Christmas and the Regulative Principle

Should churches celebrate Christmas?


Should and can a church celebrate the incarnation of Christ Jesus?

The London Baptist Confession of 1689 in chapter 22 paragraph 1 it says this:

But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God, is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imagination and devices of men, nor the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures.

There are several points to make out of this confessional thought:

  1. God has instituted an acceptable way to worship him.
  2. God has limited the acceptable way to worship him by his revealed will.
  3. God has therefore outlawed worship that is according to
    1. the imagination of men
    2. the devices of men
    3. the suggestions of Satan
    4. under any representations
    5. or any way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures.

So what has God commanded for us to do in worship?

Derek Thomas in a blog post at Ligonier Ministries says this:

Particular elements of worship are highlighted: reading the Bible (1 Tim. 4:13); preaching the Bible (2 Tim. 4:2); singing the Bible (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16) — the Psalms as well as Scripture songs that reflect the development of redemptive history in the birth-life-death-resurrection- ascension of Jesus; praying the Bible — the Father’s house is “a house of prayer” (Matt. 21:13); and seeing the Bible in the two sacraments of the church, baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:38–39; 1 Cor. 11:23–26; Col. 2:11–12). In addition, occasional elements such as oaths, vows, solemn fasts and thanksgivings have also been recognized and highlighted (see Westminster Confession of Faith 21:5).1

So according to Thomas, God has commanded us to:

  1. Read the Bible
  2. Preach the Bible
  3. Sing the Bible (Psalms, Scripture songs
  4. Prayer
  5. The two sacraments
  6. And sometimes:
    1. oaths
    2. vows
    3. solemn fasts
    4. thanksgiving

So with that in mind, I would like to offer ways that churches could celebrate Christmas without violating the regulative principle.

Reading the Bible

If your church wants to do special Scripture readings on the promises of the Messiah in the Old Testament and then the fulfillment passages, there is nothing about that that violates this principle. So if you want to have advent readings in the service as a church body, there is nothing wrong with that.

Preaching the Bible

When we preach the Bible we are to preach Christ. As a matter of fact as reformed believers we pride ourselves in preaching Christ from all the Scriptures. So to preach on the fulfillment of prophecy in Christ, or the offices of Christ, or the incarnation, or the humanity and deity of Christ, is perfectly in line with this principle. So if you want to preach specific sermons on issues surrounding the incarnation of Christ, then that is perfectly fine.

Singing the Bible

We are commanded to sing. So if at Christmas time we sing songs over the topic of the incarnation of Christ, then there is nothing wrong with that either.

I think if we venture outside of these basics we are on very shaky ground in terms of God’s sanction. But there is no need for Churches to fear, ignore, or even vent at Christmas celebrated in a church, when we follow the above guidelines.



  1. (Accessed December 13, 2016 11:53pm)