Saturday, December 12, 2015

OBSERVING CHRIST’S BIRTH – IS IT WRONG?





Can I take my wife out on Valentine’s Day? For her birthday? For our anniversary? More to the point of the season, can we celebrate Christ’s birth?

Against the celebration of Christ’s birth, some Christians have argued:

  1. It has accrued the trappings of both paganism (12/25 observance) and Catholicism (ChristMASS).
  1. It is not mandated by Scripture. Instead, it is a human tradition.
Let’s first address number 1. There are many things that we have received from other religions – language, script, mathematics, and even our church buildings, some of which had previously been used for illicit purposes or by other religions. Certainly, using these is not defiling. Therefore, the fact that the observance of Christmas on December 25 is borrowed from paganism to give pagans an alternative to pagan worship is not anti-Scriptural, although it is non-Scriptural.

But is there room for the non-Scriptural in our lives? Of course! There are many things that we do that are non-Scriptural, like driving in cars and using air-conditioners, ball-point pens, pianos, or even wearing three-piece suits and baseball caps.  

However, a problem arises when we take our practices or traditions and raise them to the level of Scripture, thereby making them authoritative. The Jews of Jesus’ day had many traditions, like wiping the dust off their feet in disapproval. The Jews of the Old Testament also had their traditions like first marrying off their oldest daughter or giving the bulk of their inheritance to their firstborn son. In themselves, these practices weren’t criticized by Scripture. Why not? Because they weren’t wrong in themselves and didn’t compete with Scripture.

In contrast to this, the Pharisees had elevated their human traditions to the level of Scripture. Therefore, Jesus castigated them:

  • Jesus replied, "And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?...  You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:  "'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'" (Matthew 15:3-9)
If I were to “break the command of God for the sake of [the] tradition” of celebrating the birth of Jesus,” I would be at fault. Also, if I were to make this tradition mandatory, I would be illegitimately raising it to the level of Scripture, something we must not do! However, we can celebrate the birth of our Lord without doing this.

Number 2. Scripture even commends certain human traditions. God had told his Prophet Jeremiah to go the Recabite clan to offer them wine – something allowable under the law. However, they refused to drink it.

  • But they replied, "We do not drink wine, because our forefather Jonadab son of Recab gave us this command: 'Neither you nor your descendants must ever drink wine. Also you must never build houses, sow seed or plant vineyards; you must never have any of these things, but must always live in tents. Then you will live a long time in the land where you are nomads.' We have obeyed everything our forefather Jonadab son of Recab commanded us. Neither we nor our wives nor our sons and daughters have ever drunk wine or built houses to live in or had vineyards, fields or crops. We have lived in tents and have fully obeyed everything our forefather Jonadab commanded us. (Jeremiah 35:6-10)
Did the Lord castigate this clan for obeying extra-biblical traditions? Not at all!

  • Then Jeremiah said to the family of the Recabites, "This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: 'You have obeyed the command of your forefather Jonadab and have followed all his instructions and have done everything he ordered.' Therefore, this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: 'Jonadab son of Recab will never fail to have a man to serve me.'" (Jeremiah 35:18-19)
Do we do wrong to honor the coming of the Son of God into this world to save us from our sins, even though this is not mandated by Scripture? Certainly not! Instead, narratives our Savior’s birth are highlighted by two of the Gospels and many Old Testament passages (Isaiah, 7:14; 9:6-7; 11:1-10; Micah 5:2).

Although the church can be censured for the way that we celebrate Christmas, it is entirely unbiblical to censure the observance of Christmas.

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