Why Celebrate Reformation Day?

Danny Steinmeyer

On This Day in History

Happy Reformation Day! Today marks the 506th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation as identified with the day that Martin Luther nailed his famous 95 theses to the door of the Wittenburg castle. Yet, many Christians will give little to no thought today about the significance of this day in the history of the Church. A once-strong tradition of memorializing our Protestant heritage has been swallowed up by a thoroughly secular and pagan Halloween. No longer interested in creating or influencing the culture, much of the evangelical church in America has given itself over to Trunk or Treats, Harvest Festivals, and most of our families will simply join with the rest of the world in a memorial celebration of…nothing.

However, many of those same Christians will lament the state of our nation’s culture, which has been captured by the enemies of Christ as they made a long, slow march through all of our institutions. Having lost a fighting, reformational spirit, too many pastors and churches have traded in their saltiness for fun-size milk chocolate, and have hidden their lights under a superhero costume. Most of us recognize that we need a new great awakening, revival, and reformation, but we lack the self-awareness to recognize that we are the ones standing in the way of it.

Caring About the Calendar

One of the primary elements of a nation is its culture, marked by important memorial holy days (holidays) and celebrations. Of course, that is where a people have a sense of something that is important to them, their heritage, a monumental moment that they want to set apart as special on the calendar so that they remember the past and celebrate the blessings from it.

As God was preparing to deliver Israel from bondage in Egypt and to form them into a holy nation unto Him, the first thing He did was change their calendar. After 430 years of being surrounded by the idolatrous Egyptian culture, He gave them a memorial of the Passover to celebrate at the start of every new year. The culture of Egypt had been driven deep into their hearts, and a major move toward driving it out was to change what they celebrated, what they remembered, and what they looked forward to. And on the journey toward Sinai, He established for them a weekly calendar of 6 workdays and a memorial holy day of rest in order to remember the God of Creation. And throughout the history of Israel, memorial stones were set up and historically significant moments of providence and salvation were immortalized in the form of annual holiday celebrations (ie. Purim, Hannukah).

The New Testament church formerly understood this concept. Those who identify with Jesus Christ have ordinarily sought to build a culture that reminds us of the goodness of God, the great moments of providence, and His saving work. There is a reason why the church celebrated Christmas and Resurrection Day, even without a command from Scripture to do so. It was because of the biblical precedent of establishing a calendar that memorializes what God has done. The birth of Christ in Bethlehem, Good Friday (the day Jesus died on the cross), the resurrection, Pentecost (the birthday of the New Testament church), Ascension Day (the day Jesus miraculously ascended to heaven to be enthroned and minister as our High Priest), were all wonderful reasons to establish Christian memorials in culture as reflected by the calendar.

However, most churches today have almost nothing whatsoever to do with a Christian calendar. But if you fail to acknowledge Mother’s Day or honor veterans on Memorial Day in your church, well, nice knowing you. Oh, and I almost forgot. Make sure your church doesn’t get in the way of the high holy day of Super Bowl Sunday. Christians in America have been thoroughly discipled in the values of Egypt, and interest in a Christian culture or calendar amounts to blasphemy for many.

We Need Reformation Day

As the world around us takes over the American calendar with its Pride Month, Juneteenth, Indigenous People’s Day, and Halloween (to name a few), those of us who love Christ ought to stand out by maintaining a different and distinct calendar – a uniquely Christian calendar. Why? Because our nation is no longer committed to Christian principles and is now against us. Like the need for us to look more locally rather than globally for our economic well-being, we also would do well to re-develop a sense of our local church or church association/denomination culture. And what better way to begin to understand and practice that than with Reformation Day? After all, the need of the hour is another Reformation in our day. Right? God has done this before, and we need Him to do it again. We are praying that God would move in our nation, but we too often want him to do it while we hold onto the old wineskins of a culture of death that celebrates fun, nothing, and darkness.

Where It Starts

It starts with the heart of the Reformation, which is the recovery of the gospel and the sufficiency and authority of Scripture. And truly, it starts with the same heart of the Reformers who were stirred in their soul with devotion to Scripture and the courage to stand against the tide. And what a memorial day such as Reformation Day can do is to turn our hearts back to God and teach our children about what God can do through a few faithful men and women. The calendar is not neutral. Memorials don’t just look backward but they evangelize future generations. We need to choose to celebrate God’s great works and stand on His Word, rather than simply going along with the world and its calendar of foolishness.

We may or may not see the type of national cultural change that comes with a spiritual awakening or monumental reformation. That will be up to the purposes and plans of God. But as we pray for such a movement of the Spirit of God, we can say, “Lord, as for me and my house, start with us.” Pastors can say, “As for this church, we will step out of the cultural river of the world, and we will be distinctly Christian in our practice.”

Maybe it starts with just a few families meeting together for worship and festivity. Maybe it starts with your local church, celebrating, and teaching about the providential work of God through the Reformers and the five solas. Instead of celebrating nothing with costumes and candy, how about we celebrate something that is worth celebrating as Christia: the work of God to recover the gospel? Mark your calendar – Google won’t do it for you, and let’s be a people called out from the world unto Christ Jesus our Lord.

Translation – “Let’s be the church.”

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