We have been dealing (108) with the question, Why do people persist in believing things that are not true? Since Christmas is rapidly approaching [Editor's note: this article was written on December 6, 1994.], let's ask a related question. Why do we celebrate Christmas on December 25? Was that the day on which the Son of God was born? If so, how do we know? If not, why do we act like it was?
Now, before I go any further, let me say that I and my family, and the church that I pastor, all celebrate the coming of the Son of God on December 25...just so you won't jump to the conclusion that I am an anti-Christmas scrooge. And we do this without any compunctions of conscience. So this question today is not asked in any kind of antagonistic way, but it is asked because it highlights a more serious issue: why do we believe what we do and why do we persist in believing what we do in the face of significant challenge?
Now, back to the question: was the Son of God born on December 25? The short answer is: No one knows. But if we just give the short answer, my article won't be long enough. So, we will quote from Philip Schaff in volume III of his History of the Christian Church. There he wrote, among many things, "...the festival of the birth of the Lord is of comparatively late institution. This may doubtless be accounted for in the following manner: In the first place, no corresponding festival was presented by the Old Testament...In the second place, the day and month of the birth of Christ are nowhere stated in the gospel history, and cannot be certainly determined." (p. 166). He goes on to say that "The Christian festival was probably the Christian transformation or regeneration of a series of kindred heathen festivals...". (Ibid.) So, the data says that we do not know when Christ was born (as to the month or day), and, though many do not know it, even the year of His birth has been the topic of long-standing debate for hundreds of years.
So, why do we persist in celebrating His birth on December 25? The short answer is: tradition. This is also another reason that people persist in believing things that are not true: their forefathers believed error and passed their faith on to their progeny.
Now, does it matter to God that we celebrate Christmas on December 25? Well, first we recognize that He did not command it; and second we recognize that He did not forbid it. Therefore, He cannot be too concerned about whether we do it or not. But, He did command us to do all that we do to the honor and glory of Jesus who died for us. So, whether we celebrate or not, is not important, but if we celebrate, HOW we do so does matter. And if we do not, HOW we act toward those who do does matter.
The Scriptures give us freedom in those things which they do not address. We must not allow our traditional practices to become law for all, nor must we follow tradition if we choose not to. Tradition is not God, it is not the voice of God, and it does not speak for God.
So, people often persist in things only because it is tradition. Fortunately, God sometimes doesn't condemn us for that.