not Converted at Christmas’):

“Each year thousands of people come to carols services in church buildings, parks, schools and even pubs – but how often do you ever hear of somebody being converted? Instead of it being one of the high points of Christian Christianity it is the high point of Cultural Christianity. But Cultural Christianity seems inured to Christian Christianity.”

Here’s Carl Laferton in a similar vein:

“Put on a good carol service (especially if you have a picturesque church building), and they will come. Put on a Christingle or a nativity service (particularly in the late-afternoon Christmas Eve slot, when every parent in the land needs a break), and they will come. Invite your neighbours and friends to such events, and they may well come—and they will certainly not think it weird to be asked.
And so, lo! The churches of the United Kingdom (especially those with previously mentioned picturesque buildings) did discover that a great multitude didst come and hear the gospel in December, and they felt good, and rested upon their laurels/door wreaths.

And then in January, everything went back to normal. And the ‘long term trends’ of decline in church attendance (which you will find mentioned in the seventh paragraph of the Church of England’s article which headlined with the Christmas attendance figures) continued.”