Men are likened to sheep. And sheep have a tendency to follow the crowd without questioning. Jesus however came and taught us to examine everything by God’s word. The Pharisees exalted human traditions. Jesus exalted God’s word. Man was to live by every word that proceeded from God’s mouth (Matt. 4:4).
The battle that Jesus was constantly engaged in with the Pharisees was the age-long battle of God’s Word versus human traditions. In the church, we are engaged in the same battle today. God’s word is the only light that we have on earth. And when God created light initially, He immediately separated it from the darkness. The darkness is both sin as well as human traditions. We also are called to separate both of these from the pure word of God, so that there is no mixture in the church.
Consider Christmas, which is celebrated by many as the birthday of Jesus Christ. Shopkeepers of all religions look forward to Christmas, for it is a time when they can make much profit. It is a commercial festival, not a spiritual one. Millions of rupees are spent on Christmas cards and gifts. Sales of alcoholic drinks go up at this time. And the traffic police in many countries are kept on their toes, for there are never so many accidents on the roads there, as during the Christmas season. More people go to hell through road accidents at this time, than at any other time of the year.
Is this really then the birthday of the Son of God, or of another ‘Jesus’?
Let us look at God’s Word first of all. The Bible tells us that there were shepherds with their sheep out in the fields of Judea, on the night that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. The shepherds in Palestine did not keep their flocks out in the open fields at night after October and until February – the weather being both rainy and cold then. So the real Jesus must have been born sometime between March and September. December 25th then must be the birthday of “another Jesus” that has been foisted on an unsuspecting Christendom by Satan!
Further, even if we did know the exact date of Jesus’ birth, the question would still be whether God intended His church to celebrate it. Mary, the mother of Jesus, would certainly have known the exact date of birth of Jesus. And she was with the apostles for many years after the day of Pentecost. Yet there is no mention anywhere of Jesus’ date of birth. What does this show? Just this – that God deliberately hid the date of Jesus’ birth, because He did not want the church to celebrate it.
How then did Christmas make its entry into Christendom? The answer is: In the same way that infant baptism, priestcraft and a host of other human traditions have made their entry – by the subtle working of Satan.
When the emperor Constantine made Christianity the state religion of Rome in the 4th century, multitudes became Christian ‘in name’, without any change of heart. And they did not want to give up their tradition of celebrating the birthday of their sun-god on December 25th, when the sun which had gone down to the southern hemisphere began its return journey (the winter solstice).
The Encyclopaedia Britannica says this about the origin of Christmas:”December 25 was the Mithraic feast of the unconquered sun of Philocalus. Christmas customs are an evolution from times that long antedated the Christian period – a descent from seasonal, pagan, religious and national practices, hedged about with legend and tradition. The exact date and year of Christ’s birth have never been satisfactorily settled; but when the fathers of the church in A.D. 440 decided upon a date to celebrate the event, they wisely (???) chose the day of the winter solstice which was firmly fixed in the minds of the people and which was their most important festival. As Christianity spread among the people of pagan lands, many of the practices of the winter solstice were blended with those of Christianity”.
God’s Word Or Man’s Tradition?
Behind the celebration of Christmas lies the far more deadly principle of following a heathen tradition as a Christian festival, even when it has no foundation in God’s Word. So strong is this power of tradition that many believers who follow the Scriptures in other areas still find it difficult to give up celebrating Christmas.
It is amazing that many believers are not willing to accept what even secular writers (like the authors of Encyclopaedia Britannica) understood clearly – that Christmas is basically a pagan festival. You can call a donkey a lion, but it is still a donkey. Changing the name does not make a festival Christian! There is no difference between Christmas and any other non-Christian religious festival.
Jesus was engaged in a constant battle with the Pharisees over this very issue – man’s traditions versus God’s Word. He faced more opposition for opposing the empty traditions of ‘the fathers’ than for preaching against sin. We shall find our experience to be the same, if we are as faithful as He was.
God’s Word alone is our guide and not the example of even godly men in those areas where they do not follow the Word of God. “Let God be found true even though every man be found a liar” (Rom.3:4).
For example: David was a man after God’s own heart. Yet, for forty years, he permitted the Israelites to worship Moses’ bronze serpent without realising that this was an abomination to God. He did not have light even on such obvious idolatry. It was a much lesser king, Hezekiah, who was given light to expose and destroy this idolatrous practice (2 Kings 18:1-4). So while we can follow godly men in the saintliness of their lives, we must not follow them in their lack of light on human traditions. Our safety lies in simply following the teaching of God’s Word and in not adding to, or subtracting from it.
True spirituality is to follow Jesus in all aspects of life. This involves primarily a taking up of the cross and obeying God’s word in the power of the Holy Spirit in daily life. It also involves a forsaking of all human traditions that are not found in the New Testament. God desires a pure testimony in every place – a church that is not only free from all sin, but also free from all Babylonian traditions.
However, since December 25th is usually a holiday for everyone and the days around it are also holidays for schools, many use this period for end-of-the-year family re-unions – which is a very good thing.
And further: Since some people attend church-services only once a year, on December 25th, it is good for churches to have services on that date, so that they can preach the gospel to such people and explain to them why Jesus came to earth: To save us from our sins.
But to celebrate December 25th as the birthday of Jesus would be a continuing of the pagan celebration of the birthday of the sun-god.
True believers are actually thankful every day of their lives that Jesus was born – and not just on one day in the year.
In conclusion: It is important to remember that we do not become spiritual merely by not celebrating Christmas. And those who celebrate Christmas are not necessarily carnal.
Spiritual people are those who follow Jesus along the way of daily self-denial and the daily infilling of the Holy Spirit – whether they celebrate Christmas or not.
So when we meet believers who celebrate Christmas, we must be gracious enough to consider that they may be ignorant of its pagan origin. So they are not sinning in any way when they celebrate it. On the other hand, we will be sinning, if we judge them.
“Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls. One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.” (Rom.14:4,5).