Spurgeon. Beloved, wonderful, quotable, Prince-of-preachers Spurgeon. And I quote:
Certainly we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmas: first, because we do not believe in the mass at all, but abhor it, whether it be said or sung in Latin or in EnglishCharles Spurgeon
The great preacher speaks for many who are hesitant to join in a holiday that isn’t commanded in Scripture and which, in English at least, smacks of Roman Catholicism. What is a good Protestant to do?
Now for a bit of history and etymology. The Mass was one of the key flashpoint of the Protestant Reformation. The Mass was nothing less than priestcraft. The priest, by uttering the proper rite made a fresh sacrifice of Christ each time it was performed. The priest, not Christ, was the key actor in the purging of sins. Further, it was not something that all believers were permitted to partake of. Only the priest was allowed to drink the wine, the laity were only allowed to eat the bread. And rather than being a reminder and an enjoyment of the spiritual presence of Christ in the bread and wine, the bread was held aloft to itself be adored and worshipped.
The Reformers went hard after amending and reforming the worship and liturgy of the church, and the result was a richer and more biblical understanding that all believers are priests unto God (Rev. 1:6), and that Christ intended all believers to partake of his body and blood, signified by the bread and wine.
Now, should we Protestants get skittish when an entire month of the year is set aside to celebrate a Mass? Emphatically, no. This isn’t a slide into Romanism. Words don’t have cooties. While we should be precise in our meanings, using words appropriately and with understanding, simply because December 25th has come to be called Christmas, in English, doesn’t mean that we are in danger of abandoning Reformation doctrines.
The etymology of the word Mass is likely from the final words of the Roman Catholic eucharistic service, where the priest would say, “Ite, misse est.” The Latin gives us the words dimiss and mission. From that we get Mass, and the nativity Eucharistic service came to be known as Christ-Mass. So what’s a good Protestant to do?
Well, Wednesday is named after Odin, the Norse god. February is named after an Ancient Roman purification ceremony. Jupiter is named after the ancient Roman deity. The word English itself is derived from the Norse god Yngvi. In other words, our language bears the marks of a long story. The story is one where false gods die, false religions perish, their names come to nothing.
One name remains. One name will eternally be glorified. One name will outlast them all. Christ.
So dispel all notions that the “Mass” part of the word Christmas is problematic. It isn’t. It just reminds us that Christ conquers His enemies, and they become His footstool. Merry Christmas.